Great Nature
Part of the Series: Ken Burns: The National Parks

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Ken Burns: The National Parks - America’s Best Idea
PBS
The National Parks: America's Best Idea is the story of an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical: that the most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone. As such, it follows in the…
The Empire of Grandeur
Part of the Series: Ken Burns: The National Parks
In the early 20th century, America has a dozen national parks, but they are a haphazard patchwork of special places under the supervision of different federal agencies. The conservation movement, after failing to stop the Hetch Hetchy dam, pushes the government to establish one unified agency to oversee all the…
The Dakota Badlands
Visit Theodore Roosevelt, Badlands, and Mount Rushmore National Parks in the Dakotas, beholding the landscape that inspired Theodore Roosevelt to become an ardent conservationist. Learn how the fantastic forms of the badlands are the product of deposition, uplift, and erosion.
Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches
Nowhere is nature's artistry more exquisite than in the intricately eroded parks of the Colorado Plateau--from Bryce Canyon, to Arches National Park, to Canyonlands National Park. Seek answers to these strange, sculpted landforms, asking questions such as: How did more than 2,000 natural arches form in the Arches region?
The Last Refuge
Part of the Series: Ken Burns: The National Parks
By the end of the 19th century, widespread industrialization has left many Americans worried about whether the country - once a vast wilderness - will have any pristine land left. At the same time, poachers in the parks are rampant, and visitors think nothing of littering or carving their names…
Wonders of the National Parks: A Geology of North America
In 1872, a wondrous region called Yellowstone was set aside as the world's first national park, giving adventurous travelers access to a geologist's paradise that seethes with pent-up volcanic forces. As more and more national parks were created--not just in the United States but also in Canada and Mexico--geologists were…
Going Home
Part of the Series: Ken Burns: The National Parks
While visiting the parks was once predominantly the domain of Americans wealthy enough to afford the high-priced train tours, the advent of the automobile allows more people than ever before to visit the parks. Mather embraces this opportunity and works to build more roads in the parks. Some park enthusiasts,…
Volcanoes of Alaska: Katmai and Lake Clark
Travel to Alaska to explore the vast national parks at Katmai and Lake Clark. Katmai was the site of the 20th century's largest volcanic eruption, while Lake Clark is unusual among national parks for having no roads and being accessible only by boat or small plane.
Voyageurs, Isle Royale, the Canadian Shield
Explore the ancient heart of North America--the Canadian Shield--heading north from Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota to Northeast Greenland National Park, the largest, most northerly national park in the world. En route, stop off at parks on Isle Royale, Baffin Island, and Ellesmere Island.
Mount Saint Helens, Lassen Volcanic, Rainier
Tour Mount Rainier National Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park in the Pacific Northwest, which are part of the Cascade Range of active volcanoes that include Mount Saint Helens. Then visit a group of similarly cataclysmic volcanoes in national parks in central Mexico.
Reefs: Virgin Islands, Florida, Texas
Turn to a trio of national parks where corals and other reef creatures are helping create new carbonate rock. Then encounter a massive reef from our planet's past, raised to towering heights at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Yellowstone: Microcosm of the National Parks
Start your tour of the geological wonders of North America's national parks with Yellowstone, where the breathtaking landscape inspired the idea of a national park. Focus on the processes that produce Yellowstone's many geothermal formations, particularly its geysers.