How Our National Parks Define Us

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Everyone has their own story to share when they come back from a National Park. When collected together, these stories create a history and a culture. Although they are diverse, they are interwoven together just like the National Parks.

One man set out to discover these stories. Ken Burns captured the spirit and tales of the National Parks in his Emmy award-winning documentary "The National Parks: America's Best Idea". He was able to not only share the stories of people who made the parks what they are today, but he also brought to light what makes the parks relevant to our contemporary American identities. In a sense, he managed to reacquaint Americans with themselves and their collective history through the National Parks.


Ken Burns

Produced by:

Elena Holodny

Comments [6]

Andrew McKee from California

Thanks for this series. I grew up playing outside often, but gradually transitioned to an indoor life during college and graduate school. When I first camped in the backcountry, at Point Reyes National Seashore, I was in my late twenties. I badly needed to recharge from my hectic corporate job and hyperactive mind. My wife and I hiked six miles to the campsite. It was sheltered by towering pines and tall brown grass. We felt tired from the uphill hike with full gear, and so we rested and cooked a simple dinner and watched a family of quails hunting for theirs. We felt inspired by day hikes to the Pacific shore, where waves smashed into jagged rocks and onto deserted beaches. We spent only two nights, but the respite helped give me the clarity and confidence I needed to decide to quit my job and redirect my career. Now, camping is our main pastime. I am forever grateful to the National Park Service and taxpayers, plus my wife for re-introducing me to the outdoors.

Aug. 10 2012 02:33 PM
Mark Seibold from Portland Oregon

This was a great if not short intro to our thoughts on current summer vacations. To answer the question to list our favorite places, and as the announcer noted, it is hard to not think of places like the great west coastal regions. As an Oregonian, I finally made it to Yosemite National Park in California a couple years ago after driving the total length of California Highway 1 to deliver by large pastel art to the famed Astronomer John Dobson on his 95th birthday in Hollywood at Griffith Park observatory. >

Growing up my entire life in the Portland Oregon area, this was really an experience to remember when driving to return to Portland from LA, Yosemite has such a grandeur and expanse, that those Ansel Adams photos made so popular. I too took many panorama images, but then just visited our more local National Park in Oregon, Crater Lake. I would say that it is these places and also seeing the Grand Canyon as my wife and I drove there a few years ago, that help us respect the beauty of the simple nature of our great country. See these two very wide panorama images that I took of Crater Lake Oregon >

And Yosemite National Park California >

Mark Seibold, Long time native of Portland Oregon, retired IT Specialist, Artist-Astronomy Educator

Aug. 08 2012 02:11 PM
Eóin (Owen) from Western Pennsylvania

Following your June 20 program with Tweed Roosevelt as guest I commented that I was blest to work as a Ranger at THRO, in the North Unit, in 1994 and this was and remains the finest occupation I have ever had, and with the best boss I could ever want. I hesitate to speak too highly of THRO out of fear too many will go there, check it off their list, and not appreciate the indescribable beauty in the surroundings and the solitude to be found there. We are in debt to President Roosevelt, before, during, and after his time in office, and to so many others then and in the present for their great and lasting vision in establishing our National Parks.

Aug. 02 2012 09:52 AM
Jessie Henshaw from way uptown

What the beauty and importance of the national parks tell us is also a quite sad story. We evidently thought protecting a few of these extraordinary places would protect them all. More or less the reverse seems to have been what happened...

The kind of question we have to face now is not whether it's desirable, but whether it's now inevitable, that the mid-west "bread basket" will now face a one or two or more centuries of drought conditions, variable as always, but frequently more extreme than even this year. The science is completely certain on that general issue, that however it's changing it will not returning to "normal" for a really very long time.

Aug. 02 2012 09:22 AM
william sutherland from Charleston, SC

3.5 years ago my wife and I found ourselves loosing 2 amazing jobs as a result of the recession. Having no children, mortgage, or car payments we decided to take a 100 day camping trip through our national parks. It was maybe the best idea we'd ever had. Many parks were memerable, but Canyonlands stole our hearts. Something about the height of the messas and depth of the canyons seemed to make our jobless plight not so bad. We're both back in the work-a-day life now, but we regularly wax nostalgic about that trip, and plan on taking another trip like the Spring/Summer of '09 again one day.

Aug. 02 2012 09:21 AM
Walter from Oklahoma

The Parks collectively are a national treasure, one of the few things we all can and should feel proud about in these times of political arrogance and intolerance. We're heading soon to the Tetons to escape the brutal heat of Oklahoma. The physical challenge, beauty and solace of high altitude hiking there and other montane parks is life-restoring in my otherwise stressful existence. I only despair that I have to travel so far to get to any of these gems.

Aug. 02 2012 09:14 AM

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