Celebrating 100 Years of National Parks
By Senator Mike Rounds
In South Dakota, we celebrate the great outdoors. Often called the land of “Great Faces and Great Places,” South Dakota’s differing landscapes and abundance of outdoor activities mean there is something for everyone to enjoy—any time of year. Spending time outside with our family and friends when the weather cooperates is one of our favorite pastimes. We go camping and fishing at Lake Oahe and take the grandkids tubing on the Missouri. We love visiting the Black Hills and exploring all that West River has to offer.
This August marks the 100 year anniversary of the National Park Service. South Dakotans are fortunate to have access to six national parks, located throughout the state. Among them are the desolate but beautiful Badlands, and one of our country’s oldest national parks—Wind Cave. Jewel Cave in Custer, the Lewis & Clark Trail, the Minuteman Missile Site, and of course, Mount Rushmore, are all maintained by the National Park Service as well. The sixth national park may be surprising, but it is actually the Missouri River! A 100-mile stretch of the river is part of both the National Park System and the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
The world’s first national park, Yellowstone, was established by Congress in 1872—before Montana or Wyoming were official states. Following that, the Organic Act of 1916 created the National Park Service as an agency under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior. The Organic Act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916. The purpose of the National Park Service was to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” The National Park Service has continued to fulfill this mission for the past 100 years.
To celebrate its 100th birthday, the National Park Service is offering discounted or free admission this year at national parks, monuments and sites all across the country. You can visit them for free from August 25-28, 2016. Parks will also be free to visit on National Public Lands Day on September 24 and Veteran’s Day on November 11. You can visit www.nps.gov to get directions, find out about special events or learn more about the history of our parks.
There is no better place to spend quality time with friends and family than the great outdoors of South Dakota. If you haven’t visited our state’s national parks yet, I highly recommend it. When you go, take a moment to appreciate the unique history of where you are standing and the years of hard work that have gone into preserving it for you and your family—and our future generations—to enjoy.