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Travel Trivia: What are the USA's Largest and Smallest National Parks?

April 25, 2014 at 11:20 AM | by | ()

National Park Week is upon us, which, on a grand scale, is a time to reflect on what an incredible job our country does at preserving its natural landscape. We are the world leader in this effort, especially when you consider the size of our country and how many cooks we have in the kitchen as compared to other nations.

Although vast open space is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of a National Park, the sites actually come in all shapes and sizes, and include monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and even the White House (President’s Park). And as you’ll see, some are even found in cities and take up less space than an apartment building. In total, the parks cover 84 million acres in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

What does this mean? Well, perhaps National Park hopping isn’t just for adventure travelers. Here are five fun facts to remember as we celebrate the preservation of our country:

· The National Park Service, the body that oversees the parks today, was created by an act signed by President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916.

· Yellowstone National Park was the first, established by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872.

· The largest park is Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, sprawling a ridiculous 13.2 million acres, or 20,625 square miles. Believe it or not, the park is bigger than the country of Switzerland. One of its flagship landmarks is Mount St. Elias that tops out at 18,008 ft.

· The smallest is Philadelphia’s Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial at 0.02 acres, or 871 square feet. The museum details the life and heroics of Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Polish engineer who built war fortifications for the Americans during the Revolutionary War, including a major strengthening of the defenses at West Point.

· The place where our nation was founded is a national park and is called Independence National Historical Park. You might know it better by its centerpiece, Independence Hall, shown above, in Old City Philadelphia.

[Photo: M. Edlow]

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