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America's National Parks Podcast

165 episodes - English - Latest episode: 1 day ago - ★★★★★ - 567 ratings

Explore our national parks — their history, their people, and their stories.

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How a National Park Becomes a World Heritage Site

May 18, 2020 08:36 - 14 minutes - 10.3 MB

While exploring National Parks, Monuments and historic sites across the country, you may have noticed gigantic plaques in a few of the visitor centers, designating them as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Today on America's National Parks, we explore what makes these sites special, and what it takes for an exceptional place to become a World Heritage Site.

The Great Humanitarian

May 10, 2020 06:27 - 27 minutes - 18.6 MB

Herbert Hoover had been president for less than a year when the stock market crashed. At the next election, he was swept out out the white house and out of public life as a scapegoat that would forever be saddled with a legacy of a presidential disaster. It's time to set the record straight. Today on America's National Parks, the Herbert Hoover that maybe you didn't know, and his National Park legacy.

White Nose Syndrome

May 02, 2020 21:28 - 13 minutes - 9.2 MB

The National Park Service manages 84 million acres, in 419 parks, 1 in 4 of which have caves, and 1 in 3 of which have mines. Many of these caves and mines provide habitat for hibernating bats. Bats are an essential part of many American ecosystems, but they're under threat from a hidden illness called white-nose syndrome. Since 2006, this fungal disease has killed millions of bats in North America. In some caves and mines, 90-100% of bat populations have died. Parks in more than half of t...

National Park Week Throwback Thursday: Other Great National Park Podcasts

April 23, 2020 08:32 - 24 minutes - 17 MB

This week, we're doing something a little different. It's National Park Week, and we're teaming up with other National Park podcasters, authors, bloggers, and other content creators to celebrate.  The theme for Today, Thursday, April 23rd is "Throwback Thursday," so a few of us podcasts decided to band together for a "best-of" sort of episode. We're going to play you a clip each from, Gaze at the National Parks, Everybody's National Parks, Parklandia, and America's National Parks. These th...

Dust of the Earth

April 18, 2020 08:25 - 12 minutes - 8.68 MB

  Known as "John of the Mountains" and "Father of the National Parks," legendary naturalist John Muir was far ahead of his time, holding ideals that many are just coming around to. Muir undertook a daring adventure in 1867 that led him to the path of natural enlightenment. He decided that he wanted to explore the world. He left his life in Indiana and walked one thousand miles to Florida. Muir trekked south through Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida with little more ...

Angel of the Battlefield

April 11, 2020 09:48 - 27 minutes - 19.1 MB

In this difficult time in the world, we look to heroes from our past as inspiration to help us find the resolution to possess even a small fraction of their helping spirit. Clara Barton's life's work has rippled through the generations, and, in fact, the response to today's pandemic crisis might have been very different were she never born. Today, one of the most decorated women in American history, and the Clara Barton National Historic Site.

The Return of the Wolves

April 05, 2020 18:51 - 22 minutes - 18.1 MB

In the battle for conservation and the protection and reinvigoration of endangered species, one animal serves as a symbol to remind us of what we've done as a human race, and how we have the responsibility to fix our mistakes. And it all played out in America's first and most famous National Park. Today on America's National Parks, Yellowstone, and the 25th anniversary of the return of the Grey Wolf.

Oh Shenandoah

March 28, 2020 09:45 - 23 minutes - 19 MB

Just 75 miles from the bustle of Washington, D.C., is an escape to recreation and re-creation. Cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, and quiet wooded hollows - 200,000 acres of protected lands are a haven to deer, songbirds, and the night sky. But the history of this land is also the history of the people who gave up their homes for a great national park in the East. Today on America's National Parks, Shenandoah, and the livelihood of the people who called the mountains their home.

News from the Parks | March 2020

March 23, 2020 20:24 - 14 minutes - 11.8 MB

As travel restrictions, shelter-in-place orders, and closures to all but the most essential services sweep the country, the National Park Service has been caught in the middle of wanting to protect people and places, while providing recreational opportunities for Americans to get out and free their minds in nature.

