Today, the United States has some 63 national parks (plus national reserves, national monuments, national historic sites, etc.). These are designated for their natural beauty, diverse ecosystems, or other reasons and are generally managed by the National Park Service. They preserve much of America’s most amazing landscapes for future generations.
The first national park in the United States was Yellowstone, which was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. Since then, many national parks have been added, with the last national park added being New River Gorge in West Virginia. So the question is, what will be the 64th national park in the United States?
What to know about national parks in the United States
Today, 14 national parks are designated World Heritage Sites while 21 are named UNESCO Biosphere Reserves (8 National Parks are both World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves).
The popularity of national parks varies wildly, ranging from 14 million visitors for Smokey Mountains National Park to just 7,000 for the hard-to-reach gates of Arctic National Park in Alaska.
- The most popular: Smokey Mountains with 14 million visitors
- Least popular: Gateway to the Arctic with 7,000 visitors
- Most national parks: California and Alaska have the most national parks in the United States
There are plenty of contenders to be the next national park and there are plenty of optional scenic national forests, ancient cultural sites, lazy rivers, and lunar volcanic landscapes that should be elevated to America’s top protection. .
To be added to the US list of national parks, the area must meet certain basic criteria. It must have scenic or historical significance. Then, the preservation of the land must protect the environment or the culture of an area and finally the site must be open to the public to enjoy it.
Top contenders for the next national park
According to Seeker, some of the top contenders to become the 64th national park are:
- Georgia: Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park
- Delaware: Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
- Idaho: Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
- Oregon: Mount Hood National Forest
- Minnesota: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
- Maine: Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
- Nevada: Avi Kwa Ame National Monument
- Pennsylvania: Allegheny National Forest
- Louisiana: Atchafalaya National Heritage Area
- Alaska: Tongass National Forest
- Borders of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa: Drift-free rivers
If the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area were to become the next national park, it would be significant because Delaware is the only state without a national park of any kind. About 20 states have no national parks, but Delaware has no national preserves or national monuments.
It’s impossible to review all of the top contenders on the list here. But we’ll discuss a few of our favorite picks.
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
One of the most supernatural places in the United States is Craters of the Moon National Preserve in Idaho (Idaho is an underrated state that has so much more to offer than potatoes). Being a national monument and a reserve already puts it a notch below that of a national park.
- Date: The monument was created in 1924
- Managed: By National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management
- Cut: 1,117 square miles or 2,893 square km
- Lava flows: 60 distinct solidified lava flows
- Age: 15,000 to 2,000 years ago
The site includes three major lava fields – and approximately 400 square miles of sagebrush steppe grassland surrounding these lava fields. The lava poured through open cracks in the earth’s crust and created a unique and unusual environment.
Avi Kwa Ame National Monument
There is an active campaign to be made to create the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument. The proposal is supported by local Native Americans and is an attempt to preserve the region’s biodiversity from development. It is also considered sacred by ten Yuman-speaking tribes as well as the Hopi and Chemehuevi Paiute peoples.
The proposed National Monument contains some of the most visually stunning and biologically diverse land in the Mojave Desert. The area would also join Bears Ears and Gold Butte National Monuments.
- Cut: The proposed site spans over 380,000 acres of public land in southern Nevada
- Pronunciation: Avi Kwa Ame (Ah-VEE kwa-meh)
Learn about Native American heritage with these tours
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