What is a National Park?

When people think about National Parks they think about the National Park Service and this logo...

On August 25th, 1916 the National Park Service was created when 'President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill that mandated the agency "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generation."' 

It seems pretty logical, the National Park Service (NPS) just manages all 59 of the National Parks. Simple right?! Well, not exactly. The NPS manages far more than just the National Parks, it manages the 408 different units of the National Park Service. What does that mean? Well it looks a little something like this:

National Park System

  • National Battlefields - 11 units
  • National Battlefield Parks - 4 units
  • National Battlefield Site - 1 unit
  • National Military Parks - 9 units
  • National Historical Parks - 49 units
  • National Historic Sites - 78 units
  • International Historic Sites - 1 unit
  • National Lakeshores - 4 units
  • National Memorials - 30 units
  • National Monuments - 80 units
  • NATIONAL PARKS - 59 units
  • National Parkways - 4 units
  • National Preserves - 19 units
  • National Reserves - 2 units
  • National Recreation Areas - 18 units 
  • National Rivers - 5 units
  • National Wild and Scenic Rivers and Riverways - 10 units
  • National Scenic Trails - 3 units
  • National Seashores - 10 units
  • Other Designations - 11 units

Who cares? A unit is a unit and if you enjoy it then it is a good thing, right? It is. We just want to clarify, because we are doing 59in59. 59 National Parks in 59 weeks. We would love to visit all 408 units of the National Park Service. If this whole thing works out then maybe we will do 408in408 next!

To give you some more specific examples of some individual units that we may or may not be able to visit, please look below:

  1. Abraham Lincoln Memorial - National Memorial
  2. The Statue of Liberty - National Monument
  3. Gettysburg - National Military Park
  4. Antietam - National Battlefield
  5. Lake Mead - National Recreation Area

We also want to clarify this, because we recognize that the 349 units that aren't on our itinerary are still beautiful. On the way up to Minnesota we got the opportunity to stop at two National Lakeshores. Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks, both in Michigan. We wanted to include some photos so that you can see their beauty.

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Pictured Rocks