The sun is coming out, the snow is melting, and it’s time to get back outside. In celebration of its 101st anniversary, the National Park Service is hosting National Park Week from April 15-23. This means entrance into the parks is free April 15-16 and 22-23. Head here to find a park or event near you!

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Photo: National Park Service

The National Parks possess a rich history and have an interesting origin. John Muir, one of America’s most famous naturalists, fell in love with the outdoors at a young age and spent his life working to protect public lands. In 1903 Muir led President Theodore Roosevelt on a camping trip in what is now Yosemite National Park that ultimately convinced Roosevelt to return land in Yosemite Valley to federal protection. The impact that this trip had on Roosevelt became the catalyst for events that led up to the creation of the National Park Service in 1916.

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Photo: Library of Congress

These protected lands have since transcended party lines and held steady through changing administrations. During his time in office George W Bush designated 6 new national parks, and following him, President Obama added an astounding 22 and put over 290 million acres under federal protection. Obama has now surpassed Theodore Roosevelt in his efforts in conservation.

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Photo: National Park Service

There are many benefits to exploring any one of our National Parks. You could learn about the fascinating theory of plate tectonics while visiting the volcanoes in Hawaii, or become physically rejuvenated from hiking in the temperate rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Wherever you choose to explore next week, just remember to leave only footprints and take only memories.