Going to the Sun

March 14, 2020 09:05 - 17 minutes - 23.8 MB

Only a few miles of rough wagon roads existed within Glacier National Park when Congress established the park on May 11, 1910. Many people, including the first Park Superintendent, William R. Logan, wanted to build a transmountain road across the park. Supporters argued that a good road system would enable people to reach the interior of the park even if they could not afford the rates of the Great Northern Railroad and its chalets. And enthusiasm for good roads and automobiling had infected...

Wilderness of Rock

March 09, 2020 10:31 - 18 minutes - 24.9 MB

337,598 acres of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires in the heart of southeast Utah's high desert. A land where water and gravity are the prime architects, sculpting layers of rock into the rugged landscape we see today in Canyonlands National Park.


March 05, 2020 07:23 - 13 minutes - 18.9 MB

In the far west, you can find one of the oldest living organisms in the world. A tree that can live for thousands of years due to its ability to survive whatever is thrown at it. 56 years ago, the oldest tree ever was found, containing nearly 5000 years of growth rings. It germinated before the Egyptian Pyramids were built. Unfortunately, nobody knew it was the oldest known tree until it was gone. Today, Great Basin National Park, the Bristlecone Pine, and how one man accidentally killed th...

News from the Parks | February 2020

March 02, 2020 16:48 - 10 minutes - 15.1 MB

This month's news round-up features the temporary closing of Mount Rainier, annual visitation numbers in the park system, and concerns about the coronavirus affecting businesses in and around Yellowstone.

101 Years Apart

February 15, 2020 09:01 - 16 minutes - 22.2 MB

This past Wednesday, Grand Canyon National Park's Interpretive Rangers lowered the flag in honor of one of their own. A ranger who lived and worked at Grand Canyon National Park for the past 20 years, and became a favorite of visitors from far and wide. Ron Brown. After forty-eight jobs in five states, Ron Brown found his calling as an interpretive park ranger. He passed peacefully in his sleep at his home in Grand Canyon Village. Ranger Ron's popularity among Grand Canyon visitors was und...

A Lasting Impact

February 08, 2020 15:56 - 12 minutes - 17.6 MB

The contributions of immigrants to our great nation are undeniable. Some of our greatest institutions were literally built on the backs of immigrants of all stripes. Our national parks are no exception. In the west, some of the most significant contributions came from the Chinese. Today, Yosemite National Park, and the incredible contributions to it by Chinese Americans.

News from the Parks | January 2020

February 02, 2020 15:24 - 10 minutes - 14.2 MB

Welcome to January's "News From the Parks" episode of the America's National Parks Podcast, our monthly show where we round up for you the latest info about happenings at America's Greatest treasures. On this episode, shark fossils in Mammoth Cave, a massive increase in visitation at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the 25th anniversary of the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone. 

What Makes a National Park?

January 26, 2020 09:13 - 14 minutes - 20.1 MB

The National Park designation has become one of the most prestigious terms in the English language. National parks have stirred the imagination of Americans ever since they were dreamed up, and a recent focus has been sparked by the confluence of social sharing like YouTube and Instagram, the park service's recent 100th anniversary celebrated in 2016, and incredible documentaries like Ken Burns' "America's Best Idea." But the structure of the National Park System remains a mystery to many ca...

National Park Passes Explained

January 18, 2020 09:00 - 10 minutes - 15 MB

It's the time of year where people around the world are planning their adventures to America's National Parks, and we thought this would be the perfect time to explain one of the things we most commonly get questions about - Annual Park Passes.

The Black Canyon

January 11, 2020 19:44 - 15 minutes - 20.9 MB

The deep canyons of the west enchant us today as much as they did those who dared to explore them for the first time. They're all unique in their own ways, as nature seems to brag about the incredible might of its gem-cutting rivers. But one Colorado canyon, in particular, is like none of the rest. It exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. Over two million years, a river has sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky tha...

The Great Prairie Highway

January 04, 2020 08:10 - 16 minutes - 22.5 MB

It was an international road for American and Mexican traders, until 1848, when the Mexican-American War ended, and New Mexico joined the United States. It became a national road for commercial and military freighting, stagecoach travel, emigration, and mail service. On Today's Episode of America's National Parks, the Santa Fe National Historic Trail.

