22 in 2022: The Explore Nature Thanksgiving List

For many, Thanksgiving is a time for taking stock of all of the things that we’re grateful for and to appreciate what we have. So, here’s our list of 22 things we’re thankful for this year and 22 ways to give back and “say thanks” by enjoying, protecting, or discovering more. What would you add to this list?

two bull moose cross a road in the fall
One moose, two moose, bull moose, young moose.

NPS/Kent Miller

1. Wildlife

National parks offer unparalleled opportunities to watch wildlife. Birds, otters, and bison are fascinating, and watching wildlife is both exciting and relaxing at the same time.

Say Thanks: Learn the 7 ways to safely watch wildlife

a red tent lit up under the milky way
There's nothing better than sleeping out under the stars!

Savana Jones

2. Camping Opportunties

You can camp any time of the year! Breathing fresh air and disconnecting from devices are so good for our mental health and wellness.

Say Thanks: Explore nature through camping and get some camping tips.

two hikers on a trail through yellow wildflowers
Take a hike!

NPS / J. Frank

3. Time on Trails

Exploring national parks through trails, bikeways, boardwalks, nature trails, and even off-trail in remote Wilderness areas brings us closer together and healthier!

Say Thanks: Discover trails and hiking in national parks.

An invasive plant management team hikes down the banks of a river with sprayer backpacks on
Tackling invasive plants in parks is a big job, but the IPMTs are up to the task!


4. Invasive Plant Management Teams

The dedicated people on the 17 Invasive Plant Management Teams work hard to rid our beautiful parks of harmful invasive plants.

Say Thanks: Find out how you can help stop the spread of invasive species before you recreate, after, and at home.

the milky way arcs above the silhouette of Devils Tower
The Milky Way... more than just chocolate.

NPS / Damon Joyce

5. Starry Skies

Looking up at the night sky and getting lost in the Milky Way is always a source of inspiration. We are so lucky to have 34 certified dark sky parks and dedicated scientists who work to monitor and protect our night sky resources.

Say Thanks: Become a Junior Ranger Night Explorer and get aquainted with the dark.

vibrant blue, clear water runs through a narrow mossy canyon
Look how vibrantly blue and clear that water is!


6. Clean Water

For drinking, for healthy ecosystems, water is the foundation of life. The Clean Water Act turned 50 this year!

Say Thanks: Celebrate the anniversary by protecting, learning about, and exploring clean water in national parks.

snow capped mountains reflect on a calm lake
Clean air + still water = beautiful vista!


7. Clean Air

Take a deep breath. Clean air helps people breathe easy and see far. It keeps our parks and planet healthy too! We work hard to monitor the air quality in parks.

Say Thanks: Discover how you can save energy and money while reducing air pollution at home.

a monarch butterfly on a yellow flower
When you plant native plants for pollinators you get the added bonus of enjoying their company.

NPS Daniel Peterson

8. Pollinators

More than 75 percent of the Earth's flowering plants depend on bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other pollinators. In fact, they're responsible for 1 out of 3 bites we take each day!

Say Thanks: By planting native plants for pollinators.

five snow crusted bison walk through snow
And remember.... don't pet the fluffy cows!

NPS / Jacob W. Frank

9. Our National Mammal

Bison are more than just majestic “fluffy cows,” they are symbols of our shared American history and culture. No other wildlife species has had as much impact on humans and the ecosystems that they occupied than bison.

Say Thanks: Learn about the centuries of intertwined history of people and bison

two people admire dinosaur bones in rock
What's your favorite dinosaur? We know you have one.


10. Dinosaur Bones

Pretty much every child goes through a dinosaur phase. Some never grow out of it! Why? Because they’re awesome! Fossils, such as dinosaur bones, are evidence of ancient life. They are irreplaceable pieces of America's geologic heritage and tell the stories of America long before the United States existed.

Say Thanks: Learn more about fossils and paleontology in the National Park Service.

a coyote howls in the snow
Can you "hear" this photo?

