The question always seems to come up when we do an article like this one in OP. “How many national parks are there?” The answer isn’t completely cut and dried. There are 58 national parks in the National Park Service (NPS), but that’s only a fraction of the total number of sites the NPS oversees. Of particular interest to nature photographers, there are also 18 preserves, 18 recreational areas, 10 seashores, 4 parkways, 4 lakeshores and 2 reserves. So when you’re reading this article and you’re stunned that we omitted (fill in the name of the park, preserve, recreational area, seashore, parkway, lakeshore or reserve that you can’t believe we seemed to disregard), please realize that the system is huge and the number of available pages in the magazine are comparably few. We wanted to show some of the variety of the park system in this article and, hopefully, inspire you to go out and take advantage of what the NPS has to offer.
NPS Facts The first national park was Yellowstone, established by Congress on March 1, 1872. The actual National Park Service (NPS) was established by Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916, when he signed the “Organic Act,” It’s the Organic Act that spells out the mission of the NPS: “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” As the NPS has grown, so have the overall number of people who visit. In 1920, approximately one million people visited the sites in the system. By 2008, that number had grown to 175 million.
* Entry Fees *
Of the 392 total number of sites the NPS oversees, only 147 charge entry fees, and those fees range from $5 to $25. The money from those fees remains with the NPS. You also can buy an $80 annual pass, the America the Beautiful-National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which gives you access to the NPS sites, as well as federal lands managed by four other government agencies. Those over age 62 can get a lifetime SeniorPass for $10, and citizens with disabilities are eligible for a free lifetime Access Pass.