As National Park Service Turns 100, It Highlights 16 of the Most Stunning Park Images

By National Park Service
National Park Service
National Park Service
May 3, 2016 Updated: May 3, 2016

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Postal Service will begin celebrating the National Park Service’s Aug. 25 centennial just in time for summer vacation letter-writing by issuing a pane of stunning Forever Stamps depicting 16 examples of our national treasures on June 2.

“These stamps celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks and depict the beauty and diversity of these national treasures,” said Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan. “They serve as an inspiration for Americans to visit, learn, and to write cherished memories of their trips to these incredible wonders.”

“This set of stamps will take people on a journey to some of the most amazing places in the world,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “We are thrilled that the 16 national park stamps issued in 2016 for the centennial depict the variety of parks that collectively tell the story of our country.”

The June 2 first-day-of-issue ceremony will take place at New York City’s Javits Center at 11 a.m. as part of World Stamp Show N.Y.-2016. Dedication ceremonies also will take place at or near each of the national parks depicted on the stamps. Individuals are asked to spread the news on social media by using the hashtags #FindYourPark or #NPS100.

World Stamp Show NY-2016 will take place May 28–June 4. Held only once a decade, this mega event is not to be missed by beginners through advanced stamp collectors alike. There will be something for everyone there, no matter what you collect. Stamp collecting is a hobby for a lifetime. No matter what your specialty, you’ll find it at the show.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products, and services to fund its operations.

Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine

The stamp image depicting the Bass Harbor Head Light was photographed by David Muench. People have been drawn to the rugged coast of Maine throughout history. Awed by its beauty and diversity, early 20th-century visionaries donated the land that became Acadia National Park. The park is home to many plants and animals, and the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast. Today visitors come to Acadia to hike granite peaks, bike historic carriage roads, or relax and enjoy the scenery. For more information on Acadia, visit this link.

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Arches National Park, Moab, Utah. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

The stamp image is a photograph by Tom Till of Moab, Utah, and represents the iconic Delicate Arch. Delicate Arch is just one of more than 2,000 stone arches in a park that contains the greatest density of natural arches in the world. The park is a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures with thousands of natural stone arches, hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks. Visit this link for more information about Arches National Park and this link to download the Arches Visitor Guide.

Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland and Virginia. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland and Virginia. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland and Virginia

This barrier island is a tale of constant movement and change. Explore sandy beaches, salt marshes, maritime forests and coastal bays. Bands of wild horses freely roam amongst plants and native animals that have adapted to a life of sand, salt and wind. Visit this link for more information about Assateague Island National Seashore.

Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

The stamp image is a 1935–1936 pastel-on-paper depiction by Helmuth Naumer, Sr. (1907–1990) of the visitor center in Frijoles Canyon. Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged, beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back more than 11,000 years. Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities. Visit this link for information on this national treasure.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

The stamp image is a photograph by Richard McGuire of the interior of the caverns. High ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons, flowering cacti, and desert wildlife are all treasures above and below the Chihuahuan Desert ground. Carlsbad Cavern is one of more than 300 limestone caves in a fossil reef laid down by an inland sea 240 million to 280 million years ago. Visit this link for more information.

Everglades National Park, Florida. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Everglades National Park, Florida. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

Everglades National Park, Florida

The stamp image is a photograph by Paul Marcellini of Miami, Fla. Spanning the south Florida peninsula from Miami to Naples and south to the Florida Keys, Everglades National Park’s 1.5 million acres of sawgrass prairies, tropical hardwood hammocks, pine rocklands, mangrove forests, and marine and estuarine waters provide habitat for a wildlife spectacle like no other. Crocodiles, alligators, manatees, flamingos, herons, and turtles are just a small sampling of wildlife that can be seen here. Visit this link for more information about the park.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska

The stamp image is a photograph by Tom Bean of Flagstaff, Ariz. Covering 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate forests, wild coastlines, and deep sheltered fjords, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage and part of a 25-million acre World Heritage Site—one of the world’s largest international protected areas. From sea to summit, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve offers limitless opportunities for adventure and inspiration. Visit this link for more information.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The stamp image is a detail of a chromolithograph-on-canvas, “The Grand Canyon of Arizona, from Hermit Rim Road,” by artist Thomas Moran (1837–1926). Unique combinations of geologic color and erosional forms decorate a canyon that is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide and one mile deep. The Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, overwhelms our senses through its immense size. Visit this link for more information about the park.

Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida and Mississippi. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida and Mississippi. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida and Mississippi

The stamp image is a photograph of a heron, a long-legged water bird with a wingspan that can exceed six feet, by John Funderburk of Hernando, Fla. Whether you visit the seashore for a day or a week there are many activities and places to explore. Each of the seashore’s many areas in Florida and Mississippi offer unique experiences. Visit this link for more information.

Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii

A stunning photograph of the late afternoon sun shining into a heavy rain storm, forming rainbows over the crater at Haleakalā National Park, Maui, Hawaii. Haleakalā National Park vibrates with stories of ancient and modern Hawaiian culture and protects the bond between the land and its people. The park also cares for endangered species, some of which exist nowhere else. Come visit this special place—renew your spirit amid stark volcanic landscapes and sub-tropical rain forest with an unforgettable hike through the backcountry.

The Story Behind the Photo

The photograph is the work of Kevin Ebi, who lives near Seattle, Wash. Following is his narrative of capturing the image:

“When you think of Hawaii, you probably imagine continuous summer, warm water, and hot beaches. But a couple hours after landing on Maui, I was in the freezing cold, pelted by hail, surrounded by thunderclouds. For a few minutes at a time, the sun would briefly break through it, using rainbows as spotlights to illuminate Haleakalā’s volcanic cinder cones.

As a nature photographer, I was in heaven—or at least 10,000 feet closer to it.

Whether it’s because of the explosive growth of photography, or our need to take a break from our always-on, connected lives, our national parks are busier than ever. But for me, they can still be wondrous places of solitude. Such was the case that afternoon I spent chasing Haleakalā’s rainbows.

My day started as a scouting trip. Haleakalā is known for stunning sunrises. Getting that sunrise would require me to arrive at my shooting location while it was still dark. I decided to take a look at the crater during the day in order to determine where I wanted to be the next morning.

But the closer I got to Haleakalā’s summit, the less I could see. The fog got thicker and thicker. Then there was heavy rain. Then the rain turned to hail. I sprinted from the car into the visitor center, hoping to catch a bit of the view through the window. All I could make out was the railing of the viewing platform.

It quickly became clear that the storm wouldn’t stop. The few visitors in the center sprinted to their cars. I decided to stay put.

Then something amazing happened. The hail turned into a light drizzle. Sunlight poked through a tiny hole in the ominous cloud. And a rainbow dipped into the crater.

I managed to get a few shots before the sun slid back behind the storm clouds and the pelting hail resumed. It was a beautiful scene. Much of Haleakalā’s beauty comes from its rainbow-colored rocks. The rainbow in the sky complemented that nicely.

But I hoped for better placement of the rainbow. In those first images it was off to the side of the crater. I knew that as the sun moved across the sky, weather permitting, rainbows later in the day would land closer to a core group of cinder cones that I found especially attractive. And so I waited.

During the hour and a half I spent on the rim, the storm gave me just six opportunities to photograph rainbows. My favorite image—and the one that is used on the stamp—was taken during the next-to-last ‘window.’ It was also the briefest opportunity. I was able to shoot only a single frame before the rainbow vanished.

Back in the car, with the heat and the de-fogger set on high, I was thankful for the experience even though I was soaked. In all of my work as a photographer, I treasure most the images that show nature at its dynamic finest. Braving an intense hailstorm is just part of the experience—a key part of the experience.

National parks take us into a different world, a world of jaw-dropping scenery and experiences that are dramatically different from our daily lives. This image of Haleakalā is both to me. And it’s why I’m so honored that it will help commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.”

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C.

The stamp image—a water lily with a bloom the size of a basketball in Washington, D.C.’s Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens—was photographed by Cindy Dyer of Alexandria, Va., who also provided the images from Kenilworth for the “Water Lilies Forever Stamps” issued last year.

The water lilies are a sample of the hidden treasures tucked away in this time capsule surrounded by urban neighborhoods in our nation’s capital. The original water lilies were planted by a Civil War veteran who bought the 30-acre parcel in the 1880s. The park’s wetlands also provide habitat for many animals including fox, mink, and otter. Visit this link for more information.

Scenery in the Grand Tetons, Albert Bierstadt, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, MABI 2843. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Scenery in the Grand Tetons, Albert Bierstadt, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, MABI 2843. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Vermont

The first national parks were created after the conservation movement highlighted the beauty of America. An iconic Hudson River School of Art painting depicting the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park was part of this movement, and it now appears on one of the 16 stamps released to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.

