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National Parks: Then and Now

Look at how these national parks have changed over the years

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Yellowstone: Then

There were few limits to where the earliest visitors to Yellowstone National Park could go. As visitors explored its natural features, accidents and deaths followed. (NPS Photo)

Yellowstone: Now

Today, park guests can see the natural beauty of the park from boardwalks and trails that protect both themselves and the delicate natural features that make this place so special.

Yosemite: Then

In the early years of Yosemite National Park’s existence, it took at least a week to access the park via the Wawona Road.

Yosemite: Now

These days, the Wawona Road is one of the most popular ways to enter the park, and it’s manageable as a day trip thanks to the modern highway system.

Mount Rainier: Then

A century ago, the Paradise Glacier ranked among the park’s main attractions, where visitors could walk on the ice and explore ice caves. (NPS Photo)

Mount Rainier: Now

The ice caves have long since melted away, and the area is now better known for its spectacular wildflower meadows.

Crater Lake: Then

If you visited Oregon's Crater Lake National Park in 1917, you’d have one permanent park ranger, and three more rangers during the months of July, August and September.

Crater Lake: Now

Crater Lake continues to offer ranger programs throughout the summer months, including talks, guided sunset hikes and campground presentations.

Wind Cave: Then

Early visitors to Wind Cave explored one of the world’s largest cave systems by candlelight. Cave tours cost $0.50 in 1903. (NPS Photo)

Wind Cave: Now

Today, more than 140 miles of the cave have been mapped. Standard cave tours run $10 to $12 and make use of modern electricity.

Glacier: Then

Construction began on Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road in 1919, but it wasn’t dedicated until 1933. (NPS Photo)

Glacier: Now

Driving the 50 miles of Going-to-the-Sun Road takes at least two hours these days, without stopping. Most park-goers take at least a full day to make the drive.

Grand Canyon: Then

The Grand Canyon has more historic buildings than just about any other park, including the stunning Grand Canyon Lodge, built on the North Rim in 1928. (NPS Photo)

Grand Canyon: Now

As you can see, not much has changed. For the best impact, enter through the front entrance into the Sun Room, where windows open up on the Grand Canyon. (NPS Photo)

White Sands: Then

Humans have been making their way to this part of the Tularosa Basin – 275 square miles of desert in the heart of New Mexico – for more than 10,000 years. (NPS Photo)

White Sands: Now

White Sands was made a National Park in December 2019, making it the newest addition to the system as of this writing.

Great Smoky Mountains: Then

During Prohibition, a network of bootleggers dug tunnels through the park to aid their operations. (NPS Photo)

Great Smoky Mountains: Now

Many historic homes and churches still stand within the park, including three churches, a working grist mill and several restored log houses in Cades Cove.

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