National Park Service sites in Illinois to visit to mark the anniversary

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The National Park Service turns 106 on August 25, 2022.

National Park Service

Thursday is the 106th anniversary of the National Park Service, and the U.S. Department of the Interior agency celebrates each year.

The NPS operates 423 sites across America considered important for cultural heritage and recreational opportunities. It was officially established on August 25, 1916, via the “Organic Act”, signed by then President Woodrow Wilson. At the time, the NPS oversees 35 parks and monuments, although it will steadily increase its holdings in the years to come.

Several NPS sites are over 106 years old, including Yellowstone National Park, which was created from land in the territories of Wyoming and Montana through the Yellowstone Act of 1872.

Illinois National Parks

Illinois is home to a handful of NPS funds, including Lincoln Home National Historic Site and Pullman National Monument, as well as parts of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, and Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.

Here’s what to know about each, including the dates they were established.

Lincoln’s House National Historic Site

This NPS holding company in Springfield was created in August 1971 and center around the home of former President Abraham Lincoln.

In 2021, nearly 90,000 visitors came to the site and it ranked 224th overall in the system in terms of popularity.

Pullman National Monument

This Chicago landmark was included in the park system holdings on February 19, 2015, by former President Barack Obama, who prior to his presidency served as a U.S. Senator from Illinois.

“The park tells the story of one of the first planned industrial communities in the United States, the sleeping-car magnate who helped create it, and the workers who lived there,” reads a description of the site by NPS. “The neighborhood is significant for its influence on town planning and design, as well as for its role in American labor history, including the 1894 Pullman strike and boycott.”

National Historic Trails in Illinois

The Lewis and Clark NHT has one foot in southwestern Illinois and spans approximately 4,900 miles. It was created in November 1978 by an amendment to the National Parks and Recreation Act.

The Mormon Pioneer NHT begins in Nauvoo, Illinois, and travels 1,300 miles, marking the journey of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Salt Lake City, Utah, from 1846 to 1847. It became a part of the system park in 1978.

The Trail of Tears NHT has branches in nine states and marks the fate of Native Americans driven from their lands by the US government under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Thousands of Native Americans died as a result of ethnic cleansing. The National Trail runs through southern Illinois. The historic park service trail dates back to 1987, with additions added in 2009.

Just across the state lines

Those in the Metro East might want to head to St. Louis and celebrate 160 years of the NPS by visiting Gateway Arch State Park.

It was the 68th most visited site in the parks system in 2021 with over one million visitors.

The park was founded in 1935 and known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The arch was completed in 1965.

The structure symbolizes the westward expansion of the United States, via the Louisiana Purchase, in the 1800s. The old courthouse is currently closed, according to the NPS website.

How to celebrate with the NPS

The system celebrates its birthday every August 25. This year, the system encourages visitors to share their “wow” moments while visiting the parks.

You can share a photo, video, memory, or more with a social media post that tags #NPSBirthday, #FindYourPark, or #EncuentraTuParque. An original deadline was August 15, but you can still score your submission, the NPS said.

Some rules include:

  • The video cannot be longer than one minute and you are asked to shoot horizontal shots.
  • Submissions must be your original work.
  • By submitting, you consent to NPS using your material.

You can also email your submission using “WOw 106” in the subject line.

Jackie Starkey is serving journalism editor for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Center Daily Times and the Belleville News-Democrat. She graduated from UNC Asheville and previously worked for the Carteret County News-Times on the North Carolina coast. She is based at the Herald-Leader in Lexington.