America’s Best Idea: A Photographic Journey Through Our National Parks

October 8, 2010, 8:24 am

America’s Best Idea takes you on a visual tour of America’s most special natural and cultural places — our national parks. This book is arranged in chronological order based on the year each park first received protection as public land. While the National Park Service currently manages almost 400 sites scattered across the United States and its territories, only 58 are officially designated as “National Parks.” This designation affords the highest level of protection of any federally managed lands.

In turning these pages, you will find that many national parks were first protected through other designations, such as national monument. For example, the world’s first officially designated national park, Yellowstone, was established in 1872. However, this was eight years after the Yosemite Grant was enacted to protect the Yosemite Valley and a full 40 years after Hot Springs in Arkansas was first set aside as a federal reserve due to its perceived public health benefits.

Similarly, national parks were often known by different names when first protected. For example, Acadia was initially known as Sieur de Monts and then Lafayette; and what we now know as Zion was originally called Mukuntuweap. In addition to the title of National Park, other designations have also been periodically bestowed upon our public lands, such as Wilderness Area, Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site, which are included to further your understanding of these special places.

America’s Best Idea provides you with a history of names, dates and designations of all of our national parks. It provides an iconic image of each of these special places to highlight the spirit of preservation that became a guiding force in the creation of the National Park Service in 1916. We hope this book will inspire you to visit America’s best ideas and propel you on a personal journey to help preserve the special places we call national parks.

Profits from the sale of this book will be donated to support national park education programs and the Employees & Alumni Association of the National Park Service. This book was made possible through the generous support of Nature Valley Granola Bars.

To view a slideshow of the parks included, or to buy a copy, visit