“This stamp exemplifies how our national park treasures extend beyond stunning vistas, wildlife, flora, and fauna,” said Stephanie Toothman, NPS associate director of cultural resources, partnerships, and science. “Albert Bierstadt’s painting represents the convergence of artistic, literary, and political attention toward America’s scenic beauty in the 19th century, which helped establish conservation as a national value and laid the foundation for the first national parks a century ago.”

The stamp image is a detail of Bierstadt’s (1830–1902) 29-by-43-inch oil-on-canvas painting “Scenery in the Grand Tetons.” The permanent home of the painting is Laurance Rockefeller’s study in the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion.

The Conservation Movement and the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (NHP)

The fine art collection at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is one of the gems of the National Park Service and includes 500 nature and landscape paintings, many by artists associated with the Hudson River School. The collection also includes folk art, modern art, portraits, and sculpture.

According to the National Park Service, Rockefeller acquired the painting in the 1960s and added it to the collection of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion as “a reminder of his family’s long loyalty to Grand Teton National Park, and the preservation of the mountains, lake, and valley in that spectacularly beautiful and dramatic part of the West.”

The Hudson River School Art Movement

During the 19th century, the artists of a young America searched for a new world view and found it in the very landscapes around them. Inspired by the stunning natural beauty from across the nation, the loose-knit Hudson River School of painters flourished from the mid-1830s to the mid-1870s and gave America its first major school of art.

According to the National Park Service, “Their landscapes sought to recreate the majesty of the natural world and to inspire admiration for its beauty.” Americans who bought their paintings and admired them on the walls of their city homes came to believe that those scenes should be preserved for future generations, not just painted or photographed.

At the same time, the works of authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson also celebrated the beauty and importance of nature.

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park

The name of the park honors three individuals and their families who played important roles in American conservation history: George Perkins Marsh (1801–1882), Frederick Billings (1823–1890), and Laurance S. Rockefeller (1910–2004).

The lives and contributions of these three generations of stewardship reflect the wide range of attitudes and ideas in the evolution of the conservation movement in the United States. The site was the boyhood home of G.P. Marsh, one of America’s first conservationists, whose 1864 book, “Man and Nature,” decried the effects of deforestation in Vermont and around the world and provided the intellectual underpinnings of the early conservation movement.

Later, it was the home of Billings, who returned to his native Vermont from California, transformed the property into a progressive farm and country estate, and reforested much of the land around the Mansion. Its most recent owners, Billings’ granddaughter Mary Rockefeller and her husband Laurance Rockefeller, gave the property and its collections to the American people, the latest in a long history of support for National Parks by the Rockefeller family. Rockefeller received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1991 for his contributions to conservation and historic preservation.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier stands as an icon in the Washington landscape. An active volcano, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, spawning six major rivers. Subalpine wildflower meadows ring the icy volcano while ancient forest cloaks Mount Rainier’s lower slopes. Wildlife abounds in the park’s ecosystems. A lifetime of discovery awaits. Visit this link for more information about the park.

Creating the Star Trail Photo

The stamp image is the creation of Matt Dieterich of Pittsburgh, Pa. “This night was one I will never forget,” said Dieterich, who worked at Mount Rainier as an intern with the National Park Service Geoscientist-in-the-Parks to educate the public on dramatic views of the stars and the effect of light pollution near highly populated areas. “After working with visitors at the Mount Rainier astronomy program on June 22, 2015, I noticed there was an aurora, so I drove down to Reflection Lake to capture it.”

“The location was perfect as it contained a view of Mount Rainier and water for reflections,” he continued. “To create this star trails image I took 200 photos in a two-hour window between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. with my Nikon D750 and 24mm lens set at F/1.4 and ISO 5000. Since the Earth is rotating, each 8-sec. exposure shows stars at slightly different locations. When the photos are combined into one image the stars create a circular pattern around the North Star, which is just out of view at the top of the image. The pink aurora spread throughout the background sky. Mountaineers can be seen with their white headlamps climbing Mount Rainier on the right side of the volcano.”

“To capture star trails photos just like this,” he added, “all you need is a digital single lens reflex camera, a wide angle lens, tripod, and shutter release cable. So what are you waiting for? Grab your gear and get out under the stars!”

