Happy Independence Day! This is a day when most Americans pause to celebrate and offer thanks for our country’s freedoms and blessings. We truly do have much to be thankful for. On this particular day I’d like to express my gratitude for our national parks. I think anyone who enjoys “seeing Creation” would have to acknowledge that some of God’s most beautiful and awesome handiwork is found in these parks that have been preserved for us. Wallace Stegner once said “National Parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best…”
There are currently 58 national parks. I have visited 38 of them so far. In addition to these national parks, the National Park Service maintains numerous other types of units. Some of these include national monuments, national preserves, national rivers, national recreation areas, national seashores, and national scenic trails. There are hundreds of such units and I have had the privilege of visiting and photographing many of these.
I am so thankful that we have so many beautiful places preserved and protected. What a rich treasure they are! John Muir, who was instrumental in developing the idea of national parks in America, once said we all “need places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” The national parks have been such places for me. In them I have been able to read God’s “other book” and been moved to worship the Creator who is “the Giver of all good gifts.” (James 1:17)
I cannot imagine our country without its national parks. I’m glad that over the years people have fought long and hard to make sure that special places are protected from destruction and development. I’m thankful that our parks are “absolutely democratic” so that all are welcome. I’m thankful that those who will follow us will also have a chance to see the Grand Canyon, marvel at Yellowstone’s amazing geysers, look up at America’s highest mountain in Denali and down into its deepest cleft at Death Valley, view Yosemite Valley, and enjoy all the other wonderful sights, sounds and smells that await them in our national parks.
On this day we will likely hear many people say “God bless America.” I’m convinced God already has. I cannot think of any other nation that has been so blessed. Our national parks are part of that blessing. But with all these blessings comes responsibility. We must be good stewards of God’s blessings and that applies to our parks too. Our national parks deserve our support. We would not be the same without them.
(The top image shows a picture I took of the Grand Canyon from its south rim. The middle image is of ”Old Faithful” at Yellowstone National Park. I took the bottom image of El Capitan at Yosemite National Park.)