How many national parks are there? It depends on how you ask.


If you have researched the question, “how many national parks are there?” you may be confused by the varying results you will find. Even if you only accepted responses straight from the National Park Service website, you will still find pages showing 423 and others showing 63, leaving many wondering what could be causing such a significant difference in the numbers. . Given that the same authoritative source offers seemingly contradictory information, it is clear that the problem is not who you ask but turns out to be How? ‘Or’ What you ask. In the collection of national parks, there are, in fact, 423 national parks sites administered by the National Park Service, but only 63 of them are simply referred to as “national parks” by name. The remaining 360 sites fall into 19 additional categories, with some containing only one entry, but it’s important to note that the NPS designates them all as “parks” regardless of their titles. Here are some key distinctions that separate the 63 pure parks from the remaining 360 parks.

National parks

Absolute purists will rightly say that there are currently 63 national parks because these vast areas are only designated “national park” by title and not belonging to any of the remaining 19 categories. The designation grants them protection from certain public uses to maintain their natural resources, and many of them are the parks you think of first when you consider national parks, like Grand Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park , Sequoia National Park and Joshua Tree National Park.

National monuments

The largest category of national park sites are national monuments. Usually smaller than the pure parks listed above, the 85 members of this category are often designated to preserve a single resource, whether natural or cultural. Some of these include the prehistoric campsites and shelters at Browns Canyon National Monument, the lava tube caves at Lava Beds National Monument, the 25,000 or so sculptures at Petroglyph National Monument, and the Devil’s Tower National Monument. , the first in the country.

National historic parks and national historic sites

Together there are 136 National Historic Parks and National Historic Sites, each commemorating significant people or events in U.S. history. Typically, these sites are preserved in a period-appropriate style to provide continuing education on the times surrounding the people or events that made these sites important. The main distinction between the two categories is often as basic as size, with national historic parks generally being larger than national historic sites and requiring more resources to maintain. Some of these include Valley Forge National Historic Park, Natchez National Historic Park, Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, and Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site.

International historic sites

The Ile Sainte-Croix International Historic Site is the only member of this category. This place in Maine marks the first known French appearance on the continent, preceding the better-known European arrivals and making it historically important to the United States and Canada.

National battlefield site

Likewise, the Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site is the only member of its class, but there are also four Battlefield National Parks and eleven simply designated as National Battlegrounds, as well as nine additional National Military Parks. , including Gettysburg National Military Park.

National waters

Waterways make up a significant number of national protected areas in the United States with three national shores, four national rivers, ten national shorelines, and a combination of ten wild and scenic national rivers and waterways.

And they some

The remaining 88 national parks belong to the following categories: national memorials (31), national walks (4), national reserves (19), national reserves (2), national recreation areas (18) and national scenic trails (3), leaving eleven sites so distinct that they have no categories. Members of this illustrious list labeled “other” include President’s Park (the White House) and National Mall and Memorial Parks.

More. . .

Finally, it is important to note that there are sites designated with the above titles that are not administered by the National Park Service. Instead, these are managed by local or state governments, and further increase the totals when included, topping the 423 NPS sites and further complicating the question of how many national parks there really are.

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