National Parkflation

Gift shops at National Parks sell books, stickers, posters, and quilts featuring all of the parks for those who wish to try to hit them all (my favorite is a scratch-off). If you’re old and remember when the “National Park” designation was reserved for truly spectacular places you will greatly underestimate the challenge. There are now 63 National Parks. How is that possible? 63 places in the U.S. that deserve to be mentioned as peers to Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon?!?

It turns out that there has been a substantial amount of Parkflation.

Eero Saarinen’s 1965 Gateway Arch in St. Louis was redesignated from Jefferson National Expansion Memorial to Gateway Arch National Park in 2018 (Wikipedia).

Black Canyon of the Gunnison was a National Monument starting in 1933. Without any upgrades to the sights, which Coloradans say are worth a half-day visit, it became a National Park in 1999.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a set of hills cut through with highways just south of Cleveland. Half of Connecticut and all of New Hampshire qualifies as a National Park if this place does. From Wikipedia:

Cuyahoga Valley was originally designated as a National Recreation Area in 1974, then redesignated as a national park 26 years later in 2000, and remains the only national park that originated as a national recreation area.

We checked off the park on the way to Oshkosh 2021. It’s a pleasant place for an afternoon walk if you don’t mind being able to hear road noise.

The UNESCO World Heritage folks are more discriminating. Only 12 natural sites, all National Parks, make the cut:

  1. Carlsbad Caverns National Park (1995)
  2. Everglades National Park (1979)
  3. Grand Canyon National Park (1979)
  4. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (1983)
  5. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (1987)
  6. Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek (1979, 1992, 1994)
  7. Mammoth Cave National Park (1981)
  8. Olympic National Park (1981)
  9. Redwood National and State Parks (1980)
  10. Waterton Glacier International Peace Park (1995)
  11. Yellowstone National Park (1978)
  12. Yosemite National Park (1984)

(One’s in Florida!)

Readers: What are your predictions for the next few U.S. National Parks? Here are mine:

The southern edge of Vermilion Cliffs, as viewed when driving from Grand Canyon North Rim to Page, Arizona:

9 thoughts on “National Parkflation

  1. @philg: fyi, your link to “Zion National Park …” photos doesn’t work. It redirects about 5 times, then ends up at with the error “Invalid Dynamic Link”.

    Maybe you should create a simple website to share photos, again? Make it powered by AI, so you can just tell it queries like “show me 20 photos of Zion park, taken by philg”.

  2. – Capitol National Park (perhaps Pelosi National Park) to commemorate the survivors of Jan 6th.

    – Georgetown National Park (Pfizer National Park?) to honor the heroic efforts to save the world and the economy by Dr. Dr. Dr. Prof. St. Fauci.

  3. Another worthy national park is Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia. It included Colonial Parkway, Historical Jamestowne and Yorktown battlefield with remains of earth fortifications. Museums seems to be staffed with real working historians and archeologists or at least I was lucky enough to meet them there.
    Nature is great too with semi-wild estuaries of James and York rivers. Kayak, swim and observer nesting and hunting bold eagles.

    I understand why UN does not care about American founding but it is quite a nice place to visit.

  4. I hope they NEVER EVER turn GSENM (Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument) into a National Park – that will be the death of it. Besides Presidents have so much fun either expanding or shrinking national monuments, can’t do that with a National Park). And thank goodness, you missed an awesome place in WY that will forever remain unnamed :-).

  5. I can’t comment on all this but The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a great place. Hiked down there with the kid — I had done it once before when I lived out there. He was about 8 and through pure luck caught a mammoth trout that we ate for dinner over a fire. Life does not get a lot better than that. Black Canyon of the Gunnison will always be one of my favorite places on the planet. Wouldn’t miss the hike down. A sturdy kid can do it.

    • Yep. It’s also a wonderful place if you are a rock climber. Have had several friends rappel into it and climb back out, and their are some fabulous (and hard) difficult routes. I’ve been only on the rim, wonderful views.

  6. > There are now 63 National Parks. How is that possible? 63 places in the U.S. that deserve to be mentioned as peers to Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon?!?

    Very few of these are in the states of the northeast. Besides Acadia in Maine, there are literally none in New England or in the Mid-Atlantic states.

    However, in addition to the 63 National Parks, there are 40 National Recreation Areas. There are a few of these in the northeast, such as the Delaware Water Gap, Gateway (including the nude beach at Sandy Hook), and Boston Harbor Islands.

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