Unusual stories from some of America’s most beloved and inspirational places — our national parks.



Episodes

  • Episode 1

    The Show Must Go On
    The only national park site dedicated to the performing arts has been quiet for over a year, but a new chorus of singers is stealing the show at this Virginia venue: a feisty, sex-crazed swarm of Brood X cicadas.

  • Episode 2

    Below the Surface
    An unusual predicament is pitting private oil rights against one of the world’s most treasured places. Could the National Park Service allow a private energy company to build oil wells in the Everglades?

  • Episode 3

    Expecting the Unexpected
    Photographers and artists helped make the case for America’s national parks. Today, a new generation of artists-in-residence keeps the vital connection alive in sometimes surprising ways.

  • Episode 4

    The Undiscovered Cave
    Explorers in a remote area of Grand Canyon National Park discovered a cave they believe human beings had never entered before. Inside this maze of limestone passageways, researchers found thousands of fossils that could change our understanding of one of the country’s quirkiest animals — bats!

  • Episode 5

    Learning to Fly
    Raptors such as peregrine falcons and California condors made the endangered species list decades ago, but thanks in part to monitoring and recovery programs in national parks, things have been looking up.

  • Episode 6

    The Healing Ceremony
    For the last four years, Bears Ears National Monument has been at the center of a critical fight over Indigenous land rights. This awe-inspiring, culturally rich site was part of the largest removal of federal public land protections in U.S. history. But now that the monument is restored, could it serve as a model for Tribal collaboration in our parks?

  • Episode 7

    A Diamond in the Rough
    The only ballpark in the National Park System also has deep ties to African American history. One of the last few remaining Negro League ballparks, Hinchliffe Stadium was nearly lost — but the storied playing field at Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park is getting a new lease on life.

  • Episode 8

    Hiking with Spoons
    Three years ago, an outdoor lover in the Pacific Northwest went on a painful and frustrating hike and is now using that experience as a way to make the park more welcoming, especially for the millions of people living with disabilities and chronic illnesses. How can parks offer a truly accessible experience to people with different interests, needs and ability levels?

  • Episode 9

    An American Hero Turns 200
    This month marks 200 years since Harriet Tubman’s birth, and we’re still learning new information about her life and family, and still marveling at how a woman with all the odds against her risked everything to liberate herself and countless others — and play a significant role in liberating her country. In this episode, we explore Tubman’s life and motivations, some of the public lands devoted to her, and a few ways to celebrate this very big birthday.

  • Episode 10

    A Walk on the Wild Side
    A Supreme Court justice once led a 185-mile trek to save the landscape he loved. Today, park lovers keep that spirit alive through a one-day marathon hike in Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park each spring.

  • Episode 11

    Telling the Truth
    The brutal murder of Emmett Till in 1955 galvanized the civil rights movement. Could a new national park site preserving his story help to bring us closer to understanding and justice?

  • Episode 12

    Making Things Whole
    In 1969, Southern California suffered one of the largest oil spills in history, prompting national outrage and environmental awareness. Today, part of the Pacific coast near Channel Islands National Park remains vulnerable to drilling and other threats. Soon, decades of work by the Chumash people could lead to the country’s first Tribally nominated national marine sanctuary.

  • Episode 13

    The Giving Trees
    Witness trees stood in significant places at key moments in American history, linking past and present and shaping our understanding of both. But what happens when witness trees fall? A unique partnership between the Rhode Island School of Design and the National Park Service lets their stories live on.

  • Episode 14

    The Geography That Unites Us
    At a park that once served as a segregating line in Washington, DC, a unique outdoor theater brought people together for nights of music and poetry under the stars. Structural problems forced the Carter Barron Amphitheater to close in 2017. Can a group of advocates restore and reopen it for a new generation?

  • Episode 15

    The Little Jewel Box
    Winter is often a time when we hunker down and sleep off the dark evenings — but it can also be an ideal season to experience the sparse beauty of our parks. These 5 stories showcase the diverse experiences travelers can have during the colder, quieter days of the year.

  • Episode 16

    Behind the Scenes at Padre Island
    Award-winning journalist Ben Goldfarb shares some of the unexpected adventures that shaped his new feature story in National Parks magazine — and how he built his career traveling to exciting places and writing about them.

  • Episode 17

    A Collision of Breaths
    Poetry and the parks are always there for us when we seek beauty, solace and meaning. Today, we celebrate that timeless connection ― and National Poetry Month ― with some of our favorite national park poems.

  • Episode 18

    Hope Along the Cuyahoga
    The Cuyahoga River was once severely polluted and notorious for catching fire, inspiring the first Earth Day. Now, 53 years later, the river is revitalized, and advocacy is continuing to help the region thrive.

  • Episode 19

    Memorializing the Truth
    The brutal kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till in 1955 changed the course of history and galvanized the modern Civil Rights Movement. Acclaimed journalist Christopher Benson has a unique perspective on this history and the importance of preserving it.

  • Episode 20

    The Heart of America’s Story
    National heritage areas are some of the country’s most beloved hidden gems. In this episode, we feature three of the people who know these distinctive destinations best and who worked for decades to create two of our seven newest sites.

  • Episode 21

    Opening Day
    Hinchliffe Stadium at Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park very nearly met the wrecking ball before passionate advocates saved it and the rich history it preserves. Now restored to its original glory, this true field of dreams reopened this spring with the return of professional baseball—and we were there to take it all in.

  • Episode 22

    Why We Serve
    How do we gain from what we give? A committed group of veterans and an innovative friends group demonstrate the value of service at a beloved national park site in Washington, D.C.

  • Episode 23

    A Reporter ‘On the Brink’ at Cape Hatteras
    In Rodanthe, North Carolina, near Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the rising ocean is causing homes to collapse, creating devastating losses for homeowners and dangerous conditions for park-goers. Journalist Melanie D.G. Kaplan shares what she learned in her new story on the ongoing crisis.

  • Episode 24

    The Beacon
    The Chesapeake Bay is a storied waterway where the Atlantic Ocean meets a series of rivers. It is home to Native American history, early European settlements, maritime traditions and rich Civil War history. After years of work, new legislation could soon preserve many of the region’s distinctive sites and stories as a new national recreation area.

  • Episode 25

    The Skeleton Crew
    A significant new fossil discovery at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area could deepen our understanding of ancient mammal-like reptiles that lived among some of the earliest dinosaurs. A team of scientists shares how they found this unprecedented trove of ancient remains and what it could teach us — including corollaries to our own modern experience of climate change.

  • Episode 26

    Stamped in the Soil
    In 1965, civil rights activists made history by marching from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, overcoming vicious attacks by police and winning voting rights for Black citizens throughout the South. The route they walked is now a national park site, but the rural camps where marchers found shelter are not — and they’re falling into disrepair. Can these lesser-known pieces of history be saved?

  • Episode 27

    Creating the Country’s First ‘Idea Park’
    What happens when a really important place doesn’t seem important to the people in charge? In 1978, Judy Hart was driven to create a new national park, even though people told her the places she wanted to save didn’t look like a national park. By recognizing the need to interpret women’s history, Hart changed the way the Park Service approaches the concept of national significance.


The Secret Lives of Parks is Folio’s 2023 Eddie Award winner in the Best Educational Podcast and Best Travel and Leisure Podcast categories.

Learn more at thesecretlivesofparks.org.



Read More Stories in National Parks magazine

Read More