National Park Trust Blog

10 Powerful African American Heritage Sites You Should Know About

America’s national parks weave together a mosaic of African American history. A large patchwork of National Park Service sites were founded because of their pivotal places in history. Other sites highlight the untold stories—the no-less-important, every-day-remarkable stories of African Americans in history.


African Burial Ground National Monument, NY

African Burial Ground National Monument, NY

A chilling discovery of an African burial ground in lower Manhattan found that over 15,000 African Americans were buried at this site. As a locus of tribute and memory, this monument fills the absence of the scars left by the heritage of slavery.

Nicodemus National Historic Site, KS

Nicodemus National Historic Site, KS

What was once known as the “promised land” of Kansas, a place of freedom, the Nicodemus National Historic Site is the last African American settlement during the Reconstruction period west of the Mississippi River; A representation of the African American involvement in the westward expansion.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, MD

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, MD

To commemorate the great abolitionist and the woman best known as “Moses of her people”, this National Monument recognizes Harriet Tubman’s bravery and contribution in leading almost 70 enslaved people to their freedom. The memorial and the surrounding lands tell the story of Tubman’s heroic life.

George Washington Carver National Monument, MO

George Washington Carver National Monument, MO

George Washington Carver National Monument is the birthplace and childhood home of the famed scientist, educator and humanitarian. Established in 1943, it is the first unit of the National Park Service dedicated to an African American.

The young child known as the “Plant Doctor” tended his secret garden while observing the day-to-day operations of a 19th century farm. Nature and nurture ultimately influenced George on his quest for education to becoming a renowned agricultural scientist, educator, and humanitarian.

Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site, DC

Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site, DC

Carter G. Woodson passed away in his “office-home” on April 3, 1950 at the age of 74. The nation recognized his achievements in 1976 when his home was declared a National Historic Landmark, in 2003 when an act of Congress named his home a National Historic Site, and in 2006 when the Carter G. Woodson Home became the 389th unit of the National Park System

Carter G. Woodson’s best-known contribution occurs every February. He initiated the celebration of the first “Negro History Week” in 1926, focusing on black history. Over the years, support grew, and in 1976, the celebration was extended to an entire month, now called “Black History Month.”

Brown v. Board of Education Historic Site, KS

Brown v. Board of Education Historic Site, KS

Plan a trip to Topeka, KS and learn about the leading fight that led to the desegregation of our education institutions. This historic site was one of the cornerstones of the civil rights movement that helped establish the precedent that “separate-but-equal” education and other services were not, in fact, equal at all.

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, AL

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, AL

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, commemorates the contributions of African-American airmen in World War II. Before 1940, African Americans were barred from flying for the U.S. military. Civil rights organizations and the black press exerted pressure that resulted in the formation of an all African-American pursuit squadron based in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1941. They became known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

The Tuskegee Airmen overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II. The Tuskegee Airmen’s achievements, together with the men and women who supported them, paved the way for full integration of the U.S. military.

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, LA

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, LA

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park is located in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans, near the French Quarter. It was created in 1994 to celebrate the origins and evolution of jazz.

Most of the historical park property consists of 4 acres within Louis Armstrong Park leased by the National Park Service. There is a visitor center at 916 North Peters Street and a concert venue, several blocks away in the French Quarter. The Park provides a setting for sharing the cultural history of the people and places which helped to shape the development and progression of jazz in New Orleans.

Booker T Washington National Monument, VA

Booker T Washington National Monument, VA

The Booker T. Washington National Monument is a National Monument near Hardy, Franklin County, Virginia. It preserves portions of the 207-acre tobacco farm on which educator and leader Booker T. Washington was born into slavery on April 5, 1856. It provides interpretation of Washington’s life and achievements, as well as interpretation of 1850s slavery and farming through the use of buildings, gardens, crafts and animals.

Pullman National Monument, IL

Pullman National Monument, IL

Pullman National Monument, also known as The Pullman District and Pullman Historic District, is located in Chicago, Illinois. It was the first model, planned industrial community in the United States. The district is significant for its historical origins in the Pullman Company, one of the most famous company towns in the United States, and scene of the violent 1894 Pullman strike.

President Barack Obama designated Pullman as a National Monument on February 19, 2015. It became the first unit of the National Park Service in Chicago.


Images: National Park Service


10 Parks That Tell Diverse Stories

In recent years, the National Park Service has made increasing efforts to tell the stories of all Americans – celebrating the diversity that makes our nation so special. Here are 10 park sites that tell those important stories.


Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, GA

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, GA

This park gives you a glimpse into the life of MLK, and visitors have the option to visit his birth home and the church were he was known for inspiring his listeners. The Civil Rights movement spanned the entire country, but it is something special to see one place which was so crucial to its foundation.

Stonewall National Monument, NY

Stonewall National Monument, NY

This national monument preserves the location of the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, a protest which provided great momentum for the LGBTQ civil rights movement. Today, the park tells the story of LGBTQ activists and their ongoing struggle for equality.

Manzanar National Historic Site, CA

Manzanar National Historic Site, CA

Our nation’s involvement in WWII is looked upon with great pride and gratitude, but Manzanar tells a darker side to that story. It memorializes the 110,000 men, women, and children who were held in Japanese Internment Camps throughout the duration of the war.

Bandelier National Monument, NM

Bandelier National Monument, NM

Human history at Bandelier extends over 10,000 years ago, and permanent settlements of the Ancestral Pueblo people began to develop by 1150 CE. Today, this monument preserves the culture of the Pueblo people and provides educational opportunities to learn about their farming techniques and home construction.

Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, AL

Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, AL

The confrontation which occurred between civil rights protesters and police in Birmingham made news around the world. Public outrage over these events helped spur political action to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, NY

Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, NY

Harriet Tubman is well known for helping dozens of slaves escape and find freedom. Her incredible story is told at this New York park, where you can visit her residence as well as the cemetery at which she is buried.

Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, HI

Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, HI

This national park site spans 175 miles of corridor and trail networks throughout Hawaii which have cultural and historical significance. If you have an interest in learning more about native Hawaiian culture, this is the perfect park to visit.

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, Washington, DC

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, Washington, DC

Mary McLeod Bethune spent her whole life fighting for racial and gender equality, including founding the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. This historic site preserves the first headquarters of the NCNW and tells the story of this inspiring woman.

African Burial Ground National Monument, NY

African Burial Ground National Monument, NY

This Manhattan site is the oldest and largest known burial ground in the United States for both free and enslaved Africans. It honors the lives of those who are buried there, and serves as a reminder of the role slavery played in the construction of New York City.

César E. Chávez National Monument, CA

César E. Chávez National Monument, CA

César Chávez is widely known as one of the most influential Latino figures in US history. This national monument tells the story of how he formed the nation’s first permanent agricultural union and raised international attention to the issues faced by US farm workers.


Images: National Park Service

10 Unique Phenomena At Parks

Synchronized fireflies? Sailing stones? These unique phenomena are things you can only experience in a national park.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN and NC – Imagine the fireflies you’ve probably seen in your backyard many times. Now imagine hundreds of them, all blinking at the same time. That’s exactly what happens at Great Smoky Mountains! Next time you visit this park, make sure to check out their synchronous fireflies. Credit: @prissyem

No photo description available.

