The National Park Service Celebrates 100 Years of Preservation

On August 25, 2016, the United States National Park Service hits the century mark. And although this momentous birthday is still a few months off, the celebrations have already begun. 

All year long and all across the nation, national parks and monuments will host special events and offer discounts. The goal is to inspire everyone to join the festivities as NPS moves into a new era of preservation and appreciation.

With this milestone on the horizon, let’s take a brief look at the origins of this much-loved organization and also glance ahead to the upcoming celebrations. 

While discussing the origins of our country’s national parks, there’s one name you absolutely need to know: John Muir. A Scottish immigrant, Muir’s fervent love of nature and profound eloquence when writing about America’s untouched landscapes played a vital role in the establishment of the National Park System. Muir devoted his life to the preservation of the sprawling forests of the western United States. And during the final decades of the 19th century, Muir’s admiration for nature, specifically California’s Yosemite Valley, compelled him to petition Congress for the National Park Bill. This now famous bill eventually passed in 1890 – creating the first official national parks, with Yosemite being the first. 

Concurrent to John Muir’s push for the creation of national parks, another crusader for natural preservation was rising to power: President Theodore Roosevelt. After first visiting the Badlands of South Dakota in 1883, Roosevelt began to voice serious concerns about the decimation and eradication of wildlife taking place in America – blaming society’s seeming impression that our natural resources were inexhaustible. When he became President in 1901, he used his power to ensure that our wildlife and public lands would be preserved. 

During his time in office, Roosevelt protected approximately 230 million acres of public land by founding the United States Forest Service, creating the Federal Bird Reserve and enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act. At the end of his term in 1909, Roosevelt’s impact on conservation was immeasurable, but there was still work to be done. At that time, the National Parks were being managed as individual, unrelated entities. That would soon change. 

Some 26 years after the National Park Bill passed, an American industrialist and conservationist named Stephen Mather noticed the inconsistencies in the management of the national parks. So in 1916, Mather led a publicity campaign to establish a unified agency that would oversee all of the parks. His efforts succeeded. The National Park Service was born. And the following year, Mather became the organization’s first director.  

Over the course of the last century, the National Park Service has rapidly expanded in its breadth and activity. Today, NPS oversees more than 400 units including national parks, monuments, historic sites, shorelines, trails, and preserves – attracting an astounding 280 million visitors each year.

South Dakota is the proud home of several national parks and monuments, including Badlands National Park near Wall, Jewel Cave National Monument near Custer, Wind Cave National Park near Hot Springs, Mount Rushmore National Memorial near Keystone, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site and the Missouri National Recreational River. South Dakota also shares a section of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, which winds across 11 states. 

Throughout the year, South Dakota will team up with NPS to celebrate 100 years of growth, learning, preservation and conservation. And for 16 days of 2016, the national parks and monuments across the state will open their gates free of charge. Also, as a part of the festivities, the NPS has launched the “Find Your Park” campaign, which highlights its destinations across America while helping you discover National Parks right in your backyard. 

National Park Service free admission days 2016: 

  • January 18 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • April 16–24 – National Park Week
  • August 25–28 – National Park Service Birthday
  • September 24 – National Public Lands Day
  • November 11 – Veteran’s Day


Wind Cave National Park Celebrates Centennial with Reunion, Music, and Special Events 2016


Jewel Cave National Monument celebrates National Park Service Centennial! See here for a schedule from April through October of the 2016 Special Events calendar

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Missouri National Recreation River

Missouri National Recreational River

Bison at Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park

Devil's Tower National Monument

Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming

A tour in Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave National Monument

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Wind Cave National Park Reunion

Wind Cave National Park Reunion

Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave National Monument