The jewel in the crown of America’s abundant outstanding natural beauty, the National Parks Service has been delighting visitors since 1872 when it started with a single, public reservation called Yellowstone National Park. It has grown to include 418 natural, historical, recreational, and cultural areas throughout the country, its territories and island possessions
The National Parks, National Monuments, National Memorials, National Military Parks, National Historic Sites, National Parkways, National Recreation Areas, National Seashores, National Scenic Riverways, and National Scenic Trails are celebrated every year by hundreds of millions of people, literally. According to the NPS a total of 318,211,833 people visited the network in 2018. To put that into perspective, the US population is currently at 327,167,434.
Another celebration of the NPS is National Park Week. Nine days of fun from April 20 through April 28, 2019 National Park Week is a joint effort between the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation, the official charitable partner of the NPS.
There are all kinds of amazing things going on during National Park Week across the entire network including ranger-led hikes through hoodoos, prairies, caves, redwoods, wetlands, and sand dunes. There will also be free guided tours of interesting sites such as lighthouses, pueblos, battlefields, historic ships, forts, presidential homes, lower Manhattan in New York City and the French Quarter in New Orleans. There will also be narrated bike, boat, train and wagon rides! National Park Week is also a great time to try out bird watching, star gazing, basket weaving or even hula dancing.
National Park Week begins on Saturday, April 20 with an entrance fee free day to all National Park Service sites that normally charge an entrance fee! That day is also National Junior Ranger Day and almost every park (be sure to check before you go to avoid disappointment) will have booklets for kids that can be completed to earn a Junior Ranger badge.
Saturday, April 27 is National BARK Ranger Day where dog owners can bring their four-legged friends to a dog-friendly to learn how to travel with your pets in national parks. And in case you were wondering, BARK stands for: Bag your pet’s waste, Always wear a leash, Respect wildlife, and Know where you can go.
National Park Week wraps up on Sunday, April 28 with Park Rx Day. Studies have shown that show that spending time in nature has a beneficial effect on your health, both mental and physical, and the NPS has a range of programs that have been designed in collaboration with healthcare providers and community partners to improve individual and community health.
There are plenty of other ways to support the parks outside of National Park Week. Here are 4 ideas:
REI have been guiding trips to national parks with REI Adventures since 1987. And they donate 10 percent of the proceeds from those trips to the National Park Foundation. Whitewater rafting company OARS is an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service and offers a range of National Park Tours. The company donates one percent of company sales to the National Park Foundation for national park tours they operate in Arches, Canyonlands, Crater Lake, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon (hiking trips) National Parks, as well as Dinosaur National Monument. Amtrak offers a wide range of options to experience a national park by rail. Arguably the best way to travel, Amtrak Vacations National Parks packages offer the chance to see the country as you have never seen it before as you travel to and from an incredible park.
From corporate sponsorships to one-off donations, there are plenty of ways to support the National Park Foundation financially.
There are lots of organizations that partner with the National Parks Foundation (and other organisations that have similar goals) to create special collections of National Park-inspired items such as beautiful hand-printed posters to apparel and all kinds of accessories like coffee flasks (above from Hydro Flask), games and playing cards. Take a souvenir home and support public lands at the same time.
Public land has always inspired artists, notably back in the late 19th century when the Hudson River School painters captured the majestic views of the nation's western parks. Today, there are more than 50 residency programs across the country that offer creative types the chance to experience national parks in all of their glory.
Typically lasting between two to four weeks, the programs sometimes include lodging and offer residents the chance to participate in all manner of park programs.
Of the four national parks in Colorado, only Black Canyon of the Gunnison doesn't offer a residency program. Although Rocky Mountain National park does have a program, it is on hold for 2019 to allow for work on the William Allen White Cabin to be completed.