TO build a railroad, reclaim lands, give new impulse to enterprise, and offer new doors to ambitious capital—these are phases of the ever-widening life and activity of this Nation. The United States, however, does more; it furnishes playgrounds to the people which are, we may modestly state, without any rivals in the world. Just as the cities are seeing the wisdom and necessity of open spaces for the children, so with a very large view the Nation has been saving from its domain the rarest places of grandeur and beauty for the enjoyment of the world.

And this fact has been discovered by many only this year. Having an incentive in the expositions on the Pacific coast, and Europe being closed, thousands have for the first time crossed the continent and seen one or more of the national parks. That such mountains and glaciers, lakes and canyons, forests and waterfalls were to be found in this country was a revelation to many who had heard but had not believed. It would appear from the experience of the past year that the real awakening as to the value of these parks has at last been realized, and that those who have hitherto found themselves enticed by the beauty of the Alps and the Rhine and the soft loveliness of the valleys of France may find equal if not more stimulating satisfaction in the mountains, rivers, and valleys which this Government has set apart for them and for all others.

It may reconcile those who think that money expended upon such luxuries is wasted—if any such there are—to be told that the sober-minded traffic men of the railroads estimate that last year more than a hundred million dollars usually spent in European travel was divided among the railroads, hotels, and their supporting enterprises in this country.

There is no reason why this nation should not make its public health and scenic domain as available to all its citizens as Switzerland and Italy make theirs. The aim is to open them thoroughly by road and trail and give access and accommodation to every degree of income. In this belief an effort is making this year as never before to outfit the parks with new hotels which should make the visitor desire to linger rather than hasten on his journey. One hotel was built last year on Lake McDermott, in Glacier Park, one is now building on the shoulder of Mount Rainier, in Paradise Valley, another in the Valley of the Yosemite with an annex high overhead on Glacier Point, while more modest lodges are to he dotted about in the obscurer spots to make accessible the rarer beauties of the inner Yosemite. For, with the new Tioga Road, which, through the generosity of Mr. Stephen T. Mather and a few others, the Government has acquired, there is to be revealed a new Yosemite which only John Muir and others of similar bent have seen. This is a Yosemite far different from the quiet, incomparable valley. It is a land of forests, snow, and glaciers. From Mount Lyell one looks, as from an island, upon a tumbled sea of snowy peaks. Its lakes, many of which have never been fished, are alive with trout. And through it foams the Tuolumne River, a water spectacle destined to world celebrity. Meeting obstructions in its slanting rush, the water now and again rises perpendicularly, forming upright foaming arcs sometimes fifty feet in height. These "water-wheels," a dozen or more in number, soon will be made accessible by trail.

While as the years have passed we have been modestly developing the superb scenic possibilities of the Yellowstone, nature has made of it the largest and most populous game preserve in the Western Hemisphere. Its great size, its altitude, its vast wildernesses, its plentiful waters, its favorable conformation of rugged mountain and sheltered valley, and the nearly perfect protection afforded by the policy and the scientific care of the Government have made this park, since its inauguration in 1872, the natural and inevitable center of game conservation for this nation. There is something of significance in this. It is the destiny of the national parks, if wisely controlled, to become the public laboratories of nature study for the Nation. And from them specimens may be distributed to the city and State preserves, as is now being done with the elk of the Yellowstone, which are too abundant, and may be done later with the antelope.

If Congress will but make the funds available for the construction of roads over which automobiles may travel with safety (for all the parks are now open to motors) and for trails to hunt out the hidden places of beauty and dignity, we may expect that year by year these parks will become a more precious possession of the people, holding them to the further discovery of America and making them still prouder of its resources, esthetic as well as material.

Secretary of the Interior.

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Last Updated: 30-Oct-2009