Air Date: Week of August 8, 1997
Facts about... Smokey the bear's "birthday".
CURWOOD: For millions of Americans each year, summer vacation means packing up the car and heading to a national park. Yellowstone was the nation's first national park, established in 1872, but it wasn't until 1916 that President Woodrow Wilson created the National Parks Service. In its first year the park system listed 360,000 visits. Today that figure has climbed to nearly 270 million annually, more than one for every person in the country. All told, there are 375 parks and monuments which the Park Service manages. More than half the system still charges no entrance fees. But while getting away from it all may be easy, you'll have plenty of company. Together the Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks combined to host more than 18 million visitors last year. And in a recent summer, overcrowding forced Yosemite to close its gates 11 times. But while the more popular parks may resemble parking lots, others like Alaska's Kobek Valley still host fewer than 3,000 visitors a year. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.
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