Death Valley National Park, CA – The mystery of the “sailing stones” is one of the most famous attractions of Death Valley. These rocks move across the desert landscape on their own accord, leaving behind trails that clearly mark where they have been. Credit: Frank Lee Ruggles


Yellowstone National Park, WY, MT, and ID – Yellowstone sits on an active supervolcano and has numerous geologic features. Old Faithful Geyser is possibly the most well-known attraction at Yellowstone, and we couldn’t leave it off our list! Shooting water up to 190 feet, this is a spectacle that you shouldn’t miss. Credit: Frank Lee Ruggles

Sunlight creates a glow near Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite National Park, CA – While the manmade “firefall” was ended in the 1960’s, a natural phenomenon that mirrors the old tradition occurs annually at Horsetail Fall. In early February, the sunset hits the fall at just the right angle and creates the glowing illusion of water on fire. Credit: Bethany Gediman/National Park Service


Skyway Lake, stalactites, Wind Cave

Wind Cave National Park, SD – Wind Cave is one of the oldest and longest caves in the world. If you have an interest in what goes on underground, this park is a must-visit. Credit: NPS

Looking through a porthole into a stateroom on the USS Arizona.

Pearl Harbor National Memorial, HI – The attack on Pearl Harbor was a defining moment in our nation’s history, and the sunken battleship is memorialized at this national monument. If you’re interested in history, specifically WWII, this park needs to be on your bucket list. Credit: NPS


Isle Royale National Park, MI – For over 60 years, scientists have studied predator-prey interactions at Isle Royale, focusing on the rare wolves. In 2016 the wolf population dropped to an all-time low of 2 but has been added back to 15 in 2019. Credit NPS

Waco Mammoth National Monument, TX – The fossils at this national park are the only recorded evidence of a nursery herd of ice age Columbian mammoths in the United States. Waco Mammoth NM gives us a glimpse of what life was like in Texas thousands of years ago. Credit: NPS

Redwood forest with ferns.

Redwood National Park, CA – The tallest trees anywhere in the world are located in Redwood. Walking around this park will surely make you feel small and give you a new perspective. Credit: NPS

Zoomed photo of the Kamokuna ocean entry lava flow

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Two of the world’s most active volcanoes – Kīlauea and Mauna Loa – can be found here. Lava can often be seen flowing into the Pacific Ocean, making for breathtaking photo opportunities. Credit: NPS

White Sands National Monument Is Now Our Newest National Park

At the height of the Great Depression and in the final days of his presidency, President Herbert Hoover declared a white sand desert in New Mexico as a national monument. In December 2019, Congress passed legislation and a bill was signed that elevated the park’s designation; it became our 62nd national park.

Located in the Tularosa Basin of the Chihuahuan Desert, White Sands is the world’s largest desert of shimmering white gypsum sand. At 228 square miles, it is roughly the size of Zion National Park. 

The differences between a national monument and a national park may be a little confusing. The president or Congress can establish a national monument to preserve a unique or outstanding feature of a site, for example, the white gypsum at White Sands. When Congress found that White Sands had “…a substantially more diverse set of nationally significant historical, archaeological, scientific, and natural resources than were known of at the time the monument was established, including a number of recent discoveries;”  they realized it deserved to be given the special designation as a national park. And only Congress can create a national park.

National monuments can be managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, or the National Park Service. However, only the National Park Service has the authority to manage a national park.

The story of White Sands National Park began millions of years ago when a vast sea covered the southwestern United States. The rise and fall of the sea, along with snowmelt and rain, deposited the gypsum sand in its current location. Twelve thousand years ago, as the Ice Age ended, the area dried up and became the desert we see today. 

Hunter and gatherers first arrived in the area about 10,000 years ago as they followed large prey such as mammoths. Since then, other cultures lived in the basin, building houses, farming, and making pottery. The Apache Indians arrived 700 years ago to hunt bison, followed in 1647 by Spanish salt miners, and in the 1880s by Anglo-American ranchers.

Today, visitors enjoy a variety of activities: sledding the sand dunes, photography, scenic drives, picnicking, hiking, and camping. Learn more and plan your trip by visiting the National Park Service’s White Sands National Park website. 

10 Photogenic National Parks

 Looking for a new profile picture? These national parks have some of the best selfie and photo ops out there – no filter needed. 


Glacier National Park, MT – The stunning contrasts of blue waters, green trees, dark mountains, and bright white snow put Glacier at the top of our most photogenic list. Even if you aren’t a skilled photographer, pictures you take in this park are sure to turn out amazing.

Photo: Frank Lee Ruggles



Badlands National Park, SD – A quick internet search for pictures of Badlands is all you need to do to see why this park makes our list. The colorful rocks extending for miles make the perfect backdrop for any photo.

        Photo: NPS


Grand Teton National Park, WY – The classic photo of Grand Teton with the old barn in front is one most people have seen many times, but this is just one of the great photo ops in this park! Rivers, lakes, fields, and forests all provide inspiration for great pictures.

(Photo: WikiImages from Pixabay)




Yosemite National Park, CA – The “Tunnel View” of Yosemite Valley might be the most iconic picture taking spot in any national park. Be sure to capture this view in a photo of your own for memories that will last a lifetime!

            Photo: Pexels from Pixabay




Rocky Mountain National Park, CO – A lot of mountain parks have made this top 10 list, and for good reason. Rocky Mountain National Park is photogenic from essentially any angle.

Photo: Frank Lee Ruggles




Yellowstone National Park, WY, MT, and ID – The thermal features of Yellowstone make for some especially incredible photographs. From hot springs to geysers, make sure to snap some pictures to put in your family photo album!

Photo: Frank Lee Ruggles






Arches National Park, UT – The red rock of Arches makes for some stunning photographs. Pick a day with blue skies, and snap some amazing photographs!

Photo: Frank Lee Ruggles


Grand Canyon National Park, AZ – When people visit the Grand Canyon, their first instinct upon reaching the rim is to take a photo. This incredible view is one of the most well known in the world, and having a photo of it that you took yourself is something special.

Photo: Frank Lee Ruggles


Death Valley National Park, CA and NV – While most mountain parks feature lakes, trees, or glaciers, this desert national park is as stunning in its own way. The colors of the sand and rocks make for a great photoshoot location.

Photo: Frank Lee Ruggles







Redwood National Park, CA – Home to the world’s tallest trees, Redwood creates some great photo ops! If you catch the sunlight filtering through the trees at just the right time, you’ll have a photo to cherish.

Photo: Frank Lee Ruggles

10 Great National Parks for Winter Activities

Grab your skis, sleds, and ice skates! Not only are national parks amazingly beautiful in the winter, but they have plenty to offer for all of your favorite winter recreation activities. 


A view of Wizard Island covered in snow.

Crater Lake National Park, OR – Crater Lake has some of the most winter activities of any national park, ranging from ranger-guided snowshoe walks to downhill skiing and snowboarding. With a winter season that often lasts from November to May, there is plenty of opportunity to plan a visit and enjoy some snowy fun!

On a clear spring day, Mount Rainier seems to glow.

Mount Rainier National Park, WA – With an abundant snowfall each year, Mount Rainier is full of opportunity for winter adventure. Some of the most popular activities include sledding at the snow play area at Paradise, one of the park’s major visitor centers.

