Think You Know Our Parks? Take a Look at Them from These Angles

See these beloved national landscapes through a new lens.

August 25, 2016

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then photography’s contribution to the 100-year history of the National Park Service is nothing short of epic. The NPS Historic Photos Collection contains more than two million images. Some scenes in that archive look very familiar; there’s a reason why head-on views of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Falls, and Mount Rushmore are so well-documented, and no number of camera clicks can ever diminish their natural beauty. But to celebrate of our lands’ history and diversity, we’re highlighting a selection of images that offer a slightly different perspective.

Jean Speiser seems to have been the only female NPS photographer of her day. She snapped this lovely sliver of Bryce Canyon’s Navajo Loop Trail in 1956.

Jean Speiser, NPS Historic Photos Collection

A lot of work went into this 1930s picture of Arches National Park. Designed for use in a “magic lantern” viewing device, the image was printed on glass and then hand-colored.

NPS Historic Photos Collection

Another hand-colored lantern slide from the 1930s: the Death Valley basin as seen from Dante’s View. Eerie indeed.

NPS Historic Photos Collection

During his impressive 40-plus-year career as a photographer for the NPS, Jack E. Boucher traveled to 49 states—including Florida, where in 1958, he captured this tranquil image of a brown pelican sitting in a red mangrove tree in Everglades National Park.

Jack E. Boucher, NPS Historic Photos Collection

Animal tracks, though inconspicuous in other ecosystems, make quite an impression against the gypsum dunefields of White Sands National Monument.

George A. Grant, NPS Historic Photos Collection

And those tracks in the sand can come in handy. The shadowy details of this 1959 photo, also taken in White Sands National Monument, capture how park rangers would find lost visitors—just follow their footprints!

Natt N. Dodge, NPS Historic Photos Collection

Spanning some 290 feet, the Landscape Arch is the longest of the natural stone arches at Arches National Park in Utah and the fifth-longest natural arch in the world.

Thomas C. Gray, NPS Historic Photos Collection

Another sort of natural arch: This 1900 picture of an ice cave was likely taken in Glacier National Park.

NPS Historic Photos Collection

Zion National Park’s steep red cliffs are spectacular to behold, but in this black-and-white image, it’s the bird-like shadow cast upon them by passing clouds that steals the show.

NPS Historic Photos Collection

Assateague Island was set to be a private resort, but a 1962 nor’easter blew that idea out of the water—and cleared a path for preservation. This 1964 waterscape was taken just months before half of the barrier island was designated a national seashore.

Wilber (Bud) E. Dutton, NPS Historic Photos Collection

The surface of the Rio Grande is a perfect mirror before the mouth of the Santa Elena Canyon swallows it up. Natt N. Dodge, who took this picture in 1944, was a NPS biologist with a reputation as a “competent man with a camera.” (Ya think?!)

Natt N. Dodge, NPS Historic Photos Collection

Doorways like the one in this 1929 picture of Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Culture National Park were built in the corners to connect diagonal rooms. So far, they have only been found in ruins of buildings built by the Chaco Canyon people.

George A. Grant, NPS Historic Photos Collection

The blues and greens of this image of a cactus forest in Saguaro National Park are not the colors that usually spring to mind when imagining the American Southwest.

Natt N. Dodge, NPS Historic Photos Collection

Bryce Canyon National Park is best known for its hoodoos—spectacular pillar-like rock formations that protrude from badlands. The same geological processes formed natural bridges like this one.

Thomas C. Gray, NPS Historic Photos Collection

Yentna is one of the 40 named glaciers in Denali National Park. This 1966 photograph also captures icefall from Mount Russell, which rises almost 10,000 feet above the glacier.

Norman Herkenham, NPS Historic Photos Collection


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