American National Parks Resources
us-parks.com — This is a website started in 2000 by self-proclaimed “nature enthusiasts”. While this does mean someone searching for scientific information would need to look elsewhere, that doesn’t mean the site is without use. US-Parks.com does have a fairly impressive amount of information on parks all across the country, and for someone just planning a weekend getaway to one of their listed destinations, one could do much worse in regards for consumer information.
TerraGalleria.com — As the name suggests, this site is a great resource for those wanting a review of some of the country’s national parks in photos. Somewhat disappointing is the amount of stylized photos over pure, simple nature shots, but the latter isn’t entirely unrepresented. Around 50 different parks are on display here, with a map and regional breakdown to further simplify the categorization of the information. The site could use a bit of a facelift, but the quality of the photos it contains is still impressive.
desertusa.com — Because all national parks don’t necessarily have trees in them. The strongest aspect of this site is in its glossary of desert geology, because it’s nice to know whether or not the rocks you’re staring at are igneous or sedimentary. It may be too commercially-leaning for the scientific minded, but for the layman, it works just fine.
National Geographic — A little easier on the eyes than most of the other sites on the list, National Geographic lends its name as an assurance of quality information where others give off too much of a “bloggy” feel to it. Sixty individual parks are given their own personal pages at the bottom, each with its own summary of the park, including a map of its location and some of the flora and fauna that reside there.
Sierra Club — The famous wildlife and nature conservationist group continues its strides towards saving the existing environment online. While a little light on information specific to national parks, its strength lies in discussing some of the major current issues facing the environment, such as global warming and pollution. Each state has their own personal page on the site, giving more focused information on the area you would wish to research. A great place to begin when looking for story ideas.
UntraveledRoad — For the road warrior in search of how to best explore the national park system, this site offers a fairly in-depth look at what and how to see the country from your car. Pictures and descriptions are available for most national parks, but there are enough empty links to raise a concern for its overall handiness. A little more effort into the site would make it significantly more useful.
Wildlife Foundation of Florida — Much like the Sierra Club, but with a focus solely on the Sunshine State. Environmental disasters, such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, find themselves strewn across the website’s pages, full of useful information for someone looking to research further into the subject. A great way to get in contact with wildlife officials and experts from the state of Florida.
Yellowstone Park Foundation — The official fundraising arm of Yellowstone National Park. Contact information for the United State’s first national park is the single biggest tool for this site, but it does include a few other useful pages, such as news briefs and current projects for the site. An offshoot of its National Parks Service website.
Everglades National Park — This website at first turned me off due to its old-school web design, but there is useful information to be had. Lists of the different birds, amphibians, flora and the like all come with a brief description of what they’re like in the region and some of the issues facing them. Good for a jumping point, but may not be the most reliable source for hard facts.
GORP — Funny name, useful information. While geared toward the weekend warrior, the shear amount of park guides at hand for all 50 states (and international state parks as well) makes it a still very useful tool. Photo galleries of the parks are much more representative of the parks than some other sites.
Glacier National Park — Much along the lines of the Everglades National Park website, this site is full of information wrapped in an ugly package. Good tool, but probably no reason to go here over the National Parks Service site.
SmokeyBear.com — Everyone’s favorite anti-forest fire bear has his own website, and while aimed at teaching children about the dangers of a matchbook and a can of kerosene, the contact information provided still proves itself to be very useful. And plus, you can’t talk about National Parks without also mentioning Smokey the Bear.
OhRanger.com — Many similarities to GORP.com, yet nuanced in its feature to ask national park questions to an “expert”, much in the fashion of Ask.com or WikiAnswers. State and national parks are broken down by state, along with a comprehensive search engine, thus allowing ease of access in finding the park you’re looking for. If the experts answering questions are in fact what they say they are, OhRanger.com would easily surpass GORP in usability.
National Biological Information Infrastructure — Another good source for researching the issues facing the environment, including national parks. Operated by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Biological Informatics Office, information found here can be more trustworthy than other random sites. A great, if not necessary, tool for investigation.
Bureau of Land Management — Their mission statement is at the bottom of the page, and it pretty much summarizes what they aim to do: “to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.” As a government site it is subject to speculation on some of the data they present, but as a source for official opinions regarding public lands, you can’t do any better.
3-D Parks — A fun little website to see some of the national parks in three-dimensions, it has been temporarily shut down for “review” (which may end up being a permanent closure). Not much here as far as hard fact finding goes, but nonetheless an interesting way to see how the government has been trying to repackage and gain interest in the national park system.
National Parks Conservation Association — Another great source for finding current issues with national parks. It mirrors many ways of the Sierra Club, but with an added emphasis on the national parks system. Once again, contact information for expert opinions might be the best part of the site.
New York Times National Parks Travel Guide — A bit of a surprise on the list, the Old Gray Lady throws herself into the ring of national parks. More stories are shown here over hard facts, but regardless a great way to find new angles on some of the rehashed stories told about the parks.
El Yunque Peak — Hey, Puerto Rico may not be a state, but it still has a mountain worth talking about. Also named the Caribbean National Forest, it was included in the National park system in 1903. The site itself gives facts on the height, elevation, and topography of the mountain, although it does lean too far towards hiking for a purely investigative purpose.
National Park Foundation — Again, while this is the fundraising arm of the national park system, it is still a useful tool for those looking for broader information in regards to one of their popular parks. A brief overview of each park comes with a few useful links to other websites, including nps.gov.