A snowshoeing school group following a park ranger through the woods

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, MI – Some of the best snowshoeing and cross country skiing in any national park can be found at Sleeping Bear Dunes. Some of the larger dunes also double as fantastic sledding hills when covered in snow.



landscape photography of ridege

Yosemite National Park, CA – Badger Pass Ski Area is Yosemite is the oldest ski area in California, and is a popular destination for both visitors and locals. Enjoy both downhill and cross country skiing at this historic area, and make the most of a winter trip to Yosemite!

Bryce Amphitheater and hoodoos with covering of snow

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT – Bryce Canyon’s famous views are even more stunning in the winter, with the red rock and white snow creating a striking contrast. While a good time is guaranteed during any of the winter months, consider visiting in February, to catch the festivities at Bryce Canyon Winter Festival!

several people riding fat tire bikes while others walk on a snowy road

Denali National Park and Preserve, AK – With winter weather often reaching subzero temperatures, Denali is one of the coldest parks to visit. However, that’s nothing that good clothing can’t fix, and being prepared for the weather allows you to experience some of the most magical snowy landscapes our national parks have to offer. Common winter activities include skiing, biking, and snowshoeing.




Reflections on Emerald Lake

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO – Winter in Rocky Mountain provides many fun recreation opportunities, such as snowshoeing and cross country skiing. However, humans aren’t the only ones enjoying the winter weather! Winter in the park can often be the best season to spot elk, moose, and other large mammals.

When there is adequate snow, cross-country skiing is a popular activity along the carriage roads.

Acadia National Park, ME – Winter hiking is one of the most popular activities during the cold months in Acadia. Although some trails can be icy, proper gear will ensure a safe hike and incredible views! Popular activities include scenic drives, winter hikes, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing.

Heaven's Peak

Glacier National Park, MT – Winter ski and snowshoe trails are some of the best ways to experience Glacier, and some of the least crowded!




View of Spruce Tree House surrounded by snow.

Mesa Verde National Park, CO – Colorado is often thought of as one of the best winter destinations, and Mesa Verde is no exception! Hit the trails for some fantastic Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking.









Winter is a great time to view dark skies

Known as the shortest day and longest night of the year, the December solstice is celebrated around the world as the first day of winter. What better way to use these extra dark hours than to gaze out into the Milky Way?

Less than 100 years ago, it was possible to see the galaxy arch peppered with planets, meteors, and stars from any city street. Today, however, the ability to stargaze in urban spaces is severely hampered by the presence of artificial light from buildings, street lamps and other human activity.

National Parks offer some of the best opportunities to appreciate night skies because many of them are being actively protected from the effects of light pollution. 

In some parks, it’s possible to see up to 15,000 stars throughout the night. By contrast, in urban environments, you may see fewer than 500 stars. Light pollution affects more than just astronomers. Nocturnal wildlife needs darkness for survival, and the circadian rhythms of humans and plants rely on an unaltered night sky.

Check out these Dark Sky Parks that National Park Trust has protected from light pollution for an unforgettable stargazing experience!

Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida

Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho

Joshua Tree National Park in California

Hovenweep National Monument in Utah

Joshua Tree National Park


In February 2020, National Park Trust assisted the National Park Service in securing property for Lassen Volcanic National Park, California.

Using the Park Trust’s newly established Treasure Forever Fund,  the National Park Service was finally able to purchase the land.  As a result, a small but important  .6 acre section of old-growth forest will now be accessible to the public and permanently protected in its natural state, preventing the land from being developed. This acquisition also helps to protect an additional segment of the historic Nobles Emigrant Trail, a western migration route pioneered by William H. Noble in the early 1850s.

Even with all of these natural wonders to explore, Lassen Volcanic National Park is still in need of more protection from climate change and private development. There are numerous privately-owned properties left in the park. National Park Trust continues to work with the National Park Service to protect and preserve these inholdings.

Located in the Southern Cascade Mountains of California, Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to steaming fumaroles, meadows freckled with wildflowers, clear mountain lakes, and numerous volcanoes. Jagged peaks tell the story of its eruptive past while hot water continues to shape the land. Lassen Volcanic offers opportunities to discover the wonders and mysteries of volcanoes and hydrothermal features for visitors willing to explore the undiscovered.

Established in 1916, the park protects an area that has been volcanically active for three million years. Today, hydrothermal features reveal this continuing activity. Mud pots, springs and boiling pools show how the park is bubbling away, proving a popular attraction among visitors.

The volcanic geology of Lassen provides important minerals for overlying soil. This supports an impressive diversity of plant species, with much of the vegetation being very similar to what existed before Euro-American settlement – more than 25,000 acres of the park is old-growth forest. In preserving a relatively pristine environment, the park’s vegetation provides various habitats for different species. Around 100 breeding birds call it their home, along with thousands of California Tortoise Shell butterflies. Other animals that benefit from the park’s protection include various bat species and the rare Sierra Nevada red fox.

With its varying terrain, the park boasts 150 miles of scenic hiking trails for exploring its ancient trees, crystal clear lakes, and wildflower-packed meadows. The views provided are unprecedented – shield, composite, cinder cone and plug dome volcanoes can all be spotted around the park. No matter where you are, Lassen Peak is always visible. Standing at 10,440 feet above sea level, it is the largest plug dome volcano on Earth… and also still active!

credit: James Noble


Super Save for Supervolcano: Conservation Victory at Valles Caldera National Preserve

You did it! National Park Trust donors just helped to save the geothermal wonders of Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico, and the last privately held parcel in the park. This victory marks the end of an 11 year-long effort to protect the supervolcano’s awesome features.

Since 2008, our friends at the National Park Service have had their eye on the 40-acre parcel hoping it would be put up for sale. Their chance finally came this year, and Park Trust’s community of supporters were there to quickly provide funding for its purchase. The land boasts a collection of sulfuric acid fumaroles, mud pots and hot springs that visitors will finally be permitted to explore. Valles Caldera superintendent, Jorge Silva-Bañuelos, says “the property, with a little TLC, will be a stunning showcase of the park’s geologic history and will likely help us secure a designation as a park with significant geothermal resources.”

As the oldest supervolcano in America, Valles Caldera is truly a special place. It formed about 1.25 million years ago when a massive volcanic eruption created a 13-mile wide circular depression. From the discovery of ancient obsidian spear points, pottery and home structures, we know that humans began to live there about 11,000 years ago. 

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the caldera area was disturbed by ranching, timbering and mineral extraction; now the natural landscape is slowly reappearing. Because the 40-acre parcel was once used as a health spa, many of the springs on the property have some pretty interesting names such as Kidney and Stomach Trouble Spring, Lemonade Spring, Footbath Spring, and Sulphur Spring!

Soon, park visitors for generations to come will be able to explore volcanic science at this stunning site!


Our wildly wonderful national parks give us so much. From endless beauty and inspiration to awesome outdoor adventures – we all benefit from our parks in so many ways. 

We hope this list inspires you to give back to your national parks during this season of giving!

1. Join Us

Want to learn more about what National Park Trust is doing to complete (yes, complete!) our national parks? Are you interested in helping young people discover and care for our parks?

Join our e-community and follow our social media posts:


2. Volunteer

The cold months are a perfect time to assist National Park Service staff as they complete maintenance projects that were deferred during the busy summer months.

Be sure to talk with a park ranger first. Then, gather a group of friends to help with trail maintenance, clean-ups, and other conservation projects!

