The National Park Service celebrated 100 years in 2016.
Signed into law in 1916 by president Woodrow Wilson, the goal and purpose of NPS is to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the 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 generations."
Our national parks remain a vital part of our natural preservation efforts. Visit a national park near you and enjoy what so many work effortlessly to protect.
The entirety of the National Park System protects 84 million acres -- comprised of 417 sites, including 129 historical sites, 87 national monuments, 59 national parks, 19 preserves, 18 recreational areas, 10 seashores, four parkways, four lakeshores and two reserves.
The first park established and protected by Congress as a national park was Yellowstone National Park, in 1872.
The largest park in the network is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in south-central Alaska, with 13.2 million protected acres.
The National Park Service receives millions of visits to its protected sites every year. In fact, 307.2 million people visited its 417 sites in 2015, representing exponential growth since visits started being recorded in 1920, at 1 million.
While the Park Service employs thousands of full-time, part-time and seasonal employees, they also depend on 7.9 million hours of time donated annually by more than 440,000 volunteers.
The National Park Service maintains that America's lands and wildlife should be affordable to all, and thus keep their admission prices low. Entrance fees to all sites range from $5-$30, and children under 16 are admitted free. A lifetime senior pass is available to U.S. citizens 62 and older for just $10, and citizens with permanent disabilities are offered a lifetime access pass free of charge.
Additionally, the America the Beautiful-National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is an $80 annual pass that provides access to lands and wildlife managed by the NPS, along with four other government agencies.
By visiting a National Park, you are supporting a network that protects 18,000 miles of trails, 75,000 archaeological sites, the world's largest carnivore (Alaskan brown bear), the world's largest living thing (sequoia trees), the world's longest cave (Mammoth Cave), America's deepest lake (Crater Lake) and the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (Badwater Basin).