Blog Post May 2, 2019

10 Parks You Helped Put on the Map

NPCA and its supporters have worked for a century to protect every one of our national park sites — and to expand our National Park System to include more of the places that make America special.

These sites are part of the park system because advocates around the country stood up to defend them. We are proud to have had a role in protecting them for all time and all people.


1. Everglades National Park, Florida

The Everglades encompass a primeval world of giant trees, expansive grasslands and idyllic blue waters that Marjory Stoneman Douglas famously called a “river of grass.” Yet speculators began dredging and draining parts of the Everglades as early as the 1800s, digging canals and setting aside land for farming and residential areas. Birds were recklessly slaughtered to supply feathers for hats, which brought some species to the point of near-extinction. In 1920, just one year after forming, NPCA recognized the serious threats to the region and called for the creation of a national park to protect its unique lands, waters and wildlife. In 1934, NPCA spearheaded passage of the Everglades Act, the legislation that authorized the park’s creation and led to its designation 13 years later.


2. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, Maryland

Harriet Tubman escaped from brutal slave owners in 1849 and risked her life to bring dozens of enslaved Americans to freedom through the Underground Railroad. She served as a scout and spy during the Civil War, leading an armed assault on Confederate plantations in 1863 that freed even more people. Later in her life, she fought for women’s suffrage and fair treatment for the sick and the aged, serving as an inspiration for countless others. NPCA worked for years with federal, state and local stakeholders to establish a site honoring her remarkable legacy. This park preserves nearly 500 acres on Maryland’s Eastern Shore where Tubman spent much of her early life.


3. Manhattan Project National Historical Park, New Mexico, Tennessee and Washington

Cynthia Kelly was working for the Department of Energy in 1997 when she learned that members of the agency were planning to destroy Manhattan Project buildings and artifacts. She sprang into action to help determine the historic significance of the properties, enlist a broad coalition of advocates to protect them, and sway members of Congress to support bills that would preserve them. NPCA was proud to partner with Kelly and her Atomic Heritage Foundation, finally convincing Congress in 2014 to designate a park protecting sites in three cities that were essential in the making of the atomic bomb. Now, the Park Service manages these three units jointly with the Department of Energy, commemorating the unprecedented human devastation and interpreting the far-reaching technological advances the world experienced as a result of this once top-secret research.


4. Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, Nevada

Just 30 minutes north of Las Vegas, a dense trove of fossils lies beneath the desert sands. Paleontologists believe this is the only known site to preserve nearly 200,000 continuous years of Ice Age fossils, including the remains of mammoths, dire wolves, saber-toothed cats, ancient camels and many other large vertebrate species. Yet by 2006, several thousand acres in the area had been slated for residential and business development, with the streets already mapped and named. NPCA worked with volunteer Jill DeStefano and her active community group to persuade the governor, area mayors and councilmembers, leaders of the local Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, and the entire Nevada congressional delegation to support creating a national park site to protect the fossils, which Congress officially authorized in 2014.


5. Stonewall National Monument, New York

In June 1969, patrons of New York City’s Stonewall Inn fought back against police harassment for six nights in a watershed event that helped define the modern LGBTQ movement. It wasn’t the first time the community stood up to oppression and won, but this uprising was different; it captured national media attention and ignited a larger, more determined movement for equality as no fight had before. NPCA worked for years to build strong support in New York City and across the country for including Stonewall in the park system, resulting in its 2016 designation as the first national park site dedicated to interpreting LGBTQ history.


6. Castle Mountains National Monument, California

This monument protects some of the finest Joshua tree, pinyon pine and juniper forests in the California desert and connects critical wildlife migration corridors and habitat. The park includes numerous sacred sites and preserves stunning vistas of Nevada’s Spirit Mountain, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is revered by Native American tribes in the Southwest. For more than two decades, NPCA worked with local communities and park advocates across the country to protect this diverse landscape, which President Barack Obama designated as a national monument in 2016. Together with surrounding national parks and monuments, including Death Valley and Joshua Tree, it makes up one of the greatest desert conservation reserves in the world.


7. Fort Monroe National Monument, Virginia

Throughout the Civil War, Union troops controlled this fort at the mouth of the Chesapeake. In May 1861, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler provided refuge to three enslaved people who had made their way to the fort, declaring them “contraband of war” and refusing to return them to slaveholders. This action paved the way for over 10,000 more enslaved people to make the perilous journey to the site and find refuge there, earning it the nickname “Freedom’s Fortress.” NPCA worked with a dedicated coalition of passionate supporters to preserve Fort Monroe in the park system, helping build connections between the Park Service, the city government and the local community. The effort culminated in November 2011, when President Obama declared the fort and surrounding land a national monument.


8. Waco Mammoth National Monument, Texas

This site in central Texas preserves five acres of one of the richest Ice Age fossil beds in the world and is home to the only known nursery herd of Columbian mammoths. This herd, a family unit of female mammoths and their babies, died and were preserved together, allowing researchers studying their remains to gain new insights into how these animals behaved. The monument also contains an active dig site where docents interpret fossils for visitors. Unlike many other newly established federal park sites, this collection was preserved as a city park for years prior to becoming part of the National Park System. NPCA worked with community members to help Waco realize its goal of becoming nationally recognized for its unique fossil collection.


9. César E. Chávez National Monument, California

In 1962, César Chávez and Dolores Huerta co-founded the first agricultural labor union in the nation, the United Farm Workers of America. In the decades that followed, Chávez led the union to achieve unprecedented victories for thousands of people, including higher wages, health care and pension plans, regulations on pesticide use, and provisions for water and bathrooms for workers in the field. Chávez also helped secure the passage of the first law in the United States that recognized farmworkers’ rights to organize unions and engage in collective bargaining. NPCA worked for more than a decade lobbying Congress to study sites associated with the famed labor leader, bringing students to meet with congressional staff, organizing community support and working closely with partners to establish the site, which President Obama designated a national monument in 2012.


10. Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument, Kentucky

The Battle of Mill Springs in January 1862 was one of the first Union victories in the Civil War and the beginning of a series of Confederate setbacks in the Western Theater. Armies clashed in the woods of south-central Kentucky, resulting in nearly 1,000 soldiers dead, wounded or missing. NPCA and its advocates worked with lawmakers for years to study and establish the site, which Congress officially authorized in February 2019. (The Park Service is still in the process of acquiring the land, at which point the battlefield will become an official national park site.)

Want more great national park stories and news? Join our email list and get them delivered to your inbox.

Stay On Top of News

action alerts graphic

Our email newsletter shares the latest on parks.

You can unsubscribe at any time.