3. Walk the Talk

More than 330 million people visited our national parks last year. It is up to us to inspire others to respect and care for our ecological and cultural resources by practicing leave-no-trace principles.

Lead by example when you share your park adventures by planning ahead, disposing of waste properly, respecting wildlife and other visitors, and leaving what you find behind for others to discover.

4. Share the Wonder of Parks With Kids

Every unit in our National Park System is a treasure worthy of protection. For almost 150 years, national parks have been defended by a passionate community of park champions.

It is up to all of us to continue this important work by taking young people from every community to parks now. Use our ParkPassport App to plan your trip. 


5. Donate to National Park Trust on Giving Tuesday

When you make a gift to the Park Trust on December 3rd, it will be used right away to defend the habitats of endangered species, clean air and waterways, dark skies, natural sounds, and the stories that define this country.

Add a Giving Tuesday Reminder to Your Calendar:

Ambassador Tigran Receives OAK Acorn Award

This month, National Park Trust was proud to witness Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Alumni Tigran Nahabedian receive the 2019 Outdoors Alliance for Kids Acorn Award in recognition of his outstanding efforts to advocate for the protection of our public lands and waters, and connect other kids to these important places!


National Park Trust Executive Director Grace Lee Presents Tigran with the 2019 OAK ACorn Award


Ambassador Tigran with Congressman Steve Stivers during the 2019 OAK Awards.


Have you ever heard a strange sound when walking through the woods? Or come across an abandoned cabin? These are typical experiences when exploring the outdoors but they are also the root of many great scary stories. Here are some chilling tales to put you in the Halloween mood:

Galen Clark, known as Yosemite’s first park ranger, picked up a few ghost stories during his day.

Yosemite National Park – One of the nation’s most well-known parks is certainly not immune to paranormal reportings. In 1857, Galen Clark (the park’s first ranger) reported a strange wailing sound coming from Grouse Lake. Believing it was a puppy that was lost, he thought little of it. But when he asked a group of Native people at their camp, they told him that the sounds belong to a boy who drowned long ago and since that time howls at passers-by. To this day, tales of the Grouse Lake Ghost are still told within the park, with many fearing his harrowing cries. 

Grand Canyon National Park – During the 1920s, it is said that a father and son fell to their death after losing their footing on the Transept Trail, near Grand Canyon Lodge. The child’s mother, upon hearing the news of her husband and son, became so overcome with sorrow that she decided to take her own life. Known as the ‘Wailing Woman’, hikers have claimed to have heard her spirit howl as it roams the path her loved ones last took. 

Mammoth Cave National Park – The country’s biggest cave system has generated more than 150 paranormal reportings – not surprising given it makes up 400 miles of subterranean passages. Many reportings have come from park rangers who deliver tours, but one particular story is well known. It concerns the fate of Floyd Collins, a cave explorer who was pinned down by a boulder at the entrance to Sand Cave. Trapped and in pain, Collins waited for rescuers to arrive, but it was to no avail: four days later, a rockfall sealed him inside the cave and he starved to death. His fate has sparked claims that his spirit still lingers amongst the dark passages.

Pictured is William Floyd Collins, whose corpse used to be on display inside Mammoth Cave National Park.

Said to prowl the area along the Norton Creek Trail, Spearfinger was an old witch who had one long finger that was made out of obsidian and deadly sharp.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – If the misty mountains of this park weren’t eerie enough, wait until you hear this Cherokee legend. It concerns the haunting of an evil witch the Cherokee called Spearfinger who roams the Great Norton Creek Trail. Preying on children, the legend claims that she disguises herself as a grandmother to lure them away from their homes. Then, using her sharp knife-like finger, she cuts them up to feed on their body parts. While many believe this story to be a myth, Cherokee hunters claim to have spotted her on numerous occasions.

Great Sand Dunes National Park – Of course, no story about paranormal activity can be complete without discussing UFO sightings. In the sandy plains of southern Colorado, strange lights are commonly reported to appear across the night sky. Some claim that this phenomenon first began in the 1600s when local Native people first recorded seeing strange objects in the sky. To this day, there are still continuing reports of lights, ranging from patterned streaks to random dots, contributing to the unsolved mysteries of the area.

If these tales didn’t scare you enough, be sure to check out the following links:


Apply Now for a Free Park Trip!

Kids to Parks Day is May 16, 2020! National Park Trust (NPT) invites students across the country to participate in the 10th annual Kids to Parks Day, a nationwide grassroots movement to celebrate America’s parks and public lands.

In honor of this day, NPT is once again hosting the Kids to Parks Day National School Contest to help educators engage their students with their local parks. This national contest is open to all Title I schools in the United States (grades pre-K through 12). Classes can receive funding for a Kids to Parks Day event at a local park or public land/waterway in their community.

Students must research and write the proposal themselves. (Though we encourage teachers to provide support and feedback!) Teachers and staff will also have a short section to complete as well. Your entries should explain how your experience will promote education, health and wellness, and park stewardship. NPT will award park grants up to $1,000 to winning entries. We encourage schools to implement their Kids to Parks Day event during the month of May 2020 but exceptions can be made based on school schedules.

The Contest opens October 23rd, 2019 and all entries are due by February 14th, 2020.

To learn more, or to apply, visit

Arts in Parks

October is Arts in Parks month! Whether you are inspired by a park to create your own art, wish to visit an artist in residence at a park, or tour a historic site to learn about an artist, the National Park system has so much to offer! To learn more about the artistic happenings in our parks, available all year long, visit

Four of NPT’s Buddy Bison Youth Leadership team participated in the #ParkArt challenge this month, check out their creative works of art below:

Photographed by Clara

Drawn by Penny

Painted by Sofia

Painted by Audrey

National Park Trust and Partners Add 1,495 Acres to the Appalachian Trail

If you’ve seen the pristine waters and lush terrain at Maine’s Bald Mountain Pond, you’d understand why National Park Trust (NPT) worked with The Trust for Public Land (TPL), National Park Foundation (NPF), Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), The Conservation Alliance, and Elliotsville Foundation on the acquisition of an adjacent 1,495-acre parcel of old-growth woodland to benefit the National Park Service’s Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT).

The remoteness and scenic views make the property an iconic destination for backcountry adventures that combine paddling and hiking on the AT into a single day’s outing. Preserving this land from development also protects the nearby Bald Mountain Pond which is one of the few bodies of water that holds landlocked arctic char in the lower 48 states. The federally-listed threatened Canada Lynx also roams nearby, along with moose, fisher and black bears. It is one of the largest 150-year-old forest blocks in central Maine.

On September 20, 2019, National Park Trust and our partners held a dedication ceremony in Monson, ME to unveil a new plaque that is now displayed in the Monson Maine Appalachian Trail Visitor Center to honor the contributions of two career National Park Service employees, John Kauffmann and Ben Thompson, to the NPS science program.

This land protection was made possible thanks to an extraordinary bequest from John Kauffmann to NPT and the National Park Foundation and wind mitigation funds received by TPL, a generous gift from The Conservation Alliance and grassroots work by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. TPL bought the land and in June 2019 officially transferred ownership to the National Park Service.

NPT board member Elizabeth Ulmer and Howie Thompson, son of Ben Thompson, check out the newly unveiled dedication plaque that is now displayed in the Monson Maine Appalachian Trail Visitor Center.

