Watch Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea

The National Parks - America's Best Idea is a documentary film series that was filmed in 2009, discussing many of the national parks in the United States. Ken Burns served as the director and producer of the series. The National Parks - America's Best Idea is a series that goes in-depth featuring many of America's famous national parks, starting with Yosemite and Yellowstone in California and Wyoming, respectively. The series addresses how the parks were first created and goes further in discussion when also talking about how president Theodore Roosevelt was able to use his powers to start establishing other national parks as well. Other things discussed during the course of the series include how society impacts the parks on an environmental and geographical basis by visiting all the time, as well as any damage that has been caused by sometimes having too many visitors over the years. There was multiple guest stars lending their voices as well, including Tom Hanks, George Takei and Andy Garcia.

This documentary film series was narrated by Peter Coyote for all of its episodes. Dayton Duncan also served as a co-producer and director for the series as well.

PBS
1 Season, 6 Episodes
September 27, 2009
Documentary & Biography
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Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea Full Episode Guide

  • After World War II, an increasingly mobile and affluent nation begins placing demands on the parks as never before, and the parks are in danger of being "loved to death." A Park Service biologist named Adolph Murie argues that ingrained practices such as killing predators runs counter to the purpose of national parks, while David Brower of the Sierra Club mobilizes public opinion to defeat Congressional proposals for dams in pristine places. In the 1970s, when President Jimmy Carter uses the Antiquities Act to set aside 56 million acres in Alaska, a huge uproar results -- and the largest grassroots movement in conservation history fights for the creation of seven new Alaska parks, adding 47 million acres, more than doubling the size of the park system.

  • As the nation enters the 1920s, Stephen Mather and Horace Albright ally themselves with the automobile to "democratize" the national parks and attract more Americans to them. Nebraskans Margaret and Edward Gehrke begin collecting parks each summer, while Glenn and Bessie Hyde spend their honeymoon in a homemade boat on the raging Colorado river through the Grand Canyon. Horace Kephart, a reclusive writer, and George Masa, a Japanese immigrant and photographer, launch a campaign to save the virgin forests of the Smoky Mountains from destruction by making it a national park.

  • America boasts a dozen national parks as the park idea turns 50 years old. A millionaire businessman named Stephen Mather impulsively accepts the offer to oversee them for one year. Mather and his right-hand-man Horace Albright launch a campaign to publicize the parks as a unified system and to persuade Congress to create a single agency to oversee it: the National Park Service, established in 1916. Mount McKinley, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Acadia and Hawaii's volcanoes are set aside as national parks, but Mather's top priority is in Arizona. After a bitter fight, the Grand Canyon is designated a National Park in 1919.

  • At the end of the 19th century, some Americans begin to question the nation's headlong rush across the continent that has devastated forests and ravaged entire species of animals. Conservation's greatest champion is the new president, Theodore Roosevelt, who creates parks and wildlife refuges, and then audaciously uses the Antiquities Act to set aside 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon as a national monument. John Muir fights the battle of his life to prevent the city of San Francisco from burying the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park under a reservoir, and dies broken-hearted after he loses.

Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea Video Clips & Extras

THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA'S BEST IDEA | Grand ... Clip (01:48)

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