Preparing to Visit a National Park – Part 1

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

There are 401 park units in our National Park system but only 59 national parks. Most people focus on the large iconic nature parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone, and even Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

I’m starting a road trip to visit many smaller park units such as battlefields, historic sites, and national monuments. Therefore, I’ve been boning up by looking up on the web every national park that I’m visiting. I thought I was looking for some basic information

I would like to see some basis park information on every national park website that goes beyond nature and history.

1. When was the park created? Let’s define creation. Either when Congress passed the enabling legislation or when the park actually opened its doors. Very different in most cases.

2. How many visitors came this past year? And keep the number up to date.

3. What is the expected recommended length of stay in a park unit? Though it make take you weeks to see Yosemite, that number is very interesting in a historic site or battlefield.

4. The size of the park in acres and the number of full-time employees. This gives me an idea of the importance of the park unit.

5. A little on how the park was created. Who saved the land and the structures between the event (let’s say a historic event) and when it became part of the NPS?

6. And the most subjective of all.

Why was the park unit created? What makes it of national importance?

The last is the hardest to encapsulate in a sentence or two. While a large battlefield like Shiloh National Military Park was saved because of a major Civil War battle, what about Brices Crossroads National Battlefield Site in Mississippi? The latter is only one acre. I’d be uncomfortable going up to a ranger and ask,

“why did this one acre become part of the National Park Service?”

Besides Brices Crossroads is so small that it doesn’t even have a visitor center.

Why is the large one a National Military Park and the small one a National Military Park? There are many other designations as well.

Yes, I worry about things like that.

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