News from the Parks | December 2019

December 29, 2019 00:16 - 12 minutes - 17.2 MB

This month, there's a new national park in the system, fees are increasing at parks around the country, invasive species are threatening the park system, the Narrows trail at Zion will be protected forever, and a whole lot more.

Wolf Trap

December 21, 2019 19:06 - 14 minutes - 20 MB

Today on the America's National Parks Podcast, the vision of a D.C. socialite to develop and share a love of the arts with the community set to the backdrop of nature. Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.

Treasure in the Sea

December 14, 2019 15:46 - 28 minutes - 39.4 MB

Today, Channel Islands National Park and the original 1982 "Treasures of the Sea" park film. Now in retirement, this version was replaced in 2011 with the currently running film featuring narration by Kevin Costner.

Valley Forge

December 07, 2019 08:25 - 24 minutes - 33.1 MB

On December 19th, 1777, 12,000 weary revolutionary war soldiers and 400 women and children marched into what would be their winter encampment. They began to build what was essentially the fourth largest city in the United States, with 1,500 log huts and two miles of fortifications. Lasting six months, from December until June, the encampment was as diverse as any city, with people who were free and enslaved, wealthy and impoverished, speakers of several languages, and adherents of multiple r...

News from the Parks | November 2019

November 30, 2019 15:43 - 10 minutes - 13.9 MB

This month we have news of a cold case that's haunted the park service for over 40 years, an expansion of Rocky Mountain National Park, a National Park Service TV drama in development, and whole lot more!

Toward a Dark and Indefinite Shore

November 24, 2019 02:45 - 22 minutes - 31.1 MB

After the Civil War ended with the surrender at Appomattox, Abraham Lincoln waited two days to speak. He opened, "we meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart." Lincoln was looking ahead to the reconstruction of the nation, but it would take place without him. This week, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, at Ford's Theater in Washington D.C.

A Prescription for Fire

November 16, 2019 02:29 - 17 minutes - 23.5 MB

From a seed no bigger than one from a tomato, California's coast redwood may grow to a height of 367 feet and have a width of 22 feet at its base. Imagine a 35-story skyscraper and you have an inkling of the trees' ability to arouse humility. Fires are the lifeblood of a conifer forest, and human development creates the need for prescribed burns for the health and longevity of the forest. This is California's Redwood National Park.

The Legacy of 3 Million

November 09, 2019 09:55 - 22 minutes - 30.5 MB

If you've spent a decent amount of time in National or State parks in the U.S., you've probably been in a building built by a federal program that employed nearly 3 million people during the most difficult economic time in our country's history. Their work constructed trails and shelters in more than 800 state and national parks. They built wildlife refuges, fisheries, water storage basins and animal shelters. They built bridges and campground facilities, many of which are still in use today...

The Sound of Geology

November 02, 2019 20:44 - 20 minutes - 28.1 MB

One of our most visited National Parks averages more than a half-million visitors per month in the summer, who flock to see massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky. It's main feature, a glorious canyon carved by an unassuming yet powerful river. Unlock the hidden geologic mysteries of Zion National Park on this latest episode of the episode. 

National Geographic's Jon Waterman

October 30, 2019 05:28 - 19 minutes - 27.3 MB

Adventurer Jon Waterman is the award-winning author of several books on the American landscape, including several on the wilds of Alaska and the conflicts surrounding the Colorado River. His newest book, commissioned by National Geographic, is called "Atlas of the National Parks," and contrary to the name, it's no road map. Pre-order the Atlas to the National Parks here:  

News from the Parks | October 2019

October 26, 2019 07:39 - 11 minutes - 15.4 MB

Welcome to the October "News From the Parks Episode" of the America's National Parks Podcast, our new monthly series where we round up for you the latest info about happenings in America's Greatest treasures.

