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In honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the Creative Action Network published See America (Chronicle Books, 2016) as a kind of homage to some of the most incredible parks around the country. Have a look inside and see why this read, which is filled with inspiring illustrations of 75 American parks, is certain to have you adding a few new destinations to your travel bucket list.
All Images: ©2016 Creative Action Network, seeamericaproject.com
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Glacier National Park
Established: 1910 — Montana
The Lewis and Clark expedition came within 50 miles of what would become Glacier National Park, and many European fur trappers and miners followed soon after. When the Great Northern Railway opened in 1891, new visitors joined the growing movement to set the park aside for public protection. Local lobbying pushed President Taft to establish Glacier National Park in 1910. The park borders Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, and together the two were designated as the world’s first International Peace Park in 1932.
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Denali National Park and Preserve
Established: 1917 — Alaska
The park was originally named Mount McKinley National Park when it was created in 1917, 21 years after a gold prospector named the highest peak in North America for then–presidential candidate William McKinley. In 1980, the name was changed back to the indigenous name for the mountain, Denali, meaning “high one,” and in 2015, President Obama changed the name of the mountain itself back to Denali. 400,000 people visit the park’s 6 million acres each year, where the lowest recorded temperature is -55° F, and over 600 earthquakes occur each year.
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Joshua Tree National Park
Established: 1936 — California
The trees were named by Mormon settlers crossing the desert in the 19th century who saw in them the image of the biblical prophet Joshua holding his hands up to the sky. Concerned with increasing automobile traffic, Minerva Hamilton Hoyt began leading efforts to protect the deserts. In 1936, Hoyt persuaded President Roosevelt to establish Joshua Tree National Monument, which would become Joshua Tree National Park in 1994. Over 800 species of desert plants thrive in the park—so many that when legislation for a park was first proposed in the 1930’s, the initial name was Desert Plants National Park.
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Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Established: 1925 — South Dakota
Conceived as a way to boost tourism to South Dakota, the 60-foot-tall carvings of four U.S. Presidents were blasted and carved into Mount Rushmore by 400 workers under the direction of Gutzon Borglum between 1927 and 1941. Borglum, who had just been working on a Confederate memorial of Robert E. Lee, described the purpose of his work: “. . . to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States.” Over 90 percent of Mount Rushmore was sculpted using dynamite, taking 450,000 tons of rock from the mountain.
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Arches National Park
Established: 1929 — Utah
The idea for Arches National Park first came from railroad employees who thought the over- 2,000 natural stone arches, formed by a salt bed left from an ancient sea, would draw tourists and should be protected. When first established as a National Monument in 1929, only the stone formations themselves were included, until the area was expanded in 1939 to protect additional scenic formations. It was eventually established as a national park in 1971.
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Big Bend National Park
Established: 1933 — Texas
When the Mexican-American war ended in 1848, American settlers and soldiers began to explore and develop the uncharted territory on the U.S.-Mexico border. To protect the dramatic landscape from growing populations of ranchers, miners, and developers, the Texas state legislature established Texas Canyon State Park in 1933, setting aside the land that would become Big Bend National Park in 1944 for future generations. A testament to the diversity of the American Southwest, Big Bend has been claimed by six different nations over the last 500 years.
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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Established: 1937 — Arizona
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was established in 1937 to preserve a piece of Sonoran desert wilderness for future generations. The park is the only place in the country where the Organ Pipe Cactus grows wild. Visitors can see buildings and structures left behind by miners and ranchers who had set settled along old Native American trading routes over 150 years ago. The park is home to the critically endangered Sonoran Pronghorn, and 95 percent of the park is designated wilderness area.
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Mammoth Cave National Park
Established: 1941 — Kentucky
In 1797, the Houchin family became the first Europeans to discover the cave while hunting a bear. The cave was privately owned until controversy among competing owners inspired Kentucky citizens to successfully lobby for the creation of Mammoth Cave National Park in 1926. The park is named for its size—at 400 miles it is the longest known cave system in the world and twice the size of the second longest.
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Everglades National Park
Established: 1947 — Florida
The first national park to preserve an ecosystem rather than geographic features, Everglades National Park was established in 1934 to protect the largest mangrove forest in the Western Hemisphere from being drained for agriculture and developed for housing. The bill approving the creation of the park was passed in 1934, but funding was delayed by the Great Depression and the park did not open until 1947. Famous for its alligators, Everglades National Park is the largest national park east of the Mississippi river and the largest tropical wilderness in the country.
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Virgin Islands National Park
Established: 1956 — U.S. Virgin Islands
Beginning in the 1600s, the Virgin Islands were an international trading hub for sugar, rum, and cotton, until Denmark sold the islands to the U.S. in 1916. After World War II, when the islands served as military installations, a private citizen donated 5,000 acres on Saint John Island to the National Park Service. Later that year, Congress established Virgin Islands National Park. The park is known for its white sand beaches, scuba diving, and tropical beaches, including world famous Trunk Bay.