Table of Contents Show
- How Many National Parks Are There in the U.S.?
- How Does an Area Become a National Park?
- A Few Proposed National Parks for 2023
- What Was the Most Recent Addition to the National Park System?
- What Was the Most Recent Site to Be Redesignated as a National Park?
- Which Proposed National Parks Has Your Vote?
The National Park System constantly changes and has proposed new national parks over the years. New parks get added while other parks receive new designations.
Since the beginning of the National Park System in 1872, with Yellowstone, named the very first national park in the world, we’ve added hundreds of other sites worthy of preservation and protection. From historic sites to cultural ruins, these locations are our country’s national treasures.
In 2023, the National Park Service has several proposed national parks and sites that might get upgraded to national park status. These locations are already protected within the NPS but hold other designations.
Let’s look at just a few of these proposed national parks, and then you can decide which one has your vote!
How Many National Parks Are There in the U.S.?
The United States currently has 63 total national parks. The most recent redesignation was New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia, which reached national park status in December 2020.
However, you can visit hundreds of other sites within the National Park System. These include national battlefields, monuments, scenic trails, historical parks, and more naming designations.
All in all, the National Park Service manages 424 units. These sites cover over 85 million acres in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Eighty-three units are national monuments, 74 are national historic sites, 63 are national parks, and 63 are national historical parks.
How Does an Area Become a National Park?
National parks generally cover more land and resources than the other naming designations within the National Park System. But an area must have scenic or historical significance to be considered a national park.
For example, the Grand Canyon is one of the world’s natural wonders. This qualifies as scenic significance.
The park must also protect the environment or culture of an area. For example, Everglades National Park protects hundreds of wildlife species, including the endangered Florida panther and subtropical wetlands.
In fact, the Everglades was the first National Park designated to protect an ecological system when it joined the NPS in 1947.
Finally, a national park must be open for the public to enjoy and experience. Thus, no one can privately own the land Anyone can drive into the Park, pay the entrance fee, and enjoy the beauty and history of the area.
The NPS often appoints additional criteria for a site to become protected as a national park, but these are the general guidelines when evaluating new park proposals.
A Few Proposed National Parks for 2023
As mentioned earlier, the National Park System constantly changes as it adds new sites or redesignates existing ones. Below are a few of our favorite proposed national parks for 2023. We’d love to see these upgraded in status.
1. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Location: New Jersey, Pennsylvania
The longest free-flowing river east of the Mississippi, the Delaware River, and its surrounding area is a beautiful section of land along the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border.
Popular activities include camping, horseback riding, hiking, biking, paddling, fishing, and boating. National Recreation Area also has numerous waterfalls, offering quiet places of solitude.
But it’s not only a beautiful landscape. The region also holds historical significance as the home of the earliest known culture in the New World, the Paleo-Indian. You can also see important Native American archeological sites and structures from the colonial period here.
2. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
Craters of the Moon preserves the history of our country’s violent volcanic past. With lava flows, caves, cinder cones, and sagebrush, the landscape is unlike any other place in America.
The 7-mile Loop Road provides easy access for guests to hike trails and explore caves. Visitors have countless opportunities to snap photos along the scenic drive. Many outdoor enthusiasts also enjoy backpacking through the wilderness.
3. Mt. Hood National Forest
With millions of visitors exploring Mt. Hood National Forest yearly, it welcomes more people than many national parks. It encompasses 1.1 million acres, and about one-third of the land is designated wilderness.
Although dormant, Mt. Hood is a stratovolcano over 11,000 feet in elevation. Its cap has 11 glaciers that flow into dozens of waterfalls.
About 10,000 climbers seek to summit the volcano each year. Mt. Hood National Forest offers visitors outdoor recreational opportunities year-round.
4. Atchafalaya National Heritage Area
The state of Louisiana only has six NPS units. According to the criteria of proposed national parks that the site should “represent a natural or cultural theme…that is not already adequately represented,” Atchafalaya National Heritage Area fits the bill.
The country’s largest freshwater swamp, the Atchafalaya River Basin, is home to sugarcane and cotton fields, ancient live oaks, towering cypress, alligators, bears, birds, catfish, crawfish, and more.
But like the Delaware Water Gap, this area is also rich in cultural history. The Cajun culture and European, African, Caribbean, and Native American peoples call this land “home.” Native music, food, and celebrations make this area an emblem of Louisiana’s melting pot of cultures.
Keep in Mind: These national parks are the least visited in the U.S., bu they still Deserve Your Attention!
5. Allegheny National Forest
In 2023, Allegheny National Forest is celebrating its centennial year as a National Forest. Let’s make it an even bigger celebration by making this proposed national park one of the big 63.
As the only national forest in Pennsylvania, it’s one of the least densely populated areas east of the Mississippi. Over 514,000 acres welcome visitors to explore the old-growth forest by hiking, biking, OHV riding, paddling, and camping.
Within the Allegheny National Forest, you’ll also find two wilderness areas, two national scenic areas, and two national wild and scenic Rivers. Like Mt. Hood National Forest, it already welcomes about four million visitors yearly, more than many of our national parks receive.
6. Avi Kwa Ame National Monument
Located in southwest Nevada, Avi Kwa Ame is also called “Spirit Mountain,” and serves as sacred land for the Hopi and Chemehuevi Paiute people and ten Yuman-speaking tribes.
This region of the Mojave Desert offers stunning landscapes, a biodiverse ecosystem, and cultural significance. Here you’ll find the largest Joshua Tree forest in America. National park status would also protect numerous endangered species in this area.
The Avi Kwa Ame National Monument certainly fits the criteria of “a resource that is importantly associated with the lives of persons nationally significant in the history of the United States.”
7. Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
Over 87,000 acres in northern Maine beckons people who want to escape the daily routine and venture into nature. The 17-mile Katahdin Loop Road has pull-offs where you can enjoy the stunning scenery of the landscape.
Trailheads are also accessible for short hikes. The changing seasons mean numerous outdoor recreational activities, from hiking, biking, camping, and fishing in the warmer months to snowmobiling, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing in the winter.
Besides protecting northern Maine’s rivers, bogs, mountains, and streams, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument also preserves the culturally significant land of the Penobscot Nation.
What Was the Most Recent Addition to the National Park System?
The most recent addition to the National Park System was the New Philadelphia National Historic Site in Illinois. It became a national park on Dec. 9, 2022.
On the same date, the Pullman National Monument in Illinois became the Pullman National Historical Park. In 2022, the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park in Kansas became a national historic site.
What Was the Most Recent Site to Be Redesignated as a National Park?
As proposed national parks undergo annual evaluation, some achieve this status while others remain with their current designations.
New River Gorge National River in West Virginia recently received a new designation as a national park and preserve on Dec. 27, 2020.
The year before, in December 2019, White Sands National Monument in New Mexico became White Sands National Park.
Which Proposed National Parks Has Your Vote?
With these seven proposed national parks (and several more) under consideration, which one has your vote to join the big 63? Will the National Park System gain another park in 2023, or will it gain a couple?
Whatever happens in Congress, these seven locations offer scenic beauty, cultural significance, and biodiversity worth protecting. When you visit, please follow the Leave No Trace principles and do your part to honor sacred lands and preserve wildlife and plant life for generations.
Have you visited one of these seven locations? Which one do you believe should receive the honor of national park status?