100th Anniversary of the National Park Service
On August 25th, the National Park Service will celebrate its 100th year of serving, protecting and preserving the most beautiful and historic landscapes in the United States. The Department of Interiors saw the importance of protecting our rich lands and natural resources back in 1916 when it was first formed. Today, the National Parks Service is made up of 540 parks, along with over 1,000 recreations areas that include wildlife refuges, wildernesses, reservoirs, prairies and scenic bodies of water.
On the Outer Banks, we are lucky enough to have four National Parks to explore and enjoy throughout the year. These stunning landmarks include The Wright Brother’s National Memorial, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Bodie Island Lighthouse and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
The most well-known park, The Wright Brother’s National Memorial, is not only an Outer Banks attraction, but one of the greatest achievements of mankind. The Memorial’s local historian, Darrell Collins, is onsite to eloquently share the story of the Wright Brothers and the relationships they built with the locals on the Outer Banks, especially the Tate family. One of the Tate daughters is still alive today and recalls how in her lifetime she was able to witness firsthand the great strides in aviation, from seeing the brothers first test flights to watching the first space shuttle launch in 1981, just 78 years later. The Parks Service commemorates this remarkable achievement with the Wright Brother’s monument, a Visitors Center, replicas of the camps the brothers lived in, historic statues and flight markers indicating the first successful flight times and distances. Visit the park any day of the week, year-round, from 9 am – 5 pm for just $7 for adults (16 and under). The park is free to children under 15.
Another historic park on the Outer Banks is the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site in Manteo that is dedicated to preserving the history and artifacts of England’s first settlements in the New World from 1584 -1590. The scenic self-guided trail honors the first setters with historic monuments, the Lost Colony’s Waterside Theatre and the recent archaeological excavation to learn more about America’s longest unsolved mystery – the lost colony.
Just a short drive from Fort Raleigh, is another Parks Service destination, the Bodie Island Lighthouse. Construction on the 54 foot tower began in 1859 to help boaters navigate through the dangerous coastline. The lighthouse was transferred to the National Park Service in 1953, and after several renovations became a visitor center for Cape Hatteras National Seashore in 1992. The lighthouse is still used as a navigational guide today and is open to the public to climb 257 steps to the top.
The first Outer Banks lighthouse, The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, was originally built in 1803 and is still the world’s tallest and most recognized lighthouse, standing 208 feet tall. After years of beach erosion, the lighthouse was carefully moved nearly 3,000 feet to a more stable location. Visitors can climb these historic towers from 9 am – 4:30 pm daily from the end of April through Columbus Day. Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for seniors and children 11 and under.
Whether you’re visiting the Outer Banks or are miles away, take the opportunity to explore some of America’s greatest treasures. The Parks Service is celebrating their 100th birthday throughout the year with special events happening nationwide. Visit National Parks Service website at www.nps.gov to find parks in your area and upcoming events. Now get out there and explore!