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The National Parks Service Turns 100 Years Old

Happy Birthday to the National Park Service, which turns 100 years old this month! Since its establishment on Aug. 25, 1916, by President Woodrow Wilson, this branch of the government oversees the United States national parks, American national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties. The number of national parks that are overseen are now at 59.

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National parks map of 1916. United States Department of the Interior, Franklin K. Lane, Secretary - National Parks Portfolio, 1916. The map shows the location of all the National Parks and their principal railroad connections as of 1916.

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1934 stamp collection. United States Postal Service, National Park Service 1934. Ten stamps issued by the U.S. Post Office in 1934 in commemoration of the reorganization and expansion of the National Park Service.

Yellowstone National Park, which began as a state park, became the first national park in the United States in 1872, on March 1, 1872, when President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law. The Yellowstone National Park Protection Act declared that “the headwaters of the Yellowstone River … is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale … and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” In an era of vast expansion, the government had the foresight to set aside land deemed too valuable to develop.

Why cover this story on national parks? We often speak of nature as a muse for color and design, so we want to honor some of the greatest points of inspiration in the United States in this centennial year of the National Parks. Here are some of the most colorfully inspired natural wonders:

The Hunt’s Mesa. Monument Valley, View from Hunt’s Mesa, near the Utah and Arizona border

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Canyon of the Gods, Subway, Zion National Park, Utah

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White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

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Yosemite National Park, Cathedral Lake, California

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Grand Teton Mountain Range, Buffalo Grazing, Wyoming

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Grand Canyon National Park, Point Imperial at North Rim, Arizona

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Death Valley National Park, Zabriskie Point Trail, Inyo County, California

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Rocky Mountain National Park,The Loch, Colorado

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Arched Rock next to Anacapa Island, Channel Islands National Park, California

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Photo by Sara McLean

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All images by Getty Images except as noted above.