NPS / Jim Peaco

11. Natural Sounds

Frogs, birds, and thunderstorms are some of the first natural sounds that come to mind. But national parks are home to many other natural and cultural sounds as well, such as singing sands, insects, and alligators.

Say Thanks: Explore our natural sounds gallery.

a smiling female park ranger greets a visitor at an entrance station
We may be biased, but we think national park rangers have the coolest hats.

NPS / Jonathan Shafer

12. Helpful Rangers

Some ranger host fireside chats, some answer questions in visitor centers, some do search and rescues operations; they’re all superstars!

Say Thanks: Plan like a park ranger to make sure the only surprises on your next trip are happy ones.

a man in a volunteer uniform gives trip planning advice to two visitors
VIPs make the parks go round!


13. Volunteers in Parks

Volunteers in Parks are the most important VIPs! They make our special places even better. Some help with campgrounds, some in visitor centers, and some even help build the trails that you enjoy!

Say Thanks: Learn more about how you can get involved in volunteering with us.

a rock arch frames another rock formation dusted with snow
What's better than an arch? An arch within an arch.

NPS Jacob W. Frank

14. Geology

There are amazing stories hidden in our rocks and landforms that tell us about the Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history. From the tallest peaks to the deepest caves, geology in national parks is sure to amaze!

Say Thanks: Discover America’s geologic legacy.

An orange Shenandoah salamander on bright green moss
How adorable is that face?


15. Protected Endangered Species

Some at-risk species such as the Shenandoah salamander, Franciscan manzanita, and Island scrub jay are only found in parks. Thanks to legislation like the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Marine Mammal Protection Act, we are better able to protect our most at-risk species.

Say Thanks: Learn more about the laws that protect at-risk species.

a beautiful sandy beach and vegetation covered mountains of American Samoa
When we close our eyes, we're on a beach in American Samoa.


16. Scenic Views

Close your eyes and imagine a national park. Chances are a scenic view from a visit to a park comes to mind. Scenic views in national parks inspire and connect us to the natural world and our cultural heritage.

Say Thanks: While breathtaking in person, you can also explore the amazing views in national parks virtually.

a smiling woman in yellow safety gear


17. Scientists

Scientists help us understand our world. How else would we know that big king salmon didn’t belong in this little creek? The work that they do in parks is essential for making management decisions for the future of our parks.

Say Thanks: Meet the National Park Service scientists that help preserve and protect our special places.

a diver swims next to a yellow elkhorn coral on a reef
Somewhere, under the sea, a whole world awaits, just for me...

NPS / Brett Seymour

18. Oceans

There are 88 ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes park units in the National Park Service. They’re teeming with life, they help regulate our climate and the recreational opportunities are basically endless!

Say Thanks: Find out how you can help protect our oceans by living blue.

a park science magazine cover for the summer issue of 2022 with a national park service scientist in a cave
Stories of science, when you want them, where you want them (it's online!).


19. Park Science Magazine

Park Science Magazine gives voice to the science conducted in the National Park Service. Discover the advances in science and technology that helps us preserve, understand, and enjoy our public lands.

Say Thanks: Read the Summer 2022 issue and keep an eye out for the Winter 2022 issue in December.

a mountain cabin with a sign that says science and learning center
Supporting science in parks since 1999.


20. Research Learning Centers

17 Research Learning Centers help make science possible by supporting researchers who study parks, making research accessible to visitors, and making research applicable to conservation.

Say Thanks: Get involved in citizen science projects at Research Learning Centers.

snow capped mountains with a braided river valley
It's all connected!

NPS / K. Smigielski

21. Connected Conservation

Water, wildlife, lands, and air are all connected and don’t stop at park boundaries. By working together at a landscape-scale, we can make real progress in protecting our special places.

Say Thanks: Participate in Conservation At Home and find out what action you can take at home to help protect our natural resources.

a gorgeous sunrise over the grand canyon
We love our parks! Don't you?!

NPS / M. Quinn

22. Our Public Lands

We love our public lands, but specifically national parks of course! We'll always think of them as America's Best Idea!

Say Thanks: Plan a visit to a national park and don’t forget to recreate responsibly.

Last updated: November 23, 2022