Bureaucracies inspire complexity, and the USA's national park system is part of a very complex bureaucracy. Of the nearly 500 properties included in the National Park System, only 63 are true national parks. National parks are created by an Act of the USA Congress which is also signed into law by the President of the USA. Acting on his own, the President of the USA can declare a national monument by using the Antiquities Act. For all practical purposes, national monument s are national parks by another name. But of course, there is a caveat. Lots of national monuments are very small compared to national parks, but some are huge, like Utah's approximately 2,000,000 acre (8,000 sq km) Escalante -Grand Staircase National Monument and Bears Ears National Monument (that's about 10% smaller than vast Yellowstone National Park).
Yellowstone National Park, created in 1872, was the world's first national park. The Grand Canyon became a national park in 1919, when TR ‘Teddy' Roosevelt (a cousin of FDR) was president. TR and the Director of the National Park Service went to see the new Grand Canyon National Park. Standing on the rim, overlooking the endless deep canyon, the President turned to the Director of the National Park Service and proclaimed a guiding philosophy that has served the national parks well for more than a century-- “Leave it alone. You cannot improve on it.”
Ironically, the first President Roosevelt was a Republican, but it has been the post Reagan Republicans in Congress who have posed the greatest threat in history to the USA's great national parks.
The Bottom Line
When planning your trip, treat national monuments the same as national parks.
QUIZZ: Not all photos are of NPS properties. Can you tell the difference?
The Bridge and River tour is a scenic 3-hour bicycle tour will take you from the Upper West Side of New York City up and over the George Washington Bridge for a ride along the river on Route 9W. Get the full touring experience and leave New York City for a few hours. During the ride, we make stops at Grants Tomb Memorial on the Upper West Side.