national parks

National parks will offer free admission on the final weekend of August in honor of the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. Before then, the park service centennial is being celebrated with music.

Every place has its own sound. A small group of scientists is hard at work recording the natural sounds of national parks all across the U.S. — more than 70 soundscapes so far.

For our series on the centennial of the national parks, we traveled to Colorado, to find out how they create these portraits of sound.

First Lesson: It's Very Hard To Escape The Sound Of Humans.

Driving through the gold-brown savanna of Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, past its Dr. Seuss-like trees and water-carved rocks, it's easy to see why the national parks have been called America's Best Idea.

Spend a few hours with some of the park's employees, like Cultural Resources Branch Chief Jason Theuer, and you'll see that national parks are also another thing: expensive. There is a nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog of work that needs be done but isn't because of limited money.

Karl S. Johnson / Flickr

Towns around national parks lost an estimated $414 million during the partial government shutdown last October, according to a report released Monday by the National Park Service. But surrounding communities say the shutdown wasn't a complete loss.

David Jensen / Country magazine

Washington's North Cascades National Park has made Country magazine's "hidden gemslist of America's ten most-beautiful, least-crowded national parks. 

The park is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in Washington yet, due to its remote location, heavy annual precipitation and limited amenities, relatively few people visit it. Aside from some gravel roads, the main access is via State Route 20, the North Cascades Highway.

woodleywonderworks / Flickr

A much-loved open house at the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver did not take place over the weekend. The center is run by the U.S. Geological Survey, which had to cancel the program due to the federal budget sequestration.

Courtesy Think Outside the Bottle

The disposable plastic water bottle is known for clogging landfills and choking marine life. As a result, 14 national parks no longer sell bottled water. And it looks like Mount Rainier National Park might be next.

REI

President Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of the Interior is an unusual choice. Sally Jewell is not a politician – she’s CEO of the outdoor gear company, REI. But those who know her say she has savvy, social conscience, and a deep respect for the open spaces she’ll be managing if the Senate confirms her.