Natural Sounds Program

Waterfall, as seen from the Diablo Lake Boat Tour. Image Credit: NPS/Astudillo
A waterfall rushes into Diablo Lake near the Environmental Learning Center.


Listening to the National Parks
Waterfalls thundering out of hanging valleys, rock or ice plummeting down a steep slope, the constant chorus of birdsong - these are the sounds that make visiting North Cascades National Park Service Complex a unique experience.

Natural and cultural sounds reawaken the sense of awe that connects us to the splendor of the national park experience and have a powerful effect on our emotions, attitudes, and memories. Who can forget the flash of adrenaline from the sound of looming whitewater or the lightning bolt that cracked just a little too close?

The National Park Service regards these sounds as acoustical resources that must be protected. Acoustical resources include sounds such as animal vocalizations, waterfalls, wind, rain, and historic and cultural sounds.

The Importance of Sound
Natural sounds are essential for appreciating and enjoying park features. Our ability to see is a powerful tool for experiencing our world, but sound adds a dimension that sight alone cannot provide. In many cases, hearing is the only option for experiencing certain aspects of our environment. Our ears often provide the best opportunities to find wildlife because animals can often be heard at much greater distances than they can be seen.

Noise behaves a lot like smog in the air because it obscures sounds and reduces the listening horizon for wildlife and visitors. Places of deep quiet are most vulnerable to noise. Therefore, wildlife in remote wilderness areas and park visitors who journey to these quiet places are likely to be especially sensitive to noise.

Inside North Cascades National Park Service Complex, acoustic monitoring of sound and noise provides a scientific basis for understanding its importance. Throughout the park, acoustical recording equipment captures sound and noise as audio files and in visual images called spectrograms. You can help safeguard the sounds of life by becoming aware of your surroundings, speaking softly, and many other steps. The sounds you make will affect the experience of other visitors and wild creatures large and small.

Tread lightly and speak softly.

Last updated: August 11, 2017

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810 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284


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