Water gives life to our national parks, shaping land and sustaining life. In its various forms—springs, wetlands, aquifers, geysers, stream, lakes, and oceans—water is fundamental to natural processes and visitor enjoyment. From Acadia to the Grand Canyon, Everglades to Glacier, water is central to features, wildlife, recreation, and aesthetics.
Yet, outside the parks, the health of these waters is being jeopardized. Demands for water use are putting a strain on waters that flow through national parks. Similarly, pollution from activities beyond park boundaries, and sometimes within, damages the quality of park waters. Parks, once viewed as isolated and remote, are increasingly becoming threatened by activities occurring in their watersheds.
NPCA recognizes that the health of our national parks is directly linked to the health of the waters that surround them.
Explore Our New GeoStory
Read about twelve champions around the country working to protect our Great Waters. Their photos and projects are displayed on an interactive map, or "GeoStory," made possible through an innovative partnership with National Geographic.
Read Our Latest Blog Posts
- The first stage of a critical Everglades restoration project was finally completed in March 2013. Read how a new bridge will soon bring much-needed water to the park.
- The Park Service publishes the water quality at all national parks on a public website--and 52% of of these parks have impaired water. Learn more, and how to find out about parks near you.
- Before you hit the beach, read about 12 heroes around the country helping to protect our water.
- Our nation's rivers are in trouble. NPCA's Great Waters Program Manager Sarah Gaines Barmeyer shares why three endangered rivers are important to her and her family, and why we should work to protect them.
- Water drives regional economies, sustains the natural world, and shapes the daily lives of people all across the globe. Read about some of NPCA's projects to preserve water around the country.
NPCA's latest report explores two historical parks in the Chesapeake watershed, Colonial National Historical Park on the James and York Rivers, and Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine on the Patapsco River. It recounts what the rivers looked like before significant agricultural practices, oyster harvesting, and extensive human development. It recommends options to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its national parks to a highly productive ecosystem with cleaner water, fewer toxic contaminants, and more abundant aquatic and terrestrial life. Our national parks help us recognize what has been lost so we can see what we have the opportunity to regain.
See It Mapped Out
Did You Know?
National parks are connected to Great Waters:
- The Chesapeake Bay watershed has more than 50 national park units, including Gettysburg National Military Park and the National Mall and Memorial Parks.
- National parks such as Acadia National Park, Isle Royale National Park, Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, and San Juan Island National Historic Park are surrounded by the following Great Waters, respectively: Gulf of Maine, Great Lakes, Coastal Louisiana and Puget Sound.
- National parks such as Shenandoah National Park and Mount Rainier National Park are home to rivers that flow into the following Great Waters, respectively—Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound.
- Yosemite National Park is home to headwater tributaries that flow into the San Francisco Bay
- The Great Lakes basin is home to 16 national park units, including Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.