Planning for the Future

Whether you are single, married, raising a family, or planning for or enjoying retirement, your financial security and that of your loved ones will be affected by the plans you make today. Below are a few options to help you protect your national parks, and enhance your financial well-being and that of those you care about most…

1. Support the causes you care about with your will – This is the most common way people provide for their loved ones in the future, but it can also be a thoughtful way to make charitable gifts. By having your attorney revise your will or add a simple amendment, you can provide for a gift of what remains after you remember loved ones

2. Give through a revocable living trust – A living trust is a legal arrangement that allows a trustee to hold title to assets and manage them for beneficiaries. They have become a popular alternative to a last will and testament. A revocable living trust can both minimize the expense and delays of probate. Much like a charitable provision in a will, these gifts are tax-deductible and are designed to take effect only after first providing for your loved ones.

3. Gifts that provide you with a fixed or variable income – There are ways to give while enjoying an additional source of income for life or other period of time. Generous payments based on your age or a pre-determined payout can be a welcome supplement to your retirement income. When the payments end, funds that remain are given to your beneficiaries. You may also realize capital gains and other tax savings as well.

4. Making a gift while providing for your loved ones – If you wish to make a gift over time, for which assets will ultimately be returned to you or your loved ones, you may be interested in a charitable lead trust. Under the terms of this gift, assets are transferred to a trust that makes payments the beneficiaries for a number of years that you choose. At the end of that period, assets are transferred to those you name. This can be an effective way to control when an inheritance will be received while lowering or eliminating gift or estate taxes.

5. Making a gift of life insurance – Your need for life insurance may change over time. Insurance policies that you originally purchased for additional income or payment of taxes may instead be used for other purposes. You can name a beneficiary to receive all or a portion of the proceeds of a policy. Or you may wish to make a gift today of a policy you no longer need and perhaps benefit from immediate tax savings. In either case, future premiums can be tax-deductible.

6. Giving through retirement plans – Funds remaining in your retirement plans can be subject to taxes, so it can be wise to make gifts from these accounts while leaving other assets to loved ones. Whether you participate in a company plan or have an individual retirement plan, you may have more funds than you need. In that case, it may be convenient to make a charitable gift from retirement assets.

7. A lasting legacy – With any of these options, you can make meaningful gifts while you also provide a tribute to a loved one that will be treasured forever. There may be no better way to honor a loved one or their memory! These types of gifts can be particularly thoughtful on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, upon the birth of a child or grandchild, on a birthday, or a wedding anniversary.

Possible Tax Benefits

● Income tax – Individual taxpayers are generally allowed charitable deductions for gifts to qualified charitable recipients of up to 50 percent of their adjusted gross income (AGI) for gifts of cash, and up to 30 percent of their AGI each year for gifts of securities and certain other property that have increased in value. You may also enjoy additional benefits as a result of state income tax savings.

● Capital gains tax savings – When you give property that increased in value since you have owned it, there can be additional tax benefits. Under federal income tax law, you may give property that has increased in value and been held for more than a year, and deduct the full fair market value of the property. You also do not incur capital gains tax at the time of the gift.

● Estate and gift taxes – Your assets may be subject to federal estate and gift taxes. As illustrated in many of the options above, certain gifts can provide income for you or others while also minimizing estate and gift taxes.

● Check with your advisors – Tax laws are subject to change; we recommend discussing your plans with your professional advisors.

National Park Trust’s Bison Legacy Society is a generous community of donors that believe our national parks should be treasured forever. They have left a lasting legacy to their national parks by including the Park Trust in their estate plans. To learn more, please contact Erin Mezgar, Chief Development Officer, at or 301.279.7275.

The purpose of this article is to provide general gift planning information. It is not intended as accounting, legal, or other professional advice. For assistance in planning charitable gifts with tax and other financial implications, you should obtain the services of appropriate advisors. Consult your attorney for advice when your plans involve the revision of a will or other legal document. Tax deductions vary based on applicable federal discount rates, which change often.

Discover the mysteries of Lake Superior’s shipwrecked coast at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

UPDATE – this project was completed in October 2019.

Lake Superior is the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area, measuring over 1,300 feet deep. Its size gives it the power of an ocean, which has shaped the geology and history of the land along its shores. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan, a unit of the National Park System, would not be what it is without the lake.

Ancient layers of sediment laid down by the Lake over the eons turned into brush-stroked sandstone cliffs – these stunning colors occur when groundwater and minerals ooze out of cracks and trickle down the rock face. On one section of the shore, the wave action eroded sand-sized particles, and the wind blew them up onto shore forming the Grand Sable Dunes that rise 300 feet above the lake.

Inland from the shore is the wind twisted forest – part of what is often called “The North Woods”. The combination of hardwoods, pines, and hemlocks are home to deer, bears, coyotes, fox and porcupines. You may see moose in the spruce and cedar wetlands of the park, particularly in the more than 11,000 acres set aside as official federal wilderness. 

The history of the Lakeshore includes the stories of over 20 shipwrecks, many of which are still visible along the shore. With the shipwrecks came the U.S. Lifesaving Service in the 1870s and, in 1915, the U.S. Coast Guard. Lighthouses, Coast Guard stations, and a “harbor of refuge” house in the park serve as historic reminders of efforts to warn and protect sailors on the Great Lakes. 

Look into the Munising Range Light or the Lightkeepers House Museum if you have an interest in unique navigation aids and the people who ran them – in 2018, National Park Trust acquired land adjacent to the Munsing Light, and removed a non-historical building from the property to restore the historic value of the land before donating it to the park.

This park offers something to everyone, including many outdoor activities. So, walk the dunes, hike over 100 miles on the lakeshore and park trails, camp, fish, kayak in the summer, and discover the ice caves in the winter. 

Enjoy this north county park, which is protected permanently for you and future generations by the National Park Service!

4th Graders – Get Your Free Park Pass!

Hey 4th graders, it’s time to get your free national park pass! You and your family get free access to hundreds of parks, lands, and waters for an entire year thanks to the Every Kid Outdoors Program.

Meet NPT’s Youth Leadership Team

National Park Trust is excited to introduce you to our 2019-2020 youth leadership team! We have expanded our existing Ambassador program to include two new roles: Buddy Bison Student Representatives and Buddy Bison Ambassador Alumni. These youth leaders not only love to discover parks and share their experiences with other kids, but they are also dedicated stewards of our public lands.

Happy Shark Week

By: Anna Medema | July 31, 2019

Happy Shark Week! 

Sharks are one of the world’s most famous predators, but how much do we actually know about them? Several coastal national park sites help provide insight into the lives of these marine animals.

One of the best parks to learn about sharks is Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts. In particular, Cape Cod is known for its population of great white sharks, one of the sharks at the top of the food chain. As predators, they fill a very important role in marine ecosystems, and have direct impacts many species including seals and other fish. Seals make up the primary portion of their diet, and as the seal population of Cape Cod had increased in recent years, so has the great white shark population. Cape Cod has many tips for how to stay safe in and around the water, including always staying in groups and avoiding low-visibility water. For more information about shark safety at the park, click here

However, not all sharks pose a threat to humans! In fact, only a small portion of the 470 species of sharks are aggressive or dangerous to us. Many more of them would rather keep to themselves, such as the nurse shark found at Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida. Nurse sharks are carnivorous, but their lives do not center around hunting. They enjoy spending time swimming, resting, and socializing in groups. Studying nurse sharks has helped shed light on the importance of sharks in tropical ecosystems, both in the oceanic food webs and in coral reef ecology. To learn more about nurse sharks in Dry Tortugas, click here.

