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Outdoor fun

3 facts about the nation’s parks

Hiking is a popular pastime in the National Park System.

To help mark the release of the Enjoy the Great Outdoors stamps, here are three facts about the National Park Service.

1. The National Park Service is more than a century old. Although President Ulysses S. Grant signed an 1872 bill that established Yellowstone National Park as the nation’s first national park, the park service — a bureau of the U.S. Interior Department — wasn’t created until 1916, when it was established by legislation signed by President Woodrow Wilson.

2. You can do virtually everything in the parks. The Enjoy the Great Outdoors stamps depict people building a sandcastle, canoeing, hiking, biking and cross-country skiing — all activities that you can do in national parks. The National Park System, which refers to the land managed by the park service, includes 419 areas that cover more than 85 million acres in every state; Washington, DC; American Samoa; Guam; Puerto Rico; and the Virgin Islands. These areas include parks, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House.

3. The parks are popular. In 2019, the National Park Service received more than 327.5 million recreation visits, up 2.9 percent from this previous year. This makes 2019 the third-highest year for recreation visits, behind 2016 and 2017. The three most popular destinations in 2019 were Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco (15 million recreation visits); Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs from Virginia to North Carolina (14.9 million recreation visits); and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which encompasses parts of Tennessee and North Carolina (12.5 million recreation visits).

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