Ranger Station Sign

All Things Park Service

Cool Parkie stuff; facts and lists; photos; trivia; books; famous rangers; little seen sights in NPS-land; information on national parks around the world; pet peeves and rants.

That Troublesome Terminology

The National Park Service (not "The Parks Department") was established by Congress in 1916 as part of the Department of the Interior. These are the guys who wear flat hats, give campfire talks, and arrest thieves and poachers when necessary. The United States Forest Service (not "The Forestry Service") is under the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and has been since 1905. The missions of the two agencies overlap at times, but are different.

Now, if our friends, family members, neighbors, loved ones, and park visitors could get the distinction... sigh. It's enough to drive a person to...

Ranger Beer

A Ranger's Very Own Beer!

Thanks to the kind folks at New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado (same folks who brought you Fat Tire), we now have an ale to be proud of:


Despite stiff competition in the realm of India Pale Ales, I have to say this is a good one. At 70 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), it's nothing to scoff at, and the culture of sustainability professed at New Belgium is something Parkies can raise their glasses to.

Thanks Ranger Troy for introducing me to this one!

Our First National Park

Everybody knows our first national park was Yellowstone, 1872. Correct? False! Abraham Lincoln signed the original Yosemite Grant, a federal law creating a state park, back in 1864 (an 1890 act of Congress returned Yosemite to the federal government), so in fact Yosemite predates Yellowstone by eight years.

"We're still the oldest," folks in Wyoming maintain, "they were just a state park in 1872. We're the first national park. End of story." Californians point out, however, that the Yosemite Grant was the first time in our nation's history when the federal government set aside public land for its scenic value. Only distance prevents open conflict between these two rivals.

While the big Y-Parks argue it out, they both conveniently ignore the smaller and less famous Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, which has this simple but significant claim to make: Congress established Hot Springs Reservation in Arkansas back in 1832, forty years before Yellowstone, thirty-two years before Yosemite. It was not named a "National Park" until 1921, but all units of the National Park System, regardless of name, are equal under the law, as per the General Authorities Act. Case closed, Hot Springs wins.

Postcard Image of the Washington MonumentNot so fast. The good folks in Arkansas asserting preeminence disregard one important fact: the District of Columbia was organized in 1790, including the National Capitol Parks, National Mall, and White House (a.k.a. President's Park). So next time you visit the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Vietnam Veterans Memorial et al., despite the claims from west of the Mississippi, remember that you are standing in our nation's first and oldest national park.

Now that we've settled that dispute, perhaps we can talk about caves... the first, oldest, the largest, the longest, the deepest, the best?...