Although sharks are often made out to be scary predators, they have more to fear from us than we do from them. Fishing nets and shark fin markets pose a threat to these animals, as does climate change and the resulting changing ocean ecosystems. This Shark Week, we encourage you to check out one of these coastal national park sites to learn more about sharks and the crucial role they place in our ecosystems! Photo links here and here.

List of coastal national park sites where sharks may be present:

  • Acadia National Park
  • Assateague Island National Seashore
  • Canaveral National Seashore
  • Cape Cod National Seashore
  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore
  • Cape Lookout National Seashore
  • Channel Islands National Park
  • Dry Tortugas National Park
  • Fire Island National Seashore
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore
  • Olympic National Seashore
  • Padre Island National Seashore
  • Point Reyes National Seashore

Link to general NPS site about sharks:

Valles Caldera’s hot springs are up for sale – You can save them!

America’s beloved national park sites are protected for all of us to enjoy because of people like you. We know you believe our treasured landscapes should be defended against destructive development.

The last privately owned acres inside Valles Caldera National Preserve is for sale. This is your chance to permanently protect this land and complete the park!

Make A Gift

Valles Caldera is one of only five places in America featuring geothermal wonders, including sulfuric acid fumaroles, hot springs, natural gas seeps, and mudpots. And all of those features are on the last piece of private land located inside the park’s boundaries.

Situated in the caldera of a supervolcano, the Preserve protects:

  • 40 miles of pristine trout streams
  • 66,118 acres of conifer forests
  • 17 endangered plant and animal species, and
  • 25,000 acres of grassland grazed by New Mexico’s largest herd of elk.

Use of this enchanting landscape dates back to prehistoric times – Obsidian spear points dating to 11,000 years ago have been discovered in the area.

Your support will not only preserve the only geothermal features in the caldera, but also ensure that visitors will finally have a chance to explore them.

Protection of this parcel would also mean that the last unmanaged portion of the Sulfur Creek headwaters would be protected by the Park Service, ensuring oversight of water quality flowing downstream.

We need 100 park lovers to make a gift of $350, or any amount to complete VallesCaldera National Preserve – Will you be one of the 100?

With your gift, we can negotiate the transfer of this spectacular piece of Valles Calderato the National Park System right away.

The threat of a for-profit geothermal resort being built on the parcel is real, but I know with your help, we can save this place and ensure that park visitors can be can delighted and inspired by all that it has to offer.

Can we count on you to make a gift today?

Donate Today

Photo courtesy of Mathew Dillon.

Another Great Year!

Thanks to your support, this year, National Park Trust was able to provide funding for outdoor education experiences for nearly 20,000 children as well as complete projects to benefit the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, Ebey’s Landing National Historic Preserve, and Zion National Park. Take a look at all that we have accomplished together!

2019 Bruce F. Vento Public Service Award Event Program

This June, National Park Trust awarded Senator Richard Burr (NC) with the 19th Bruce F. Vento Public Service Award. Senator Burr was recognized for his numerous accomplishments including his leadership in seeking permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund – a vision he shared with the award’s namesake, Congressman Bruce Vento. Take a look at clips from the award ceremony.

Video Tribute to Senator Burr



Speech by third grade Buddy Bison Student, Amari Sowah (Washington, DC)



Speech by fourth grade Buddy Bison Student Morgan Marsh (Washington, DC)



Speech by fifth grade Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Audrey Elliott (Nebo, NC)



Award Acceptance, with speeches by NPT Board Chair Bill Brownell, Sue Vento, and Senator Richard Burr.

Saving One of the Most Scenic Views on the Appalachian Trail

The National Park Service (NPS) often needs a trusted friend to protect land. It is one of the ways National Park Trust (NPT) works to help our national parks! The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) asked NPT to become the owner of 239 acres of land at Hogan Hollow. It will become part of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail soon.

Thousands of hikers each year see Hogan Hollow from McAfee Knob. The 3,197-foot overlook is thought to be one of the most scenic views on the AT. They say people take the more pictures here than any other place on the Appalachian Trail. This view could dramatically change if someone built on the property or cut trees, which happened on neighboring land. This project also protects a section of the trail which runs through the property.

The ATC was awarded a grant from the Virginia Outdoor Foundation to make the purchase. The funds were a part of a legal settlement between Virginia and a company that wanted to build a pipeline nearby to offset the environmental impact of construction. The Conservation Fund managed the sale of the property with the land owners.

NPT Executive Director Grace Lee stated, “We are always willing to provide our expertise and support to benefit national park sites, and are pleased to be able to assist the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and The Conservation Fund in preserving this land for park visitors to enjoy in perpetuity.”

Have an eco-friendly Independence Day

Have an eco-friendly Independence Day

Check-out our guide to greening your July Fourth festivities

The Fourth marks the perfect time for barbecues, outdoor fun, and fireworks. Unfortunately, Independence Day traditions can also be destructive to our environment. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy all that summer’s biggest celebration has to offer. With a few changes, your July 4th can be festive and eco-friendly!

Gather Outside

Your national parks, local parks, and backyard offer the perfect lighting, temperature, and a green setting for your celebration. The larger a group you gather outside, the less energy you use at individual indoor parties.

  • Make sure to practice Leave No Trace principles like avoiding closed areas that protect wildlife and marine habitat. Pack out and appropriately dispose of all garbage.
  • Consider hosting your barbecue at midday when the light is bright and fills your guests with energy. Or fight the heat by hosting your get together during cooler evening weather. 

BBQ Basics

There are many ways to make this Fourth of July staple easy on our planet.

  • Serve locally grown, pesticide-free fruits and veggies, and choose sustainably raised meat for your grill.
  • Charcoal, while delicious, creates air pollution and poses serious health risks. Consider using propane or electric grills – many retailers will let your trade in your empty propane tank for a discount on your next purchase.
  • Respect any burn bans. If no ban is in place, fires must be at least 100 feet from vegetation and other critical resources.
  • Plastic water bottles may be an easy option, but they create waste and may be bad for your health. Store water and other drinks for guests in large containers so they can refill their reusable cups or bottles. 
  • Use recyclable or reusable tableware to prevent items from going into the landfill. Reuse your patriotic decorations next year, or skip buying decor, and use local flowers for your table.

Skip the Fireworks and Light it Up

Fireworks are an Independence Day tradition along with the fires and fear that they cause for pets and humans. You don’t need the bang of fireworks to have a blast this Fourth.

  • Many cities now host laser shows, and those lights can be used time and time again whereas fireworks can only be used once. 
  • Glow-in-the-dark LED toys can be just as beautiful as fireworks and they keep you away from all the chemicals caused by an explosion. 
  • If you have a fire pit and it is safe, a nice campfire can provide even better ambiance than fireworks
  • If fireworks are a must, gather at your local fireworks display. It’s a great way to see a much larger show and prevents you from harming the environment with your own personal display. 

We hope you celebrate this July Fourth thoughtfully and sustainably!

