Michigan national parks and lakeshores are among the nation’s natural treasures, the best of wild and historic places. Each is a destination of majesty and wonder — a legacy preserved for future generations by the U.S. Congress.
America’s guardian for these special places is the National Park Service, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Housed in the U.S. Department of Interior, the federal agency was created to provide uniform oversight for the country’s natural and historic heritage. It bears responsibility for protecting those sites while providing an opportunity for millions of visitors to enjoy them every year.
The late Stephen Mather, a wealthy industrialist and naturalist, spearheaded the campaign to create the National Park Service a century ago, ending more than 40 years of independent management by states and/or federal agencies, like the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture and War Department.
Mather became the first National Park Service director. President Woodrow Wilson signed the enabling legislation, The National Park Service Organic Act, in 1916. It was landmark law that would task the NPS with conserving public-owned parks to retain their ecological integrity, scenery, history and wildlife so they remain “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
Today, the National Park Service administers 59 national parks, four national lakeshores, 10 national seashores and 50 national historical parks, along with national scenic trails and other historical properties.
Michigan is home to seven: Pictured Rocks and Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshores, Isle Royale National Park, the North Country National Scenic Trail, Keweenaw National Historical Park, and the Motor Cities National Heritage Area in Detroit along with River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe.
In this issue of BLUE we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service with photographs that capture the wonder found in Michigan’s national parks and the spirit of adventure enjoyed by those who visit them.
“Sea caves, arches, blowholes, turrets, stone spires and other features have been sculpted from these cliffs over the centuries by unceasing waves and weather.” — National Park Service
Designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980, Isle Royale National Park is a wild and remote 45-mile-long island in Lake Superior where wolf and moose make their home. It is a national treasure loved by legions of hearty hikers, boaters, backpackers and kayakers every year.
Award-winning writer and BLUE Undercurrents columnist Howard Meyerson lives in Grand Rapids.