Connecting With National Parks, No Matter Where You Are

100 Digital Ways to Celebrate with the National Park Service
November 3, 2016Allison DruinNPF Blog
– Frederick Carlson, Share the Experience

There are so many digital ways to explore our national parks: from social media to mobile apps; virtual field trips to webcams; 360-degree movies to the nps.gov website. Parks and programs across the country are using all these tools to enhance your visitor experiences!

In addition, scientists, curators, archivists and librarians who work across the National Park Service are using digital tools to preserve our history, better understand our natural resources, and share the stories of our parks. What follows are 100 digital ways you can celebrate our national parks today and for the next century.

These are not the only digital paths to our parks and programs, but examples of the treasures that await you.

The Web (4)

  • nps.gov  This is the web home of the National Park Service. Millions of national park visitors explore these pages every year. It is the digital place you can plan a visit, explore a topic, learn about history, or discover science.
  • Things to Do  Have you ever wondered what there might be to do on a given day in many different national parks? To plan your visit, put in your dates and see what is happening around the country.
  • We need Virtual Volunteers  Help the National Park Service web team with testing and giving feedback on our web experiences. Together we can enhance and improve our online path to the national parks.
  • Get your 4th grader a free pass to national parks  Join our Every Kid in a Park program by going to this online site. If you’re a parent or teacher of a 4th grade kid or a 4th grader, you can sign up, print out a paper pass, and get ready to find your national parks this year for free!

Diverse group of children in a national park holding their Every Kid In A Park pass.
Tami Heilemann, US Department of the Interior

WebCams (13)

  • Venture to Alaska by watching the Denali PuppyCam  On this popular webcam, watch the sled dog puppies as they play and grow. Find out why these dogs are a part of a cultural tradition across Alaska. Now with a digital window to these dogs, we can all enjoy these special traditions in a new way.
  • Saguaro National Park Wildlife Webcam  Wildlife cameras are placed all around the park to capture wildlife being wildlife! From the visitor center to the pond, you can see the natural vegetation and animals.
  • Bear Cams in Alaska!  You can watch the brown bears at Katmai National Park! You can find these amazing creatures eating, exploring, and more. If you want to know what people are saying about these bears, follow them on Twitter at #bearcam.​

A brown bear stands its mouth open, reaching for jumping salmon at Katmai National Park and Preserve

A brown bear catching fish at Katmai National Park and Preserve

Kathryn Capaldo, Share the Experience

Social Media (6)

  • #FindYourPark/#EncuentraTuParque  During this Centennial year there are so many people finding their national parks and public lands and sharing their experiences. One way is through social media. On Twitter and Facebook, visitors are using the hashtag: #FindYourPark and tagging their park pictures. See what people are talking about or what beauty they’re capturing in pictures! You can also go to FindYourPark.com and see webpages of thousands of postings. People from all over the country have shared their experiences at national parks, heritage areas, trails, and more.

The word “park” appears over Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Distance Learning (4)

  • Distance Learning at the Grand Canyon  Rangers bring the history, science, and excitement of the Grand Canyon to school children all over the country. With video conferencing, children interact with rangers at the Grand Canyon to ask questions, see the park virtually, and make their own discoveries through accompanying class activities.
  • From the Snow Desk  Join rangers from Grand Teton National Park, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Yellowstone National Park through digital distance education. From their perch at the “snow desk,” an actual desk made from snow, rangers share how wildlife adapt to extreme weather, how climate science is important, and how the winter ecology of plants and animals survive the very cold weather.
  • Going Deep into Channel Islands  From scuba diving to rock formations, you can learn from a distance with Park Rangers at Channel Islands.

  • Petrified Forest Virtual Field Trips  The “Ask a Ranger” distance education digital program is for any grade level, lasts 30 minutes, and enables students to interact with a ranger, asking questions in real time. The “Where in the World is Petrified Forest?” digital program is designed specifically for 4th thru 6th grades, lasts 45 minutes, and involves in-class learning about plate tectonics and geography.
  • Rangers from Biscayne National Park go to classrooms  Thanks to Skype or Google Hangouts, Biscayne National Park rangers present on a variety of topics and answer questions from school children.
  • Gettysburg National Military Park Virtual Field Trips   There are 4 different types of trips to choose from. With each of these virtual field trips, you can explore battlefield maps, historic photographs, speeches, video clips, and live discussion time with a ranger.

Image Collections (6)

  • NPS Media-Quality Photo Gallery  Explore this gallery to find high-resolution images that represent the unique character of our national parks. You can search for topics, parks, or National Park Service programs.
  • Multimedia Search  Search for multimedia—including photos, videos, audio, and webcams— on a wide variety of topics. Explore, learn, and enjoy.

Double rainbow appears over Lake Powell
Ross Kantra, NPS
  • NPS Museum Collections  Did you realize there are many museum collections in the National Park Service? Now 113 national parks have online images of their collections. There are images of park furnishings, historic clothing, toys, art, and more from parks honoring such historical figures as Clara Barton and Martin Luther King Jr. to wilderness sites such as Death Valley National Park and Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.
  • Open Parks Network Image Collection  You can wander the images from such national parks as Cape Hatteras National Seashore or the Great Smoky Mountains or the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. This collection, developed by Clemson University in partnership with the National Park Service, contains over 350,000 cultural heritage objects and 1.5 million pages previously only found in the libraries, museums, and archives of our nation’s parks, historic sites, and other protected areas.
  • Painted Landscapes of the National Parks  For the first time, paintings, watercolors, sketches, and other works on paper from over 50 National Park Service museum collections are now online. These works of art visually share the story of the Service’s first 100 years.
  • Historic Photo Collection  Compelling photography has contributed to the creation of the National Park Service and the preservation of America’s most special places. Since artists first began capturing images of Yosemite and Yellowstone in the early nineteenth century, the National Park Service has been collecting these images. A small portion of these images are now online for you to explore.

Audio/Sound Collections (4)

  • The NPS Oral History Project  Hear from National Park Service personnel who have been a part of the bureau’s history during its second half-century. Recorded, transcribed, and archived by the Association of National Park Rangers, this treasure trove of stories shares what it’s like to be a wilderness ranger, and the challenges of developing a career in the National Park Service.
  • Thomas Edison Sound Recordings  Listen to a selection of Edison recordings from Thomas Edison National Historical Park. From comedy sketches to motion picture soundtracks to jazz music and poetry readings, these recordings are just a small number of the thousands recordings that can be found on disc and cylinder record collections now housed in the Edison Labs.
  • National Parks Sound Gallery Discover the sounds of your national parks recorded by the NPS Natural Sounds Program. Explore both human and wilderness sounds such as wildlife calls, historical battles, music, oceans, avalanches, and weather. You can even hear what singing sand sounds like!

Cannon firing demonstration at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
National Park Service
  • Audio Archive from WWII  Hear from survivors of Pearl Harbor and learn their experiences from the war. What was it like to be in Pearl Harbor on this historic and fateful day? Online archives of people’s stories are ready to be heard.

Podcast Tours (3)

  • Ranger podcasts  Take a “Ranger Minute” and learn more about geology and historic moments in the Chiricahua Mountains. These podcasts, narrated by rangers from Chiricahua National Monument, give you a sense of history and natural wonders in our south west.
  • Lassen Volcanic Podcasts  Take the self-guided tours of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Each series offers a personal guide with insights on one of the park's many highlights.
  • Gettysburg National Military Park Podcast Tours  In this 90-minute walking tour of a Gettysburg battlefield landmark, Interpretive Ranger Eric Campbell shares his thorough knowledge of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Mobile Device Audio Tours  (11+)

360 Degree Video (4)

  • Tour Yosemite National Park with President Obama in 3D!  This is the first virtual reality (VR) look at a park with a President of the United States. Through the Ages is a short 10-minute video shot by virtual reality filmmakers in collaboration with the White House, Oculus, and National Geographic. The video was created last summer when the Obama family visited Yosemite National Park.

  • Hidden Worlds of the National Parks  The national parks are full of wonders, but many people don’t get the chance to visit in person. Now anyone can take a virtual tour of some of our most breathtaking national parks, no matter where you are. Immerse yourself in 360-degree video tours through some of the most remote places in five different national parks.
  • Explore the Lincoln Memorial  See this important monument in a virtual tour by clicking and dragging inside the chamber where the statue of President Lincoln is housed. Zoom in and see the sculpture and the architectural beauty.
  • Totem Trail Virtual Tour  View 3D renderings of the Sika National Park in Alaska’s totem poles. Learn about the their history, discover their pole type, and more.

Online Videos (12)

  • NPS YouTube Channel  With videos from parks across the country, in this YouTube Channel you can learn more about the 100 years of the National Park Service; how parks can support our health; and how NPS preserves the world’s historical treasures.
  • Olympic National Park YouTube Channel  Explore the beaches, forest, climate, and wildlife, though these many videos created by the park as well as outside organizations.
  • Yosemite Nature Notes (and other great video)  Plan your visit to this great national park by exploring the videos online. You will find information if you are deaf, if you are interested in bears, the climate, or even poetry about the park.
  • Future Rangers at Mount Rainier National Park  Learn about the people who make the national parks possible by watching this video of future rangers! Meet future backcountry rangers, law enforcement rangers, education rangers, maintenance staff, and many more!

