The headlines have recently been filled with battles about how some national parks can be used for commercial purposes. Among them is whether companies can drill for oil and gas. Arguments about the parks should be used in not new. Woodrow Wilson signed the bill that created the National Park Service on August 25, 1916. Part of the Department of the Interior, today it manages what it calls 423 units, generally known as parks. Across America, they cover 85 million acres.
The National Parks offer something for everyone — from beaches to forest hikes as well as human-made monuments, scenic lakes, towering mountains, spectacular canyons, and more. Some are millions of acres, while others are just a few thousand.
To determine the smallest national park, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the National Park Service Land Resources Division’s Listing of Acreage report for 2020. Only national parks were considered and were ranked on their gross area acres.
At the other end of the spectrum, many of the largest national parks are found in Alaska, which is by far the largest U.S. state by landmass. Western states like Utah, Washington, and California are also home to several parks that combine to cover millions of acres of land.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many national parks and other recreational areas run by the National Park Service were temporarily closed. National park site visits dropped by more than 90 million to 237 million visits in 2020 — the lowest level since 1980. Still, many parks welcomed millions of visitors.
The smallest national park in America is Gateway Arch. Here are the details:
>Total land area: 193 acres
> Location: Missouri
> Privately owned land: 85 acres — or 44.2% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 486,021 — or 0.7% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: -71.4%
Gateway Arch National Park used to be called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Located in St. Louis, the famous arch was built to honor Thomas Jefferson and the role he played in America’s westward expansion. The park also features the Museum of Westward Expansion and St. Louis’ Old Courthouse. The Courthouse is best known for holding the Dred Scott case — an enslaved man who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom.