National Park Service History

Early park rangers and supporters of Acadia National Park, Maine. Date unknown.

Early park rangers and supporters of
Acadia National Park, Maine.  Date unknown.

Today, roughly 60% of the 417 park areas administered by the National Park Service have been set aside as symbols and evidence of our history and prehistory. Many of our natural parks contain historic places that represent important aspects of that history. Collectively, these places present an American history textbook, a textbook that educates us about the people, events, buildings, objects, landscapes, and artifacts of the American past and about the aspirations and actions that produced those tangible survivors. The National Park Service's history web site represents varying aspects of this history. It emphasizes the educational value of historic places and the importance of the stories that connect us to them. Our goal is to offer a window into the historical richness of the National Park System and the opportunities it presents for understanding who we are, where we have been, and how we as a society, might approach the future. This collection of special places also allows us to examine our past—the contested along with the comfortable, the complex along with the simple, the controversial along with the inspirational. We hope, in addition, that these pages will contribute to a national discussion of history and its importance to contemporary society.


  • Administrative History Studies and Guide for the National Park Service
    NPS administrative histories look at the history of federal parks and the National Park Service as public programs and as a public trust. They analyze individual parks and their establishment and administration, as well as NPS programs and policies.

  • History of the National Park Service
    A collection of short essays and online books concerning different aspects of the history of the National Park Service

  • 'Classic' National Park Service Publications
    Classic National Park Service histories are old publications, now out-of-print, on a variety of subjects that tell the stories of our parks and resources

  • Park and Historic Preservation Laws
    Federal laws and portions of laws that pertain to the preservation of the Nation's cultural heritage.

  • National Park Service Archives, Records, and Research
    A series of links to sites within the National Park Service where maps, photographs, documents and the official records in National Archives relating to the History of the National Park Service can be found.

  • National Park Service: GeologyThe National Parks preserve spectacular icons of our nation's geologic heritage and contain some of the world's finest examples of geologic phenomena. From glaciers to barrier islands, from volcanoes to dinosaurs, the parks have it all including arches, canyons, caves, mountains and sand dunes. Here, we present a list of some premier geologic publications for the National Parks. These memorable publications provide a wealth of information about the geological wonders present in our National Parks. For additional information please visit the following web site.

  • Useful Books
    Our list of recommended books pertaining to the History of the National Parks and National Park Service

  • National Park Service Video and Interpretive Films
    Choose to preview and download video clips from an assortment of National Park Service sites and subject matter

  • National Park Service Children's Corner
    Choose to preview our online resources of National Park Service sites for Children