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Reader Participation Day: What is the Most Iconic Image Associated With the National Park System?


Would you say Half Dome is the most iconic image associated with national parks? Photo copyright QT Luong,, used with permission.

Yellowstone has Old Faithful, in Yosemite looms Half Dome, and Arches has Delicate Arch.

Those are just three settings that are readily identified with national parks. But which view in the National Park System do you think is the most iconic of all when talk turns to parks?

Do you think of the bison that is on the Interior Department logo or on the National Park Service shield? What about the presidential images chiseled into Mount Rushmore?

Tell us, what is the most iconic image of the National Park System?


As much as I love the natural wonders that you have mentioned and there are many, many more, Mt. Rushmore speaks volumes to me!! In my opinion, the representation of the 4 American Presidents on its rock face embody the essence of our country!

George Washington, our country's 1 President! As a brand new nation, trying its wings in such a "grand experiment" of Democracy, the eyes of the world were upon us. What we did would echo through the history of the civilized world!

Thomas Jefferson, a visionary President who expanded our borders, adding some of the most beautiful landscapes ever seen! His foresight to explore this new territory has left our nation all the more richer for it!

Abraham Lincoln, a President whose strength needs no explanation. He held this country together in one of the most tumultuous times in our nation's history. Had he not have worked tirelessly to re-unify our divided nation, who knows where our landmarks might be today?

Theodore Roosevelt, (my personal favorite, fascinating person I would have liked to have met) the Conservationist President! In an era of the wealthy having privilege he realized the necessity of preserving wild places for generations to follow! In his remarks to the Governor's Conference in November 1908 he catalogued irresponsibility and abuses against our Nation's natural resources. He charged the Governors to develop a "philosophy of conservation",
"We have to , as a nation, exercise foresight...and if we do not exercise that foresight, dark will be the future!"

Old Faithful is the most iconic, I think, although Delicate Arch is way more dramatic in real life. Once you've been to Yellowstone, you realize that while, yes, geysers are bizarre and cool, Old Faithful is not that much different than so many other geysers in the area, and its setting has become such a touristy location that it hardly feels like you're out enjoying nature anymore. But Delicate Arch...coming around that final bend in the trail and seeing it for the first's an experience you will never forget. As my then nine year old daughter so aptly put it, "Every time I go up to it and actually touch it, I feel like I should call it 'Sir.'"

How about our ARROWHEAD emblem? It represents ALL our parks, monuments, sites, rivers . . . . all our whatever you choose to call thems and all the dedicated people who preserve them. To me, it's the universal symbol of our pride.

I have to go with Lee on the Arrowhead, but so many visitors don't know what it means or even notice it. So many times, while looking at the Arrowhead, visitors talk about how nice the National Forests are! Picking the most iconic is difficult. I would say some of the Washington DC monuments, or the Statue of Liberty, but a lot of people don't know they are NPS sites.

Liberty Island is a national monument, not a park, but I'd say that the Statue of Liberty would easily win.

If we are strictly talking about national parks, I think it's a toss-up between Half Dome and Old Faithful.

RangerLady, I really do believe that most anyone who has ever visited a national park area will associate the Arrowhead with it in some way.

But as for the never ending confusion between NPS and USFS, it's hopeless.

Once while I was stationed at Greenbelt Park just outside Wash D.C., I had an opportunity to go out to the Greenbelt Experimental Farm when President Nixon was there to look at a cow with a window in its stomach. As he left the barn, I was standing in a line of U.S. Park policemen proudly wearing my best dress uniform. He walked a couple of steps past me before my flat hat registered on him. He popped back, stuck his hand out to shake mine and said, "I'm always glad to meet a FOREST RANGER!" I knew right then and there that he should be impeached.

But the real reason is that it's all the Forest Service's fault. After all, they stole our noble hat and put it on their silly bear. At least they never got hold of the Arrowhead.

Geez, and I almost forgot. It was Nixon who tried to rob us of that precious emblem back in the 70's when he was trying to "Modernize" the government image. Along with trying to outfit the White House guards in uniforms straight of Kaiser Willhelm's Prussian army, (those hats were almost dead ringers for the cavalry helmets shown in Traveler pictures recently from Ft. Laramie) he tried to replace the arrowhead with a modernistic thingamajigger that can't be described in words. Not polite ones, anyway. It caused a near mutiny within our ranks.

And a few years ago, while visiting Navajo National Monument, I noticed that emblem pasted on some trash cans outside the VC. When I asked about it, the ranger lady at the desk explained that they had found it on some paperwork in the files and thought it was a recycling emblem. (Honest. That's a true story!)

Keep smiling!

Just to clarify: Statue of Liberty National Monument has been managed by the National Park System since 1924 and is still counted as one of the 393 NPS units. Ellis Island National Monument has been an administrative unit of Statue of Liberty National Monument since 1965.

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