Wetlands in National Parks
Wetlands are areas where the land is covered by shallow water or the soil is saturated to the surface for at least 14 consecutive days during the growing season. The term wetland includes wet meadows, salt marshes, swamps, bogs and a variety of other aquatic environments. Plants and many animals found in wetlands are specially adapted to live in these wet conditions. Wetlands can be found in virtually every county of every state in the nation, from arctic tundra wetlands in Alaska, to peat bogs in the Appalachians, to salt marshes on the Gulf Coast.
In the past, wetlands were often regarded as wastelands—sources of mosquitoes, flies and unpleasant odors. Most people felt that wetlands were places to be avoided, or better yet, eliminated. It was a widely-accepted practice to drain or fill wetlands for other uses, or to use them as dumping grounds. As a result, more than half of the wetlands that existed in the U.S. at the time of European settlement have vanished.
Today, wetlands are known to provide a variety of valuable functions. They offer critical habitats for fish and wildlife, purify polluted waters, and check the destructive power of floods and storms. Wetlands also provide recreational opportunities such as fishing, hunting, photography, and wildlife observation. They are fast becoming recognized as productive and valuable public resources.