Noise Pollution

A large airplane flying in a blue sky.
An airplane flies over Alcatraz Island.

NPS Photo.

Noise knows no boundaries

It is impossible to see, difficult to define, and even harder to regulate, but for all its esoteric qualities, recent studies reveal a wide range of impacts from noise. The Effects of Noise page will provide you with an idea of the importance of sound and the impacts of noise to wildlife, visitors, and cultural and historic resources in our national parks.

Since parks were created in part for people's enjoyment, a certain degree of noise is appropriate. Some means of exploring our protected areas, however, are noisier than others. When visitors view the park via snowmobile or air tour, for example, intrusive sounds are created that can impact wildlife and other visitors' experiences. The increasing popularity of such activities demands that managers understand and work to mitigate their effects on park resources.

Noise sources come from outside park boundaries as well. The distant hum of overhead air traffic or whirring of wind turbines can take a toll on park resources. Determining the levels and types of sound that are appropriate for different areas within a park is key to effective management. The Natural Sounds Program can provide data that are critical for making the complex decisions that will preserve vulnerable soundscapes.

To learn more about noise sources affecting national parks and the strategies and decisions for managing these issues, please visit the Noise Sources page.

Verdent, forested hills frame this view of a motor boat on a lake in Yellowstone National Park.

Noise Sources

Various human-caused noise sources increase sound levels in national parks and detract from wilderness quality.

Schematic representation of how masking reduces an animal's listening area.

Effects of Noise

As background sound increases, the area in which animals can hear important sounds is reduced.

A female hiker sits atop a mountain and contemplates the quietude of her suuroundings.

Quiet Parks Program

The Quiet Parks Program aims to provide national park units with management tools and resources for reducing park-generated noise sources.