Superb Cinema: The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

“None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.”

~John Muir

Ken Burns’ documentary on The National Parks debuted on PBS in late 2009. Mr. Burns, a world-renowned documentary film maker, teamed with Dayton Duncan to create this amazingly beautiful and educational look into the history of America’s National Parks.

This 6 episode documentary was filmed over the course of 6 years and covers a history spanning from 1861 to the 1980’s. In-depth histories are provided for many of the major National Parks including Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Denali, the Everglades in Florida and more!

Ken Burns comments that the National Parks are “The Declaration of Independence applied to the landscape,” and that we as citizens of America are the owners of these wonderous places. The documentary shows how John Muir reminded people that America may not have historical churches and art like Europe does, but that we do have the beauty of nature surrounding us.

The United States “invented” the idea of developing public parks. Park enthusiasts were angry about the commercialization of Niagara Falls and wanted to set aside land purely for the people. First, Yosemite became a State Park in California in 1864 which set the stage for Yellowstone to become the first National Park in 1872 (Yosemite later became a National Park). President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was considered the first “conservationist” president and set aside more Federal land for national parks and nature preserves than all of his predecessors combined.

John D. Rockefeller is also highlighted in the documentary for purchasing and donating land for National Parks, including Acadia, Great Smoky Mountains, and Yosemite. Without his gracious donations, many of these beautiful parks would be privately owned.

This film really focuses on keeping the National Parks in their original state and avoiding changes to the nature of any kind. It is our responsibility to take care of our National Parks because we own part of that land. Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan suggest that we visit our lands often and take care of them for our children and their children and so on.

I have been to a few of the National Parks and my favorites include: Yosemite, Mount Rushmore, Statue of Liberty, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, and the Ellis Island National Monument. It is a goal of mine to visit as many as I can and so far, I am up to 17 out of the 58! I urge everyone to watch this superb documentary, then find their nearest National Park and take a visit to enjoy our beautiful land!

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea is available for instant viewing on Netflix. You can also buy the DVD collection and book through PBS.

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