By BOLTON LANCASTER
National parks are some of the most popular vacation destinations for Americans and international travelers alike. This demand often leads to a large number of stories written on national parks and monuments to both inform the public and encourage conservation.
Both travelers and journalists can make use of the National Park Service’s website at http://www.nps.gov.
The website is divided into several main sections, with some of the most prominent ones being “Find a Park,” “Discover History,” and “Explore Nature.” Perhaps the most useful section to the average traveler or writer is “Find a Park,” where there is extensive information about each national park and monument in the country.
When looking for a park, visitors to the website can search by name, location, activity, or topic. If a specific park is being looked for, searching for its name can quickly identify it. Parks can also be found by state. The “activity” section includes categories such as biking, camping, and swimming while the “topic” section allows viewers to narrow their search parameters to caves, glaciers, mountains, and a number of other choices. The last two sorting methods can help travelers figure out where they want to go and tell journalists the features for which each park is known.
Once a national park or monument has been selected, the website offers a vast amount of information on it. For example, on the Yellowstone National Park page (http://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm), there is a brief description of the park and three different sections for viewers to look at: “Things to Do,” “Yellowstone Social Media,” and “Stay Aware in Bear Country.”
Additionally, the top of the page cautions potential visitors of any alerts, such as fire threats and road information. There is also a section for visitors to plan their visit and view photos from the park. The alerts and general information offered by the site can help journalists determine when they should visit the park and what they should try to cover.
In addition to the main sections, the National Park Service also boasts an impressive multimedia collection on their website. The five different sections they have are “Movie,” “Interactive,” “Web Cam,” “Pod Cast,” and “Photo Gallery.” Each of these sections allow visitors to visually experience the national parks before visiting. This can be especially useful for photographers who are looking to visit the park so that they can figure out what areas they want to visit.