The Lost National Parks - Part #1

The Lost National Parks - Part #1

 Did you know that there are lost National Parks? What is a lost National Park? Surely it is not a National Park that vanished off the face of the Earth? Today, we'll explore the stories behind three of seven National Parks that, stunning as they were, are no longer National Parks.

Mackinac National Park - Michigan

Located in Lake Huron between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan, Mackinac Island is a well-known vacation destination, resort, and summer retreat. Though the 4.35 square mile island is home to some year-round residents, there are no automobiles on the island, and the vast majority of human activity on the island is seasonal and tourism-based.

But that's Mackinac Island today. What about the Mackinac Island that used to be a National Park?

Much of Mackinac Island was designated a National Park in 1875, making it the second National Park on the roster (after Yellowstone). Even back then, the 1,044-acre island was growing in popularity. United States Senator Thomas W. Ferry, a native of the island, felt driven to conserve and preserve a portion of the island. 

Senator Ferry put forth Senate Bill 28 on December 2, 1874. The Bill proposed setting aside 821 acres of the island as a National Park and allowing the remainder of the island to be privately owned. The park acreage would encompass several landmarks like Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf. 

On March 3rd, 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Bill, officially designating 821 acres of Mackinac Island as America's second National Park and the first National Park in Michigan.

But alas, it wasn't to be. In 1895, the infamous army base, Fort Mackinac, was decommissioned, and, at the request of then Michigan Governor John T. Rich, the park and fort were turned over to the State of Michigan to be made into a State Park.

The story does not have a sad ending, however. Since 1895, the State of Michigan has run Mackinac Island State Park with pride and dedication. Mackinac Island is one of the most prized travel destinations in the nation, with the park seeing about one million visitors per year.

Furthermore, Michigan State Government has gradually expanded the size of the park over the years. Today, Mackinac Island State Park encompasses 1,800 acres, more than double the park's original size and accounting for about 80% of the island's total area.

To learn more about Mackinac Island State Park, you can check out their official Park website. They also have an article about the Park's history and its brief time as a National Park.

General Grant Grove National Park - California 

Located in what is now Kings Canyon National Park, a timeless, otherworldly grove of trees rise to the sky as a living reminder of the giant evergreens that used to populate much of the West Coast and Pacific Northwest. This is General Grant Grove, a stand of trees unlike any you've seen before.

In the late-1800s, there was a fierce debate between logging industry barons and land defenders. Logging magnates had set their eyes on the sequoias of the Giant Forest in Central California. Namely, loggers wanted to cut down the General Grant Tree, a stunning sequoia that dwarfed even the monolithic sequoias around it. 

In 1880, the federal government sided with land defenders and designated a four-acre parcel of land around the General Grant Tree. In 1890, under the pressure of land defenders and conservationists (one of whom was the famous writer, ecologist, and political spokesman John Muir), the United States Congress expanded the protective sphere around the General Grant Tree, officially designating 154 acres of land as General Grant Grove National Park. The third National Park to be added to the roster, General Grant Grove was designated on the same day as Yosemite National Park.

The park wasn't meant to be, however, at least not under that name. In 1940, General Grant Grove National Park was absorbed into President Franklin D. Roosevelt's newly designated Kings Canyon National Park. Today, all 1,351 square miles of Sequoia and Kings Canyon Wilderness receive federal management and protection, with General Grant Grove receiving the same protection and conservation efforts. Visitors to the park can spend endless hours in General Grant Grove and other attractions in the park.

You can read more about old General Grant National Park and other unique highlights and must-sees of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks at the U.S. Department of the Interior blog.

Platt National Park - Oklahoma

What now stands as the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in southern Oklahoma used to include... a National Park? That's right, there used to be a National Park called Platt National Park, a cherished land that was given the federal government's best protection and conservation possible.

In 1902, Platt National Park was established through an agreement with the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations and the federal government. The indigenous peoples of the region were worried that the land was being overused and overdeveloped for its unique freshwater and mineral springs. So, the Choctaw and Chickasaw agreed to sell the land to the federal government, but only if the United States government agreed to designate the land as a protected National Park.

After the transaction was complete, the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed extensive park infrastructure within the newly acquired land, building mineral spring pavilions, campgrounds, picnic areas, dams, and waterfalls. These attractions can still be viewed and enjoyed today and are linked by a network of roads and trails, also constructed by the CCC. 

In the 1970s, Platt National Park was integrated into Arbuckle Recreation Area, which became Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Though it was originally the 7th National Park, it is now a part of a much broader recreation area, effectively creating a large protected land for families to enjoy for decades to come.

To learn more about Platt National Park, the National Park Service has an article about the park, and a resource sheet with more information.

Tune in Next Week for More Lost National Parks!

From what we've been able to dig up (so far), there are a total of seven "lost" National Parks. Next week we'll take a look at the other four, so be sure to check back to learn more about these treasures of American history! And in the meantime, feel free to peruse through our collection of over 300 original poster designs and illustrations of the 63 American National Parks.

Until next time,

-Ren Brabenec

Anderson Design Group Writing Staff


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