Is There a National Park in Every State?

Quck answer

No, not every state in the United States has a national park. While there are national parks in many states, there are also states that do not have any national parks. Some states, like California and Alaska, have multiple national parks, while others, like Delaware and Rhode Island, do not have any. National parks are designated by the federal government to protect and preserve significant natural and cultural resources. The decision to establish a national park is based on various factors, including the uniqueness and importance of the area.


The establishment of the National Park Service in 1916 was preceded by the idea of creating nature reserves, which originated long before then. As early as 1832, artist George Catlin contemplated the impact of America’s westward expansion on the country’s wildlife and wilderness areas. He proposed the concept of a government-managed “nation’s park” as a possible solution.

During that time, the notion of setting aside large pieces of land for public use was unheard of. Most settlers desired to own new land for development and resource utilization.

However, the idea of preserving these lands gradually gained attention. In 1864, Congress designated Yosemite Valley in California as a state park. Yosemite then inspired others to seek protection for different areas.

On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant designated Yellowstone as the country’s first national park. This significant milestone marked the federal government’s first act of setting aside land “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

Over the next 40 years, more parcels of land were designated. However, there was no organized system of national parks until President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act on August 25, 1916, establishing the National Park Service.

The National Park Service logo carries symbolic meaning. A Sequoia tree and a bison represent plants and wildlife, while mountains and water depict scenic and recreational values. The arrowhead-shaped outline signifies historical and archaeological values.

Today, the National Park Service manages a nationwide system. Each site possesses cultural, scientific, scenic, or historical significance. In total, the National Park Service oversees 423 areas, encompassing over 85 million acres across all states.

However, not all states have large national parks like Yellowstone or Glacier National Park. Many states fall into one of the other 19 categories used by the National Park Service to describe their sites. These categories include monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers, trails, and even the White House!

Here are some fascinating facts about national parks:

  • The largest national park is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, spanning 13.2 million acres.

  • The smallest national park is Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania, covering only 0.02 acres.

  • In 2021, the national parks received over 297 million visitors, setting a record for the year.

  • The Blue Ridge Parkway had the highest number of visits in 2021, with almost 16 million, followed by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with just over 14 million visits.

Give It a Try

Are you ready for an adventure? Explore the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Do you live near any national parks? If so, which ones? If you need help finding a park near you, check out this map. Plan your trip: decide on the route, pack the necessary supplies, and estimate how long the trip, including exploration, might take. Read this article from the National Park Service for additional tips! Share your plan with a friend or family member.

    If there is no national park close to your location, you can go online and take a virtual tour of Yellowstone National Park, the Minuteman Missile Site in North Dakota, and Devils Tower in Wyoming! Afterward, summarize your findings by creating an infographic using art supplies you have or use a Wonderopolis template on Canva!

    Do you know of any areas near you that you believe deserve recognition from the National Park Service? It could be a place of natural wonder, like a beautiful waterfall, or a spot with historical significance, such as where a former President of the United States resided. Take some time to think about your favorite spots near your home and make a list of those you would turn into a national park if you had the authority. Choose your favorite from the list and write a speech that you might deliver at the park’s grand opening. Share your speech with a friend or family member and see if they agree with your choice or if they prefer one of the other locations.

    Here are some sources of wonder for further exploration:

    – Britannica Dictionary (accessed on August 12, 2022)

    – National Park Service (accessed on August 12, 2022)

    – National Park Service FAQs (accessed on August 12, 2022)

    – PBS National Parks History (accessed on August 12, 2022)

    FAQ

    1. Does every state in the United States have a national park?

    No, not every state in the United States has a national park. While national parks are spread across the country, not all states have one. However, each state does have some form of protected public lands, such as national forests, wildlife refuges, or state parks.

    2. How many states in the United States have national parks?

    There are currently 63 national parks in the United States. These national parks are located in 29 different states, including Alaska, California, Utah, and Wyoming, among others. Each national park offers unique natural beauty, wildlife, and recreational opportunities.

    3. Which state has the most national parks?

    California has the most national parks among all states in the United States. It is home to nine national parks, including Yosemite National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and Redwood National and State Parks. California’s diverse landscapes, from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Pacific coastline, contribute to the abundance of national parks in the state.

    4. Are national parks only located in the mainland United States?

    No, national parks are not only located in the mainland United States. Alaska, which is part of the United States but separated by Canada, is home to eight national parks, including Denali National Park and Preserve and Glacier Bay National Park. Additionally, the United States has national parks in Hawaii, such as Haleakalā National Park and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

    5. Can national parks be found in urban areas?

    While national parks are typically known for their remote and pristine natural environments, there are national park sites located in urban areas. These sites, known as national park units, can be found in cities like New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Examples include the Statue of Liberty National Monument, Independence National Historical Park, and Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

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