National Parks

National Park Service

The National Park Service (NPS) was founded in 1916 to manage the areas assigned to the U.S. Department of the Interior. The systematic park administration within the Department of Interior paved the way for annexation of comparable areas from other federal agencies. In a 1933 government reorganization, the National Park Service acquired the War Department’s national military parks and monuments, the Agriculture Department’s national monuments, and the national capital parks in Washington, DC. Thereafter the National Park Service became the primary federal agency preserving and providing for public enjoyment of Amarica’s most significant natural and cultural properties in a fully comperhensive National Park System.

Number of Park Units

The National Park System is comprised of 391 areas called “units” covering more than 84 million acres. The units include 122 historical parks or sites, 74 monuments, 58 National Parks, 24 battlefields or military parks, 18 preserves, 18 recreation areas, ten seashores, four parkways, four lakeshores, and two reserves.

Yellowstone National Park was the first National Park established by Congress March 1, 1872 and signed into law by Ulyssess S. Grant.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska is the largest unit with 13.2 million acres.

The Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania is the smallest unit at 0.02 acres.

National Park Service Budget

The budget for fiscal year 2008 was $2.75 billion. Annually, NFS sites generate 246,000 jobs for local economies and provide $12 billion in economic impacts.

National Park Service Visitor Services

The NFS maintains 909 visitor centers and contact stations. In 2008, 127 million people attended more than 605,000 special events and ranger programs in parks. More than 565,000 children participated in the “Junior Ranger” program.

Employees & Volunteers

The NFS employs approximately 20,000 permanent, temporary, and seasonal workers.

They are assisted by nearly 167,000 Volunteers-In-Parks (VIPs), who donate about 5.4 million hours annually. This is the equivalent of having about 2,600 more employees.


  • NPS Overview, pdf, updated 4/09
  • The National Parks: Shaping the System, produced by Harper’s Ferry Center NPS 1991.