Fun Facts About U.S. National Parks: Weird Facts

Check out these weird and unusual facts about our National Parks & celebrate the 100th anniversary of the U.S. National Park Service!

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016. In honor of the centennial, we are sharing 100 facts, from the basic to the bizarre, to inspire you to join the celebration at one of the many beautiful national parks across the country.

National parks are filled with majesty, mystery, interest, intrigue, wonder and, well, sometimes just plain weirdness. Below, we’ve collected 20 of our favorite facts that’ll make you stop and think.

1) A Yosemite bear once slapped at so many people, it was nicknamed “Swatter.”


2) The Rockefeller family built a nuclear fallout shelter under the bowling alley at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Vermont.

3) A South Dakota miner started calling Mount Rushmore by this name after a visiting New York attorney – Charles Rushmore – inquired about the name of the granite cliff. The name stuck and became official in 1930.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, South Dakota

4) In 1999, the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras National Seashore was moved about a half mile inland due to erosion.

Lighthouse at Cape Hatteras National Seashore

5) The NPS oversees two former World War II Japanese internment camp sites: Manzanar and Minidoka national historic sites.

Manzanar National Historic Site, California

6) Biscayne National Park in Florida is 95 percent underwater, and it is known for its beautiful coral reefs.

Biscayne National Park, Florida

7) Zion National Park has a popular slot canyon whose tubular appearance earns it the moniker, “the Subway.”

Subway Slot Canyon, Zion National Park, Utah

8) According to Kiowa Native American legend, Devils Tower National Monument was created when seven young girls chased by bears jumped on a low rock and prayed for help. The rock rose, lifting the girls out of reach. The bears then scratched deep gouges in the enormous pillar of rock.

Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming

9) Everglades National Park is the only place in the world where American alligators and American crocodiles co-exist.

Everglades National Park, Florida

10) Skeletons of pygmy mammoths — small mammoths that likely evolved from Columbian mammoths — are found only on California’s Channel Islands National Park.

Channel Islands National Park, California

11) The layers of rock in the formations of Badlands National Park in South Dakota — sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires — reveal more than 75 million years of geologic history.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

12) Kalaupapa National Historical Park in Hawaii was first established in 1866 as a leper colony. A few former patients, who are no longer contagious, still live there today.

13) Mesa Verde National Park includes ruins of 600 cliff dwellings and is the largest archaeological preserve in the U.S.

Mesa Verde National Park, Montezuma County, Colorado

14) Some trees in Redwoods National Park are approximately 2,000 years old!

Redwood National Park, California

15) Speaking of old trees, bristlecone pines, found in western national parks such as Great Basin National Park in Nevada and Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah can be up to 5,000 years old.

Bristlecone Pine, Great Basin National Park, Nevada

16) And if that’s not old enough for you, many trees in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park are about 218 million years old. Though they died long ago and are actually tree fossils.

Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park

17) Biologists at Rocky Mountain National Park once found a deer skeleton 14 feet up in a tree, likely dragged up by a mountain lion.

18) The 2,180-plus-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail passes through 14 states.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

19) Saguaro National Park cacti live an average of 150 to 175 years, but can live for more than 200 years. The tallest ever measured was 78 feet tall, but typically they reach about 45 feet.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

20) A feud over ownership led to the creation of Wind Cave National Park. In 1899, the Department of the Interior found neither of the parties claiming ownership had a lawful claim to the land. President Roosevelt signed the bill establishing the park in 1903.

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota
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