Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the director of the National Park Service?
Jonathan B. Jarvis

Learn more about past directors of the National Park Service.

What government agency oversees the National Park Service?
The National Park Service is a bureau of the Department of the Interior. Directly overseeing its operation is the Department's Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

How old is the national park system?
The National Park Service was created by an Act signed by President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916. Yellowstone National Park was established by an Act signed by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, as the nation's first national park. View the national park system Timeline.

How many areas are there in the national park system?
The national park system comprises 401 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House. Learn more about national park designations. See the complete list of National Park Service sites and affiliated areas by type and number.

What is the largest/smallest national park site?
Largest - Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, AK - 13.2 million acres
Smallest - Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, PA - 0.02 acres

Current information on acreage is also available.

How many employees are in the National Park Service?
Permanent, Temporary, and Seasonal - Approximately 22,000 diverse professionals
Volunteers in Parks - 221,000

How many people visit the national parks?
Total recreation visitors to the national parks in 2011: 278,939,216

Visit the Public Use Statistics for more detailed information.

What is the National Park Service budget?
FY 2012 Enacted - $2.98 billion
FY 2013 Request - $2.99 billion

How do I obtain a park pass?
Visitors can obtain park passes by visiting their nearest park site. Most sites have passes available, however it is recommended to call a park prior to your visit. Learn more about the America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass.

How do I make reservations for camping/lodging in national parks?
For campground reservations go here. Not all parks participate in this service, many campgrounds are first come, first served. For more information on specific camping and lodging services offered at the park(s) of your interest, please check their homepage by using our search feature.

What do I need to know about driving off road in national parks?
Before you head out, check with the national parks that you intend to visit. In many national parks, off-road driving is illegal. Where off-road driving is allowed, the National Park Service regulates it.

What are concessions?
There are more than 630 NPS concessionaires (in 128 different park units) which vary in size from small, family-owned businesses to national/international corporations. Concessionaires provide park visitors with lodging, transportation, food services, shops, and other services. Learn more about commercial services in the National Park Service.

What role did the National Park Service have in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response?
The National Park Service was an integral part of the national federal response to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010. Find more information about our role and how we will continue to protect your national parks.


What is the origin of the National Park Service arrowhead?
The arrowhead was authorized as the official National Park Service emblem by the Secretary of the Interior on July 20, 1951. The Sequoia tree and bison represent vegetation and wildlife, the mountains and water represent scenic and recreational values, and the arrowhead represents historical and archeological values. It was registered Feb. 9, 1965, by the U.S. Patent Office as the official emblem of the NPS. Further information on the Arrowhead, including definitions, uses, powers to revoke uses, and penalties for wrongful use can be found in Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations 11.1-4.