Atlantic City School Teacher Receives National Award for Her Environmental Leadership

National Park Trust Logo





Contact: William Schrack,, 301-279-7275 x20

From L to R: Lesette Nikki Jackson, Caesars HERO Community Relations; Buddy Bison, the Park Trust Mascot; Yolanda Smith; and Grace Lee, the Park Trust executive director.

Washington, DC (June 18, 2019) – National Park Trust is pleased to announce that Yolanda Smith, a fifth-grade teacher from Richmond Avenue School in Atlantic City, NJ, is the recipient of National Park Trust’s 2019 National Educator Award for Outstanding Environmental Stewardship.

Thanks to sponsorship from the Caesars Foundation as well as local property support, Richmond Avenue has been able to participate in the Park Trust’s national Buddy Bison School Program since 2013. Yolanda has served as the lead teacher for the multi-year partnership. Over the course of her involvement in the program, Yolanda has developed and implemented an in-depth advanced science program and created a customized curriculum that uses parks as outdoor classrooms. Yolanda also developed her own learning objectives for each park field trip to ensure that all of her students walked away with knowledge gained from their hands-on experiences.

In 2014, Yolanda’s classroom participated in the first-ever Buddy Bison Carbon Reduction Contest which aims to teach elementary school children how to identify, measure, and reduce their impact on the environment. Each year, students from different schools take nine different action items included in the Park Trust’s contest toolkit to reduce their carbon footprint. Yolanda’s class won the 2017 Carbon Reduction Contest; they prevented 956 lbs of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the air.

Yolanda Smith accepting her award from Grace Lee, Executive Director of National Park Trust.

Furthermore, Yolanda’s classroom initiatives not only taught her students the tangible impact of their carbon footprint but also led the way to energy-saving improvements school-wide, reducing their energy bill by $100,000. This remarkable development was noticed by the school district, resulting in changes that led to an $800,000 energy cost savings for their entire school district.

Yolanda Smith showing her award to one of her students.

Through the Buddy Bison program and its Carbon Reduction Contest, all of her students have learned how to reduce their carbon footprint and educate others. “We may be molding the next Neil deGrasse Tyson or Albert Einstein,” noted Yolanda as she talked about the impact she has seen on her students. “The possibilities are endless with the knowledge and exposure they have gained. We have taken part in training the next generation of young minds, ready to excel as environmental stewards leading us into the next millennium.”

“We were delighted to honor and recognize Yolanda Smith from Richmond Avenue School with our 2019 National Educator Award. Over the years she has gone above and beyond to connect her Buddy Bison students with the numerous benefits of the great outdoors. These students will be the future stewards of our parks,” stated the Park Trust Executive Director Grace Lee.

“Participating in this program is truly a highlight for our HERO volunteers,” said Lesette Nikki Jackson. “The opportunity to create a new memorable experience for children is its own reward. Yolanda has made environmental education a priority for the students and staff of Richmond Avenue School, creating a positive ripple effect in the community. She has literally opened doors for city kids to go outside and experience all that nature has to offer. Watching the transformation when the students realize playing is an engaging experience and not just an app on a screen is an inspiration. We are excited to see what the future holds for these students and this great program.



National Park Trust is a non-profit dedicated to preserving parks today and creating park stewards for tomorrow. The Park Trust is the only land trust with a comprehensive mission of protecting national parks through land acquisition and creating a pipeline of future park stewards by getting kids to parks. Since 1983, the park trust has completed 70 land projects in 31 states, 1 US Territory, and Washington, DC. This school year, the Park Trust will provide an estimated 20,000 under-served kids with park trips through their nationally recognized Buddy Bison Programs and Kids to Parks Day National School Contest, both of which support Title I schools.

Find out more at



Caesars Foundation is a private foundation funded by a portion of operating income from resorts owned or operated by Caesars Entertainment. The Foundation is the entity through which Caesars Entertainment funds programs and projects of $10,000 or more, as well as not-for-profit giving requirements imposed by certain operating jurisdictions. The Foundation’s objective is to strengthen organizations and programs in the communities where our employees and their families live and work.

To learn more, visit


National Park Trust News June Update

Did you know everyone lives in a shed? A watershed, that is! Nearly 800 Buddy Bison students recently learned that a watershed is an area of land where all the water – creeks, streams, even runoff from roads – flows into one large body of water. A big Buddy Bison round of applause to the Bunting Family, Tom and Kathy Hewitt, the Washington Duke Inn, and Georgia-Pacific Foundation for making these trips possible.


Beacon Heights Elementary (MD) 5th graders visited the Washington Youth Garden (DC) at the U.S. National Arboretum. They used their five senses to explore both the garden and the “Fern Valley” exhibit where they experienced what their neighborhood would be like if left untouched by humans. Plus, volunteers from Pepco joined us to help out including Pepco Region President, Donna Cooper.



Frederick Elementary (MD) and Neval Thomas Elementary (DC) 3rd graders spent their morning at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center discovering the amazing adaptations of oysters and the essential role these filter feeders play in the health of the Bay. The students from Frederick then learned how to find geocaches on a hike around the park, and Neval Thomas used dip nets to explore the bay for creatures!



Powe Elementary 2nd graders and The Emily K Center (NC) journeyed to Falls Lake State Recreation Area where they met up with Frog Hollow Outfitters, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, and state park rangers for a day of canoeing, hiking, and fishing! They learned several different ways to enjoy the lake while preserving it for other people to enjoy.



M. Agnes Jones Elementary (GA) explored the unique ecosystems of Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve. Using dip-nets, they caught aquatic animals in one of the park’s vernal pools, determining that the water was pretty healthy. Plus, they hiked to the top of the mountain!



Four schools that are part of the 100% Project in Baltimore went to Oregon Ridge Nature Center (MD) and investigated the different bodies of water in the park. They performed “stream studies” on each one to figure out how healthy they were. All the kids returned home with a better idea of how their own actions affect their water. HERO volunteers from Caesar’s Foundation joined us to help out, not just in Baltimore, but with schools across the country this spring, from SAGE Center in Missouri and Metropolis Elementary in Illinois to Pennsylvania Avenue Elementary in New Jersey.



Nothing says summer like a campfire and s’mores! Because of a generous gift from the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, 250 Buddy Bison students from the Washington, DC area had their first camping experience.

Howard University Middle, Woodbridge Public Charter, and Stuart-Hobson Middle all traveled to Prince William Forest Park (VA) where staff from NatureBridge led them in discovering the park. These kids didn’t just hike, they also practiced their scientific inquiry skills and collected data points and samples for the National Park Service.



Washington School for Girls, West Education Campus, and Stuart-Hobson Middle trekked to Hemlock Overlook Regional Park in Northern Virginia. There, they practiced their team-building skills on ropes courses both low and high, as well as explored the local ecology.



E.W. Stokes Public Charter visited Calvert Cliffs State Park in southern Maryland. There, they sent up camp, hunted for fossils on the beach, and learned about the 40 million-year-old creatures they could find.





Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Tigran shares how he tested his skills on a 100-mile journey through Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Find out what he learned on his most challenging outdoor experience ever and how he is starting a new chapter with the Park Trust — as an Ambassador Alumni! Read about his journey here.

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Changing Landscapes

We arrived at night; it was a desert mesa with a canyon in the distance. The signs of erosion and change were all around us. No campground tonight, no facilities, just a tarp on the ground under the clear night sky.

