The National Park Service: Some facts and figures

If the National Park Service is celebrating 100 years, does that mean the oldest national park is only 100 years old?

No. Yellowstone, which was established on March 1, 1872, is the first national park.

People talk about 59 parks, but we also hear the number 409 in reference to parks. What’s the discrepancy?

There are national parks, including the ones we know, such as Yosemite and Joshua Tree, but there are other designations that also are part of the park service’s mission.


What are some of the designations?

Besides national parks, designations include preserves, reserves, monuments, lakeshores, seashores, historic sites, military and battlefield parks, memorials, recreation areas and more. To read more about park service nomenclature, go to

How many states have park units?

All of them now. Plus you’ll find units in Washington, D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


What’s the largest park unit? The smallest? The most visited? The least visited?

The largest: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, at 13.2 million acres, is a little smaller than the state of West Virginia. The smallest: Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania, at .02 of an acre, honoring the Polish general for his bravery in the American Revolution.

Of 293 million visitors in 2014, the largest number, more than15 million, was logged at Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The most-visited national park that year was the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee with a little more than 10 million.

The least visited was the Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve in Alaska, which tallied 134 in 2014, according to the National Parks Conservation Assn.


Under what government agency does the service fall?

The Department of the Interior.

How many people work for the park service?

About 22,000, its website says. But it also gets help from nearly a quarter of a million volunteers.


Sources: National Park Service website, Encyclopedia Britannica,, National Parks Conservation Assn.


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