Our national parks are near and dear to our hearts, but what about the monuments? Are they just as important and beautiful? Skipping out on these just because they’re not called national parks would be a real shame. These important monuments highlight our forests, fossil sites, ruins, battlefields, and more.
It’s time to find out more about national monuments and how they’re different from our parks. Let’s dive in!
Is a National Monument Considered a National Park?
A national monument is part of the park system because it’s a Park Service unit, but it isn’t a national park. While they’re similar in that they’re protected sites that highlight a historical event or natural area, they’re established and managed differently.
Which Agency Manages Them?
No one agency manages all monuments. Which entity manages each monument depends on the location and management goals of each unit.
Various federal agencies oversee these sites, including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Forest Service, and more. Each entity will have a different goal in mind for each monument. The National Park Service, for example, will oversee a monument that focuses on recreation and land protection. At the same time, the Forest Service will be more focused on protecting the land for conservation and future use.
Did you know? National wildlife refuges also help protect and conserve land, wildlife, and marine life.
How Many National Monuments Are There?
The latest numbers show that there are 129 national monuments. However, this is a tough number to pin down because monuments can change status at any time.
This can happen when they’re either elevated to a new national park or become a part of an existing park. They can also change from a monument to a different sort of Park Service unit, such as a forest or seashore. Some state or local governments have earned ownership of some of these monuments rather than federal agencies.
Of the 129 national monuments, the Park Service currently only directly manages 85. Thirty-two states, D.C., and six territories are home to the monuments. California and Arizona have the most in the nation, with 18 each.
The Difference Between National Monuments and National Parks
Contrary to what you might believe, national monuments aren’t individual statues. They’re parks, memorials, buildings, lands, and other types of protected areas similar to national parks.
Congress identifies national parks. The president identifies national monuments. The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president the power to preserve lands or waters containing objects of historic or scenic significance.
This is to prevent them from damage due to things like commercial development. The land identified as a possible monument needs to already be federally owned.
➡ Utah is a geological wonderland and is home to some of our favorite national parks. Learn more here: What Are The Best Utah National Parks?
National Monument Versus National Historic Site
While a national monument is a land or object in need of protection, a historic site contains a single historical feature with historical significance, such as a building. The Historic Sites Act of 1935 made this possible and has helped many historic sites earn the designation.
Does It Cost Money to Visit the Monuments?
While many national parks charge entrance fees, most National Park Service units don’t charge fees. Actually, out of the more than 400 units, only around 100 charge a fee to get in. Those fees can vary from as little as $5 per person to $35 or more per vehicle, with an average cost of about $10 per person.
An America the Beautiful pass will get you into more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. That includes national parks, national forests, and many other sites. Children 15 and under are free.
What Are Some of the Most Popular National Monuments in the U.S.?
Today, some of the most popular monuments are Devils Tower in Wyoming, the Giant Sequoia monument in California, the Statue of Liberty in New York, Mount St. Helens in Washington, and Fort Sumter in South Carolina.
Just as with our nation’s parks, national monuments are something to behold, and each one commemorates a specific land, time in history, or both.
What Is the Most Visited Monument?
The most visited national monument in the U.S. is the Lincoln Memorial in D.C., with more than six million visitors annually. The top 10 also include Mt. Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty, Independence National Historic Park, and the World War II Memorial in D.C.
What Was the First National Monument in the U.S.?
When Theodore Roosevelt enacted the Antiquities Act of 1906, he took advantage of it immediately. The Antiquities Act went into effect on June 8, 1906.
A little over three months later, on Sept. 24, he named the first national monument, Devils Tower in Wyoming. To this day, Devils Tower is still a very popular site, with more than 450,000 visitors annually.
What Is the Largest National Monument in the U.S.?
The Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Arizona consists of more than one million acres. However, because Lake Mead manages some of those acres, it doesn’t technically all fall within the system.
Therefore, Cape Krusenstern in Alaska is the largest in the U.S., with just over 649,000 acres. Then there are the largest constructed monuments, including St. Louis Arch, Mount Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Statue of Liberty.
➡ Considering how massive Alaska is, it’s no surprise that the largest national monument is located there. So, How Big Is Alaska? It’s Hard To Believe!
Is It Worth Visiting National Monuments?
Paying a visit to one of the 129 national monuments can be just as awe-inspiring, if not more, as paying a visit to one of the 63 national parks. With historical artifacts, natural beauty, and manufactured wonders, setting these national park sites aside would be a shame.
Have you visited any national monuments? Which one was your favorite? Drop a comment below.
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Sunday 14th of November 2021
While overnighting in the parking lot of a tire store awaiting a next morning repair in Scottsbluff, NE, my sister-in-law texted us information about the National Monument located there. So after we were ready to go the next day, we took a gander and were amazed at this beautiful location. Unless we unhooked our tow vehicle, we weren't able to drive to the top. But we went to the Visitor Center and had discussions with a ranger. It was well worth our detour and stop.
Thursday 11th of November 2021
Fort Sumter is in South Carolina.
Mortons on the Move
Monday 15th of November 2021
Thanks for catching that error. We've corrected the location in the article.