Romance of the National Parks


Looking backward over our journeys in the National Parks and Monuments, we can hardly forget that great elation of spirit which crowned our views of untamed natural beauty—that mastery of ego and transcendence of self which found us high on the mountain tops. We came face to face with the mighty living glaciers which are still grinding away at their assigned task. We took to heart the thought that the stars in their courses have achieved a speed and direction which make man-made aircraft seem like silly children's toys. We marveled at the ingenuity of Nature in fashioning mountains, valleys, and streams, in husbanding forests, shrubs, and flowers, with their infinite variety of form and color. We thanked "whatever gods there be" for the birds and the beasts that we had seen, for it would be a sorry, silent world if mankind were here alone.

All that we had read of geology was illustrated with dramatic dioramas on a ten-league canvas. We felt that we had torn aside the curtain of Time and looked into the daily lives of those early Indians who lived high in the cliffs in the year 1000. We had looked upon the buildings of the Spanish padres and the scenes of the early explorers. In the East we had visited the Colonial villages where our early history was made. We had looked upon the battlefields where hard-won victories have made possible our present-day Nation. We had entered the houses where the great leaders of our country were born or lived.

THE NATIONAL PARKS ARE THE HIKERS' PARADISE Photograph—Department of the Interior, Courtesy—Portfolio, American Planning and Civic Association

When the National Park and Monument System is completed, as it will be during the next few years, the United States of America will own a rich landed estate in which may be preserved those tangible and intangible values that can never be completely enjoyed when combined with the economic exploitation of our land and water resources.

Perhaps in the soul-satisfying beauties of our national parks and other sacred regions we shall find that we can regain something of that poise of outlook and courage in action which contact with unspoiled Nature may confer on human beings, and so ensure a continuance of our civilization on the lands which were so lately conquered by our ancestors.

Let us cherish the domain we have received from the hands of Nature, and in using it for our collective enjoyment manage it wisely and damage it as little as possible. Let us study the pages of its story. Let us sense its romance. And finally, let us receive its benediction!

sketch of Stephen Mather on horseback

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Last Updated: 18-Nov-2009