  • Ellis Island Virtual Field Trip  Learn about immigration, the history of those who traveled through Ellis Island, and come to understand the immigration data over two centuries. There are teachers’ guides, student worksheets, and even an interactive map.
  • Story Stone Videos   More than 20,000 individuals are buried in Andersonville National Cemetery. Each of these men, women, and children has a unique story behind them. A Story in Stone is a video series produced by park staff to highlight some of the people buried here, or connected to the cemetery. Each one of these videos shares a unique story of loss, mourning, and sacrifice.
  • The Midwest National Parks  Spanning 13 states and preserving over 60 park sites in video, this YouTube channel lets you explore the beauty of our midwest region’s national parks.
  • The Yellowstone Video Library  Have you ever wondered what it looked like when bison graze in the Winter? Have you ever thought about how geysers erupt? These video clips of the natural wonders of Yellowstone National Park can be played and used without limitation.
  • Protecting Oceans  How are the national parks protecting oceans? With these online videos you can learn from NPS scientists how conservation and scientific efforts work to protect oceans for all life on earth.
  • Bats in Crisis Videos  Watch these online videos to learn more about white-nose syndrome and the efforts different parks, such as Mammoth Cave National Park and Lava Beds National Monument, are making to identify and respond to this deadly disease in bats.
  • Of the Student, By the Student at Harpers Ferry National Park  Seventy Harpers Ferry Middle School students spent time in their local national park and then became writers, editors, photographers, choreographers, set designers, videographers, and even public relations representatives to produce and promote six mini-documentaries, depicting their understanding of the famous John Brown Raid in Harpers Ferry. (And check out all of the Harpers Ferry Educational videos.)
  • Youth Ambassadors Program Videos  Want to see how our Youth Ambassadors are interpreting their national park experiences? Check out these videos encouraging kids to get outside and move, sharing their insights on the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, and much more!
  • Round Spring and Cave with Ranger Bill  Explore the Round Spring and Cave of Ozark National Scenic Riverways with your Ranger, Bill O’Donnell. Discover the water and its vegetation to the cave with its rock formations and underwater ways.
  • Jazz Streamed Live!  New Orleans Jazz NHP streams all their concerts live.

Mobile Apps (14)

  • 23 Parks, 3 Mobile apps, 1 place in NY Harbor  Download these three mobile apps and learn more about the national parks that are in and around New York Harbor. There are maps, self-guided audio tours, park special events, and even virtual postcards.
  • Explore Gateway National Recreation Area  With this official National Park Service app you can learn more about a group of National Park Service sites in California. Whether it’s birdwatching or biking, this app can help you in your visit to this recreation area.
  • Tour the National Mall with your mobile phone  Download the National Mall app and learn more about what you’re seeing or about to see in our nation’s capital. There are virtual tours and maps, and you can even make a virtual postcard!
  • Learn more about Historic Boston with an app  Download this app to wander Boston’s Freedom Trail or Black Heritage Trail! There’s maps, tours, and park info, and you can create your own trail to walk.
  • Your Mobile Phone Can Predict Geyser Eruptions  Discover the natural wonder of Old Faithful and other geysers at Yellowstone National Park. View eruption predictions and watch streaming video on your mobile device.
  • Visit Yellowstone National Park on your App  Plan your visit to Yellowstone National Park with the official National Park Service app. Use the features to help you discover the stories behind scenery as you explore Yellowstone.
  • Grand Teton Touring App  Learn more about the stories of Grand Teton Nation Park. This app enables you to hear about the history, science, and people at iconic landmarks. As you drive, your GPS triggers pre-recorded audio stories, allowing you to listen and learn while seeing the scenic spots.
  • Looking for your perfect park match?  This fun spoof of dating apps by Funny Or Die highlights  an “app” that helps visitors find the national park of their dreams.  It is one more way to Find Your Park to celebrate the NPS Centennial.
  • Explore our country’s founding with this app  Learn about the Liberty Bell, Benjamin Franklin, Independence Hall and more! Discover the sites and people of the American Revolution and the founding of the nation.
  • Learn more about Golden Gate National Recreation Area  From the history of the area to the ecosystem to the ways to play and relax on foot, horse, or in car, this app will share valuable information.  
  • Visit Klondike Gold Rush  With this app you can walk the streets, see the many sites, and learn more of the history of what makes this area so important to American history.
  • Time for the beach with this app  Explore Cape Hatteras and learn about the lighthouses, beaches, and coastal wildlife and land.
  • Explore Historic Sites and learn about Herbert Hoover, our 31st President. Use it on your visit to West Branch, Iowa, to discover the places and people that shaped the early life of the of this man.
  • Explore a Fort  There are courtrooms, gallows, and canons to learn about at Fort Smith National Historic Site. With this app you can see maps, get tours, and even send an e-postcard from the park!

