Planet Earth

Journey Through Time: 100 Years of the National Parks

Clemson University and the National Park Service have partnered to digitize hundreds of photographs from the early days of our nations' natural treasures.

By Discover StaffAug 26, 2016 12:00 PM


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A partnership between the National Park Service and Clemson University, the Open Parks Network has been digitizing photographs and documents from national and state parks since 2010. The photographs span well over a hundred years and include some of the nation's best-known parks — dating back to before there even was a National Park Service.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the parks system, we picked out some of the best images from the collection. The pictures come from many states and many different time periods, and provide a glimpse into the ways we have enjoyed our bountiful natural resources over the years.

Photo Credits: National Park Service

John Walker sitting with a basket of cherries in Tennessee, photographed in 1918. His family became well-known in the region for his daughter's insistence on remaining in the family cabin even after their land became a national park in 1940. They were forced to give up hunting and fishing on the land, but would sell apple pies and handmade gifts to visitors passing through.

Photo Credits: National Park Service

Farm hands cut buffalo from the herd on a buffalo farm in Yellowstone in 1930. The farm was created to help replenish buffalo populations in the park in the early 20th century.

Photo Credits: National Park Service

A cave guide looking at Lovers Leap in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. It is the largest cave system in the world at over 400 miles, and new passages are still being discovered. The cave is composed of limestone, covered by a layer of sandstone, making it extremely stable. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1981.

Photo Credits: National Park Service

A tank landing ship run aground on Hatteras Island. These ships were used to ferry tanks and other vehicles to shore during the second world war. The picture was taken in 1952.

Photo Credits: National Park Service

Snake expert Jack Raymon demonstrates gives Boy Scouts John Abel and Jim Wilson a close-up look at the slithery reptiles in 1940 at Mammoth Cave National Park.

Photo Credits: National Park Service

Traffic at Yellowstone's West Gate in 1937. The park saw a sharp increase in traffic during the early 20th century, and 1,000 cars a year were entering Yellowstone by 1915.

Photo Credits: National Park Service

A group prepares for a canoe trip at Mammoth Cave National Park back in 1938.

Photo Credits: National Park Service

An aerial infrared photograph taken in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park is situated in Tennessee and North Carolina and was chartered in 1934. It is both a Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Photo Credits: National Park Service

Two hikers resting by the fire in Congaree. The park has the largest most old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the country. The park is characterized by gum oak and cypress trees in alluvial soils built up frequent flooding.

Photo Credits: National Park Service

Tourists and a park official in Congaree National Park near Hopkins, South Carolina. Congaree was first designated a national park in 2003 after years of lobbying by the Sierra Club, among others.

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