Spooky Yellowstone

October 19, 2019 07:33 - 18 minutes - 25.1 MB

National Parks play roles in all kinds of American legends, and Yellowstone, our first park, is no exception. It's October, time to dust off the ghost stories and feast on three short pieces of Yellowstone lore, as retold by S.E. Schlosser for her book "Spooky Yellowstone."

The Great Unknown

October 12, 2019 09:49 - 24 minutes - 34.3 MB

In the summer of 1869, an expedition embarked from The Green River Station in the Wyoming Territory and traveled downstream through parts of the present-day states of Colorado, Utah, and Arizona before reaching the convergence of the Colorado and Virgin rivers in present-day Nevada. Despite a series of hardships, including losses of boats and supplies, near-drownings, and the eventual departures of several crew members, the voyage produced the first detailed descriptions of much of the previ...

Gateway to the West

October 05, 2019 09:11 - 21 minutes - 29.7 MB

Halfway down the mighty Mississippi, a model of engineering greets the world to the Gateway to the West, St. Louis Missouri. The Gateway Arch is known worldwide; it's probably only second to the Statue of Liberty But how much do you actually know about its history? It's wild, and it parallels much of the 20th century. Today on America's National Parks, Gateway Arch National Park, and its namesake architectural wonder that is like no other on earth.

News from the Parks | September 2019

September 28, 2019 18:39 - 11 minutes - 15.3 MB

With over 420 sites in the NPS, every month offers a new opportunity to Find Your Park. And while we strive to focus on the stories that make these places so special, we also think keeping up-to-date can be useful to support and celebrate these special places. With that in mind, we’re rolling out a new series called "News from the Parks." The last episode of each month we’ll take a look at what is coming down the pipeline and some of the bigger news to come out of the National Park Service ...

The Old Northwest

September 25, 2019 07:34 - 11 minutes - 16.3 MB

In the town of Vincennes, Indiana, stands the largest Beaux-Arts style monument on an American battlefield and outside of Washington, DC. It sits on the former site of Fort Sackville to commemorate a little known battle with tremendous stakes. A rarely told story that dramatically expanded our country.  On this episode of America’s National Parks, the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park.

The Search for Dark Skies

September 17, 2019 02:09 - 15 minutes - 20.7 MB

80 percent of the world’s population lives under what’s called “skyglow.” In the United States and Europe, 99 percent of the public can’t experience a natural night. Light is helpful to people, of course, but it’s also one of our greatest pollutants. Artificial light brings disastrous consequences to wildlife, especially birds, bats, insects, and sea turtles.  This episode is a little different than most of our shows. Today, we travel to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where for generations...


September 10, 2019 04:47 - 15 minutes - 20.9 MB

Who doesn't love a majestic National Park lodge? Splendid craftsmanship on a grand scale surrounded by the wonders of nature. Some lodges are full of just as many stories and secrets as the park that surrounds them. On this episode of America's National Parks, Yosemite's Ahwahnee hotel, and its service in World War 2.

Castle on the Coast

September 02, 2019 05:01 - 17 minutes - 24.5 MB

Situated along the shores of St. Augustine in northeastern Florida stands the only surviving 17th-century military construction in the United States, Castillo de san Marcos. On this episode, the many faces of Castillo de san Marcos National Monument, as told by Rangers who preserve and protect this historic fort.

10 Days, 1,800 Miles

August 22, 2019 06:12 - 11 minutes - 16 MB

For 18 short months, a group of riders carried letters from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, and they did it in just 10 days. Crossing 1,800 miles of rough western terrain, at breakneck speeds, the Ponny Express tied the east to the west in ways that would become pivotal in the years to come. On today's episode of America's National Parks Podcast, the Pony Express National Historic Trail and the riders who have become synonymous with the American West.

The Waving Girl of Savannah

August 09, 2019 16:53 - 12 minutes - 7.3 MB

The Savannah river twists and turns for 301 miles in the Southeastern United States, forming most of the border between Georgia and South Carolina, before it's divided into channels by several islands near Savannah Georgia, and then spills into the Atlantic. The last of those islands holds a storied past, having played a role in both the revolutionary and civil wars, as well as World War II. Today on America's National Parks, Cockspur Island, and Fort Pulaski National Monument.

