National Park Service celebrates 100 years of preservation, adventure

One hundred years! It’s a birthday worth celebrating. The Organic Act was signed into law by Woodrow Wilson in an effort to preserve the country’s most incredible scenery and the wildlife that calls it home. Thus, on August 25, 1916, the National Park Service was born.

There is a reason more than 305 million people visited America’s national parks last year. And if you have yet to experience the wonder and awe that is our national park system, it is highly recommended that you add it to your bucket list.

SLIDESHOW: America’s 20 most visited National Parks

The way our national parks are evolving is about much more than the landscape and history. National Park Service’s Centennial Celebration is all about looking to the future and making sure the parks flourish over the next 100 years and beyond.

NPS began planning its centennial 16 years ago when President George W. Bush shared his vision for improving the park system.

“I call on all Americans to help in these efforts and to enhance our parks as we get ready for the National Park Services’ centennial celebration,” President Bush said in 2000.

National Parks are no longer just for those who love the great outdoors. Gamers are finding rare Pokemons on the backcountry trails of the Smoky Mountains. Beer aficionados can even enjoy a cold one brewed from thermal spring water at Hot Springs National Park. And that’s not all. There are countless more mysteries to be uncovered and experiences to be had.

VOTE: What is your favorite National Park?

The number of people visiting our national parks increased by about 20 million people since President Bush’s declaration 16 years ago.

With all of that being said, there is still plenty of space in our national park system for those of you looking to unplug and reconnect with the land similar to the way John Muir did it more than 100 years ago.

The centennial celebration raised awareness to the National Park Service in a way that few could have imagined when the effort started. With a power play on social media, the promise of a year-long birthday party reached millions more with the #findyourpark initiative.

A movie produced for IMAX theaters in honor of National Park Service’s centennial also showcases our country’s natural wonders.

National Parks Adventure: Where it’s playing near you

The time to get out and experience all that our national parks have to offer is now. NPS will offer free admission to all 412 parks in the national park system from August 25 to August 28.

Of course, we hope National Park Service will see its bicentennial, or better yet, its tricentennial, giving all of us — and generations to come — plenty of time to experience our parks the way President Wilson did the day he decided to formally preserve them.

America’s most visited National Parks in 2015

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park | 10,712,674 visitors
  2. Grand Canyon National Park | 5,520,736 visitors
  3. Rocky Mountain National Park | 4,155,916 visitors
  4. Yosemite National Park | 4,150,217 visitors
  5. Yellowstone National Park | 4,097,710 visitors
  6. Zion National Park | 3,648,846 visitors
  7. Olympic National Park | 3,263,761 visitors
  8. Grand Teton National Park | 3,149,921 visitors
  9. Arcadia National Park | 2,811,184 visitors
  10. Glacier National Park |  2,366,056 visitors

FULL LIST: National parks ranked by number of visitors in 2015