National Park Service Centennial

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^Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, in southeastern Alaska, is the largest national park in the United States. It covers more than 8 million acres (3 million hectares) and features many towering mountain peaks and glaciers. Credit: © David Muench/Stone from Getty Images

Today, August 25, is the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS is a bureau of the United States Department of the Interior. It manages the approximately 400 areas of the National Park System. The NPS preserves many natural landscapes and historic and archaeological sites and structures. To mark the NPS centenary, special events will take place across the country, and all national parks will have free admission from August 25 to 28. The events include a solar-powered vehicle race through nine parks in seven Midwestern states; classical music performances and naturalization ceremonies in several parks; and a special Girl Scout and Boy Scout chat from Lewis and Clark National Historical Park with an astronaut aboard the International Space Station. The bureau’s 100th birthday will also be celebrated at several Major League and Minor League Baseball parks.

This map shows the locations of the national parks of the United States, which form part of the country’s National Park System. Most of the national parks are in the western half of the continental United States and in Alaska. Credit: WORLD BOOK map

Conservationist John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt did much to create the parks and the protected lands that led to the formation of the NPS in 1916. Stephen T. Mather, the first NPS director, actively promoted and expanded the bureau and its protected lands. From 1916 to 1929, Mather increased the number of national parks from 16 to 25; the number of national monuments from 21 to 32; and doubled the total system area from nearly 5 million acres (2 million hectares) to about 10 million acres (4 million hectares). Today, the National Park System includes more than 84 million acres (34 million hectares).

Oversized representations of the U.S. Mint’s coins commemorating the National Park Service centennial stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Credit: National Park Service/U.S. Min

The U.S. Mint is commemorating the NPS centennial by issuing three limited edition coins: a five-dollar gold coin, a silver dollar, and a half-dollar coin. The coins feature images of parks, the NPS arrowhead logo, depictions of the exploration of nature, and portrayals of the multicultural heritage of the United States. The U.S. Postal Service is celebrating the NPS centennial with 16 new Forever stamps featuring national parks.

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