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National Parks: America’s Best Idea: The Morning Of Creation (1946-1980)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: As revealed in "THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA," a six-part, 12-hour film by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, after World War II, park attendance skyrocketed as millions of families began pouring into the parks on vacations that became an American rite of passage. Pictured: Tourist family in Yellowstone National Park, 1958

Parks Overview

Did you know there are almost 400 parks in the national park system? Use the Park Explorer to find them all, or click on the images to learn more about some of America's most storied and spectacular places.

This 12-hour, six-part documentary series, directed by Ken Burns and co-produced with his longtime colleague, Dayton Duncan, who also wrote the script, is the story of an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical: that the most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone. As such, it follows in the tradition of Burns’s exploration of other American inventions, such as baseball and jazz.

Episode VI, "The Morning of Creation (1946-1980):" Following World War II, the parks are overwhelmed as visitation reaches 62 million people a year. A new billion-dollar campaign — Mission 66 — is created to build facilities and infrastructure that can accommodate the flood of visitors. A biologist named Alfred Murie introduces the revolutionary notion that predatory animals, which are still hunted, deserve the same protection as other wildlife. In Florida, Lancelot Jones, the grandson of a slave, refuses to sell to developers his family’s property on a string of unspoiled islands in Biscayne Bay and instead sells it to the federal government to be protected as a national monument. In the late 1970s, President Jimmy Carter creates an uproar in Alaska when he sets aside 56 million acres of land for preservation — the largest expansion of protected land in history. In 1995, wolves are re-established in Yellowstone, making the world’s first national park a little more like what it once was.

Browse the selection of video clips from the documentary, scenes that had to be cut, and untold stories of "The National Parks."

Video

Extended Preview: National Parks: America’s Best Idea

Above: This 12-hour, six-part documentary series, directed by Ken Burns and co-produced with his longtime colleague, Dayton Duncan, who also wrote the script, is the story of an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical: that the most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone. As such, it follows in the tradition of Burns’s exploration of other American inventions, such as baseball and jazz.

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