The Voice of Wilderness in the Storm

August 02, 2019 07:05 - 27 minutes - 15.5 MB

In the early days of what is now Denali National Park and Preserve, one park scientist stood out among the rest. He was known for his tough, adventurous spirit, ground-breaking biological research, and inspiring communication. His name was Adolph Murie.

Restoring the Giants

July 26, 2019 06:59 - 15 minutes - 8.91 MB

Awe-inspiring giant sequoia trees are among the largest living things on earth, but the opportunity to experience them is rare. Approximately 75 groves exist, and only along the southern Sierra's western slope on moist sites between about 5,000 and 7,000 feet in elevation. Giant Forest, one of the largest groves, was saved from logging by the establishment of Sequoia National Park in 1890. But national park status did not fully protect the big trees.  On this episode of America’s National P...

Rangers Make the Difference III

July 19, 2019 07:46 - 20 minutes - 28.4 MB

Being a National Park Service Ranger is a multifaceted job, one that requires you to call on all your skills to bring a park to life. Whether it be through music, research, education, conservation, or day to day administrative work, Rangers give their all to the places they have sworn to protect, which is why every year the International Ranger Foundation sets aside July 31st as World Ranger Day. If you’ve listened to past episodes, you know our “Rangers Make the Difference” series began in ...

Lincoln's Throne

July 12, 2019 07:18 - 22 minutes - 31.2 MB

For more than 100 years, no national memorial had been contemplated for any president except George Washington, yet talk of building one to honor the monumental legacy left by Abraham Lincoln began even as he lingered on his deathbed. There was an obvious appropriateness to the concept that Lincoln, the preserver of the Union, should join Washington, the founder of that Union, in being honored on the National Mall.  On this episode of America’s National Parks, the Lincoln Memorial, part of ...

238,900 Miles from Idaho

July 06, 2019 08:38 - 30 minutes - 9.19 MB

50 years ago, in 1969, NASA sent astronauts to a remote location in southern Idaho. Their goal? To learn basic geology and study the local, relatively recent volcanic features located there in preparation for potential missions to the moon. On this episode, Craters of the Moon National Monument. 

A $50 Bet

June 29, 2019 08:03 - 11 minutes - 6.5 MB

Rising high above the prairies west of the Blackhills stands a tower of astounding geological feature. Considered sacred by indigenous people, it's an impressive and striking monument against the flatlands of Northeastern Wyoming. Hundreds of parallel cracks make it one of the finest climbing areas in North America, and for decades this remarkable wonder has drawn daredevils and thrill seekers alike, all hoping to stand atop the tower's flat summit. One person, though, took a very different...

Meaningless Without Sacrifice

June 24, 2019 06:44 - 50 minutes - 68.7 MB

The Emancipation Proclamation has been called one of the two most important American contributions to the world by Martin Luther King, Jr., yet was said to possess "all the moral grandeur of a bill of lading" by historian Richard Hofstadter. Its force and form have been the subject of countless books and papers. Was it a meaningless document? Or did it drastically change America? On this episode, a lecture from ranger Dan Vermilya at Gettysburg National Historical Park breaks through the sou...

Alone on a Winter's Island

June 14, 2019 07:00 - 18 minutes - 25.5 MB

Nestled at the top of Wisconsin sits a cluster of islands on Lake Superior that is home to what some call the finest collection of lighthouses in the country. Guiding the way for ships on Lake Superior, Nine light stations were tended by keepers. Those that chose to face the winter on their island homes faced unimaginable trials. One woman faced one such trial when her husband left to go fishing and didn't return for days. On this episode of America's National Parks, the Apostle Islands Nat...

On the Oregon Trail

June 10, 2019 15:12 - 16 minutes - 22.8 MB

The first covered wagons would carve a trail towards Oregon Country in 1836. Among them was a missionary party headed by Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. Narcissa kept a journal at the suggestion of her mother, whom she would never see again. In it, she writes to her family of life on the trail, of the oppressive heat, the difficult terrain, the joys, and her faith. On this episode of the America's National Parks Podcast, the Whitman National Historic Site and our slightly edited version of the ...