Everyone has their favorite national park. Whether it’s Yellowstone, Yosemite, or any other park, you may have wondered how that land became a park. While the answer to this question may seem simple, there is actually a great history behind this process, and knowing about it may make you appreciate the parks so much more!

The first park controlled by the US federal government was Yellowstone National Park. In 1872, Yellowstone was declared a national park, paving the way for other parks. While the National Park Service (NPS) was not in place yet, Yellowstone was controlled, managed, and preserved by the US government.

In 1906, the Antiquities Act was put into place. About a quarter of the current national park entities were related to this act. The Antiquities Act of 1906 allowed presidents to reserve historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest. While this was before the formal National Park Service, it was a large step towards having a separate national park entity in the government.

In 1916, the Organic Act was passed by Congress. The Organic Act is significant because it helped form the National Park Service. All existing parks at the time were transferred to the NPS to be managed and preserved under their leadership. After this, there were many acts put into place to assist in the preservation of our national parks.

After the original national parks, many others were established and added to the pool of parks. Now, all national parks are established under acts of congress and, because of the Antiquities Act, the president can also declare any government-owned land a national park.

Today, we have over 400 national park sites! I encourage you to find out when and how your favorite national park was established. I guarantee if you look into the history of the park, you will appreciate it that much more!