Educational Materials (3)

  • Online Education Portal  Find lesson plans that you can use to support learning in your classroom or out in the national parks. From history and science to art and math, you can find hundreds of lesson plans that can offer place-based learning.
  • Become a WebRanger!  A longtime online favorite, created by the National Park Service, this website can support children learning more about all of our national parks. Games, badges, behind the scenes ranger stations, and more! (Warning—this site still uses Flash plug-ins, so it does not work on a mobile device.)

  • The Digital Future of the Past  Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site's 19th-century account books were conserved and digitized with support from the Museum Conservation Services at Harpers Ferry Design Center.  The 76 digital account books made up of 18,249 account ledger images are now online ready for you to learn from and enjoy.

Interactive Maps (4)

  • Cartography  Find a park map by state or territory to see a listing of all national parks in that state or territory.  National Park System Maps includes the National Park System Map & Guide, National Park Guide, four versions of the National Park System Map, and the National Park Service Regions Map.
  • Online Landscape Monitoring  The NPScape metric viewer provides a user-friendly, interactive map that allows non-GIS specialists to explore GIS data. You can incorporate the maps and graphics into reports or briefings. You can understand the landscape changes over time and by park.
  • Learn more about Voyageurs National Park  With this interactive map, you can better understand the cultural landscapes of this special place.
  • Wonder what the national parks look like from space?  Use this app created by NPS and NASA to see the national parks as you’ve never seen them before!

BioBlitz (3)

  • Explore BioBlitz 2016 Data  See the number of observations made at our national parks during 2016. 295 parks have at least one observation!  See online pictures of recent observations.
  • Find a BioBlitz event  This online mapping tool will show you where citizens across the United States have been a part of collecting data about plants, animals, and more.
  • Bat BioBlitz 2016 Video  Rock Creek Park conducted a bat inventory led by a team of scientists and trained bat surveyors. Mist nets made of nylon mesh stretched across the creek in four locations. Curious BioBlitz-ers had come to the park, eager for a close view of the small and furry animals.

Natural Resource Tracking and Data Preservation (9)

  • Species Lists  NPSpecies is a web-based system that provides parks a way to build, manage, and share park species information. Discover the species of plants and animals found in our national parks.
  • Digital lists of Park Vegetation  Learn about the plants that are living around the Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln or Crater Lake National Park or Stone’s River National Battlefield. There are maps and lists online to explore for hundreds of parks.
  • AirAtlas  Want to know the air quality around any of our national parks? Why should you care? Because the quality of air in national parks can significantly affect park resources such as vegetation, soils, water, and buildings and monuments, as well as park visitors. In this online resource you can find web maps that provide visualization of estimated air quality statistics for atmospheric deposition, ozone, and visibility in the contiguous United States.
  • National Capital Region Visualizes Water Quality  With this digital tool, you can see the water quality of our streams in the National Capital Region. Graphs show visual data collected about our national streams from 2005 to 2013.
  • NPS Data Store  The Data Store contains records for both spatial and non-spatial data sets including documents, natural resource databases, GIS data sets, boundary data, base cartographic data, GIS layer standards, and images.
  • NPS Climate Change Data  Want to know how the climates are changing around our national parks? These short “online briefs” will show current and past climate information.  To understand the "climate change exposure" of national parks—in other words, the magnitude and direction of ongoing changes in climate—the Inventory and Monitoring and Climate Change Response programs investigated how recent climates compared to historical conditions.
  • National Resources Data Series Reports Want to learn more from the scientists who work in our parks everyday? You can download reports from 2016 to 2009. From monitoring forest vegetation to Alaska region fire ecology, the information is online and there for you.
  • Map Movies See how human populations have changed or how housing has become denser in our national parks. With these online movies of data the National Park Service is tracking, you can see graphically how change is happening in and around our parks.
  • NPS E-History  Are you looking to learn more about the history of the national parks and the National Park Service? This repository of primary source materials can help you learn about everything from what the wolves were like at Isle Royale in 1966 to mining history in Alaska reported in 1997.

In August 2015, Dr. Allison Druin was named by the National Park Service, Special Advisor for National Digital Strategy. By taking a leave of absence from the University of Maryland for two years, Druin focuses on how to better leverage digital tools to excite the next generation of park visitors, to change how the national parks share their stories, and to better preserve our cultural and natural resources.


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