We had been traveling all day by van and my team was excited. Buddy Bison peeked up from the seat and I hauled my pack out of the van.  We were off on a 100-mile backpacking trip through the Escalante River in Southern Utah. My group was the most experienced outdoors team at Ojai Valley School Lower Campus, 8 students and two teachers. The 100-mile trip is the most challenging of the outdoor experiences at Lower Campus and I knew I wanted to be part of this team from our very first outdoor trip in first grade. Everyone hikes and everyone camps at my school. You learn a lot about yourself and your friends.

This is my last year at Ojai Valley School (OVS) Lower Campus and my last year as a Buddy Bison Student Ambassador. Buddy Bison Ambassadors serve from 4th grade until the end of 8th grade. I am not sure what the future will hold for me at OVS Upper Campus but I am excited that I will continue working with National Park Trust as an Alumni Ambassador. In this new role, I will continue to educate children and families across the country about the benefits of our parks as I travel with Buddy Bison to new and exciting places. I also look forward to representing National Park Trust at youth leadership summits!

My outdoor experiences at Ojai Valley School have taught me many important lessons, and have allowed me to try many new things. For example, the 100-mile trip was my first time ever pack rafting. Pack rafting is when you put all of your supplies in an inflatable raft and paddle down the river. Even here we face the unexpected, the river level dropped just before we arrived so there was a lot of wading and scampering over gravel bars and mud. It was very fun, but there were also some risks and not everything went well. During one rapid, my backpack was torn open, and my raft started leaking; however, it was one of the most fun things we did on the entire trip. It is important to accept change and take some risks. It is good to go a little outside your comfort zone on an adventure.


This Kids to Parks Day, I volunteered at Channel Islands National Park. It was really fun, and I was lucky enough to meet Colton Smith from Rock the Park, and Robbie from Kids Speak for Parks. We had over nine hundred visitors including 120 kids!

This is my last article for the National Park Trust as the first Buddy Bison Student Ambassador, but I’m excited to start the new role as an Alumni Ambassador! You will still see and hear from me, I promise. Follow the other Student Buddy Bison ambassadors at

Buddy Bison’s Buzz May Update

6th graders from Aberdeen Middle School (ID) with their new Hydro Flask water bottles.

Thanks to Hydro Flask and their “Parks for All” program, 50 Title I schools were awarded park grants as winners of our Kids to Parks Day School Contest.  And ten of these lucky grant winners also received their very own Hydro Flask water bottles, all sporting our shiny logo! Our students will be well-hydrated as they explore parks all over the country, from Niagara Falls to Yellowstone National Park. Find out how Aberdeen Middle School’s 6th graders from Idaho will be enjoying AND helping Yellowstone on their Kids to Parks Day trip.  At Yellowstone, they’ll learn about the park’s geothermal activity and help park rangers clean up litter surrounding the Morning Glory pool. 

Thanks Hydro Flask, for helping us drink plenty of water when we explore outdoors!

Each of our 4 Buddy Bison Student Ambassadors are hosting Kids to Parks Day events across the country. Join them and you could win special Jr Ranger gear thanks to our partner Eastern National. As an added bonus, each ambassador will also have a specially made National Park Trust Passport Cancellation Stamp available for collectors of all ages.

Ambassador Tigran will be at Channel Islands National Park, CA on Saturday, May 18. You can join him to participate in a beach clean up at Ventura Harbor Cove, or enjoy ranger-led programs, citizen science projects, and/or a scavenger hunt at the Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center.





Thanks to Ambassador Sarah who kicked off Kids to Parks Day at Castle Clinton National Monument in NYC on Thursday, May 16th! Sarah joined PBS Kids’ Nature Cat for a welcome celebration, and enjoyed several special education stations as kids completed their Jr Ranger Program.





Ambassador Bryan will be at Pecos National Historical Park, NM on Saturday, May 18th to host some  family events that range from a Yucca Sandal Making Workshop to a presentation by New Mexico Wildlife Center.





Ambassador Audrey will be at the Asheville (Milepost 384) Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway, NC on Saturday, May 18th. Stop in to meet Audrey, explore the visitor center and complete your Junior Ranger Program.

Senate Passes Bipartisan “Kids to Parks Day” Resolution

For Immediate Release: May 8, 2019

Contact: Nicole L’Esperance (Wyden) 202-224-3789

Kevin Smith (Portman) 202-224-3353

Christina Mandreucci (Alexander) 202-224-4944

Aaron Morales (Heinrich) 202-228-1578

Will Dempster (Hirono) 202-224-9813

Kristin Lynch (Booker) 202-224-8378

Senate Passes Bipartisan “Kids to Parks Day” Resolution

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Cory Booker, D-N.J., applauded the passage of their bipartisan resolution, which encourages children to get outdoors by designating May 18, 2019 National Kids to Parks Day.

First celebrated by the National Park Trust in 2011, the ninth annual Kids to Parks Day marks the beginning of a summer-long series of events at state parks countrywide that promote outdoor recreation and active, healthy living. The Senate passed the resolution by unanimous consent yesterday.

“Love for outdoor recreation is in Oregon’s DNA,” Wyden said. “Oregonians pass on that appreciation of our natural resources and enjoyment of the outdoors from generation to generation. Kids to Parks Day is another important way to connect our young folks to the richness of the outdoors and enjoy all that Oregon and states across the country have to offer.”

“It is important that we encourage younger generations to enjoy and experience the outdoors, and as a frequent visitor to our national parks I’m pleased that thousands of kids in Ohio will be visiting and learning about these national treasures on Kids to Parks Day,” Portman said. “I am proud to support the Kids to Parks Day Resolution to encourage more young people and their families to visit our treasured national parks.”

“In the age of technology, our national parks are more important now than ever before. Growing up in Maryville, Tennessee, which is next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I was able to take advantage of our country’s natural beauty and learn history in a place where history comes alive. It is my hope that children across the country take the time to celebrate Kids to Parks Day on May 18 and create memories of their own,” Alexander said.

“Our national parks offer endless opportunities for kids to discover, learn, and play,” said Heinrich whose bipartisan legislation, the Every Kid Outdoors Act, was signed into law earlier this year. “Connecting kids to the outdoors, whether it is playing in the local park down the street or exploring Carlsbad Caverns National Park, can inspire the next generation of conservationists, while reaping all of the health benefits that go along with an active lifestyle. I encourage New Mexico families to take advantage of Kids to Parks Day and visit our treasured public lands.”

“With over 50 state and national parks in Hawaii, our resolution encourages keiki to get outdoors and stay active. Our parks offer an important opportunity for our next generation to explore and learn how natural resources contribute to Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage,” Hirono said. “By designating May 18 as National Kids to Parks Day, we can help instill in our keiki the importance of healthy outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship for years to come.”

“In New Jersey, and all across the country, our parks are a national treasure that allow Americans to immerse themselves in our natural environment and the great outdoors,” Booker said. “Kids to Parks Day encourages kids and families to enjoy our state and national parks, while helping instill a love and appreciation for the great outdoors among the next generation.”

More than 1 million people participated in last year’s Kids to Parks Day, according to the National Park Trust.

This year’s Kids to Parks Day will be celebrated Saturday, May 18, 2019. To find a list of events near you, click here.


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