Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the director of the National Park Service?
Michael T. Reynolds is the acting director of the National Park Service.

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, Wildlife and Parks.

How many employees are in the National Park Service?

  • Permanent, temporary, and seasonal: Approximately 22,000 diverse professionals
  • Volunteers in Parks: 400,000 (in fiscal year 2015)

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.

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 components of the arrowhead may have been inspired by key attributes of the National Park System, with the sequoia tree and bison representing vegetation and wildlife, the mountains and water representing scenic and recreational values, and the arrowhead itself representing historical and archeological values. Read more about the history of the arrowhead and other elements of NPS visual design.

The NPS allows limited use of the NPS arrowhead when doing so contributes to our work. Learn how to request permission to use the arrowhead.

How many areas are in the National Park System?
The system includes 417 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 units and affiliated areas (145KB PDF) by type and number.

What is the largest national park site? Smallest?

Current information on acreage for units across the National Park System is also available.

How many people visit the national parks?

  • Total recreation visitors to the national parks in 2015: 307,247,252

See the Visitor Use Statistics page for more detailed information.

What is the most-visited national park?
View a list of the most-visited sites in the National Park Service (28KB PDF).

What is the National Park Service budget?

  • FY 2014 Enacted: $2.98 billion
  • FY 2015 Request: $3.65 billion

How do I obtain a park pass?
You can obtain park passes by visiting your nearest park site. Most sites have passes available; we recommend calling a park prior to your visit. Learn more about the America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass.

Where can I find a park map?
You can view maps on specific park websites or download maps from the Harpers Ferry Center map collection.

How do I make reservations for camping/lodging in national parks?
For campground reservations, visit 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 the specific park websites.

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?
Concessionaires provide park visitors with lodging, transportation, food services, shops, and other services. More than 500 NPS concession contracts in more than 120 different park units) vary in size from small, family-owned businesses to national/international corporations. Learn more about commercial services in the National Park Service.