San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, California. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, California. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, California

The stamp image is a portion of a photograph by Tim Campbell of San Francisco, Calif., of the 1886 square-rigged, three-masted sailing ship Balclutha. Just visible to the right of the deep waterman/salmon packet sailing vessel is the 1907 steam tugboat Hercules.

Located near the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park offers the sights, sounds, smells, and stories of Pacific Coast maritime history through five National Historic Landmark vessels berthed here. Visit this link for more information.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

The stamp image is a photograph of the Little Missouri River winding through the Badlands of North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park, taken in July 2013 by Q.T. Luong of San Jose, Calif. Luong captured the image in the North Unit of the park during his 20-year project to photograph 59 national parks.

According to the National Park Service, when Theodore Roosevelt came to Dakota Territory to hunt bison in 1883, he was a “skinny, young, spectacled New Yorker.” He could not have imagined how his adventure in this remote and unfamiliar place would forever alter the course of the nation. The rugged landscape and strenuous life he experienced here would help shape a conservation policy that we still benefit from today.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park contains several sites of historical significance, each relating to the era of cattle ranching in the late 1800s. Most significant is Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch Site, the main ranch site where he spent the bulk of his time and where many of his conservation ideas grew. Roosevelt’s first ranch home, the Maltease Cross Cabin, is open for viewing at the South Unit Visitor Center.

The Long X Trail was used as a corridor to move cattle into the Northern Great Plains in the 1800s, and it passes through the North Unit of the park. Peaceful Valley Ranch was built in the 1880s and served as a dude ranch from 1918 to the 1930s. The ranch and its owners assisted in the establishment of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Visitors can still ride horses at Peaceful Valley by taking part in a trail ride with the park’s concessionaire. Visit this link for more information.

The Backstory of Luong’s Photograph

Luong was interested in the park’s rugged character and vegetation that set it apart from South Dakota’s Badlands National Park.

“The light of the late afternoon gleaming on the river appeared as a bright ribbon in the landscape,” recounted Luong, who used a telephoto lens to emphasize the section of the river with the reflection.

Luong noted that the park includes three units: the South Unit and the far lesser visited North Unit and Elkhorn Ranch Site.

“The Little Missouri River provides a link between them, reminding me of the fond memories I cherish from the time I spent there.”

Born in Paris, France, Luong trained as a computer scientist. When he came to the United States for what was intended to be a short academic stay, he chose the University of California at Berkeley because of its proximity to Yosemite and his passion for rock-climbing—where he scaled El Capitan several times.

“Upon visiting Yosemite for the first time in 1993, it was love at first sight and it marked the start of my 20-year affair with the national parks. I decided to photograph all of them with a 5 by 7 large format camera, a single-handed, self-financed, monumental project which, as far as I know, had not been completed by anyone before.”

Luong settled in the San Francisco Bay area and started crisscrossing the nation to capture its diverse beauty. By 2002, he had visited 58 national parks. He subsequently left his scientific career to pursue his calling of working as a full-time photographer. In 2009, Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan featured him in the film “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”

Yellowstone National Park, Idaho-Montana-Wyoming. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Yellowstone National Park, Idaho-Montana-Wyoming. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)

Yellowstone National Park, Idaho-Montana-Wyoming

This stunning photograph of two bison silhouetted in Yellowstone National Park’s winter morning sun was captured by Art Wolfe of Seattle, Wash., who described it as, “perfectly backlit bison standing on a small rise in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley.”

“Rising at dawn and braving the -30 degrees Fahrenheit temperature I was able to catch the first rays of the morning sun,” he explained. “The bitter cold of a long winter’s night had left the animals encased in a mantle of thick frost. I had scouted the area the day before and had seen the herd of bison. They had bedded down there all night and now were standing and trying to shake off the cold as the sun came over the horizon. These are the serendipitous moments I wait for as a photographer. I shot this in the days of film, so I didn’t know until I got back to Seattle and had the film processed if I had been successful or not.”

Wolfe got the February 2000 shot using a Canon EOS-3, EF70-200mm lens set at f/16 for 1/250 sec. using Fujichrome Velvia film.

Yellowstone is the world’s first national park. In Yellowstone, you can marvel at a volcano’s hidden power rising up in colorful hot springs, mud pots, and geysers; explore mountains, forests, and lakes to watch wildlife and witness the drama of the natural world unfold; and discover the history that led to the conservation of our national treasures “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Visit this link for more information.

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 NPS employees care for America’s 410 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. For more information: NPS.gov, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

National Park Service
National Park Service