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

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

  • 2009
  • 1 Season

Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea is a documentary series created by award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns in partnership with PBS. The series explores the history of America's national parks, from their origins to their relevance today. The series is divided into six episodes, each one focusing on a different aspect of the national parks.

The first episode, titled "The Script," explores the ideas that led to the creation of the first national park in the United States, Yellowstone National Park. The episode takes viewers back to the early 1800s when explorers began to venture into the unknown territories of the American West. It also delves into the political and social factors that influenced the creation of the national park system, including the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916.

The second episode, "The Last Refuge," takes a closer look at the role that national parks play in preserving America's wilderness areas. This episode examines the ways in which national parks have been used to protect and conserve wildlife and natural resources. It also explores the tension that can arise between the desire to preserve natural spaces and the need to use those spaces for economic development.

The third episode, "The Empire of Grandeur," focuses on the creation of some of America's most iconic national parks, including Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Mount Rainier. The episode explores the ways in which these parks were established and the impact they had on American culture.

The fourth episode, "Going Home," examines the role that the national parks have played in American history and culture. It looks at the ways in which the parks have been used by Americans to connect with their heritage and to define their national identity.

The fifth episode, "Great Nature," explores the ways in which national parks have been used to educate Americans about the natural world. The episode looks at the various education programs offered by the National Park Service, including ranger-led tours and interpretive exhibits.

The final episode, "The Morning of Creation," focuses on the future of America's national parks. It looks at the challenges that the parks face in the 21st century, including climate change, overcrowding, and funding shortfalls. The episode also examines the ways in which the National Park Service is working to address these challenges and ensure that America's national parks continue to inspire and educate visitors for generations to come.

Throughout the series, viewpoint is presented through archival footage, photographs, and interviews with historians, conservationists, and park rangers. The series also includes narration by actors such as Peter Coyote, Tom Hanks, and Sam Waterston.

Overall, Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea provides a comprehensive and insightful look at one of America's most treasured resources. The series explores not only the history of the national parks but also their cultural and spiritual significance. It is a must-watch for anyone interested in the outdoors, conservation, or American history.

Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (6 episodes). The series first aired on September 27, 2009.

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The Morning of Creation (1946-1980)
6. The Morning of Creation (1946-1980)
October 2, 2009
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.
Great Nature (1933-1945)
5. Great Nature (1933-1945)
October 1, 2009
A new president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, expands the national park idea to embrace battlefields and other historic and iconic sites. He enters pitched battles to create national parks on the Olympic Peninsula, Florida's Everglades, Wyoming's Teton Mountains, and California's High Sierra; he also creates the Civilian Conservation Corps to provide young men with jobs improving conditions at national parks. George Melendez Wright, a young Park Service employee, begins arguing that the parks are not doing enough to protect wildlife in their natural state. In Seattle, Iwao and Hanaye Matsushita fall in love with Mount Rainier National Park; and in California, another Japanese immigrant, Chiura Obata, finds inspiration for his art in Yosemite. When they are interned during World War II, they all find solace in their memories of the national parks of their adopted country.
Going Home (1920-1933)
4. Going Home (1920-1933)
September 30, 2009
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.
The Empire of Grandeur (1915-1919)
3. The Empire of Grandeur (1915-1919)
September 29, 2009
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.
The Last Refuge (1890-1915)
2. The Last Refuge (1890-1915)
September 28, 2009
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.
The Scripture of Nature (1851-1890)
1. The Scripture of Nature (1851-1890)
September 27, 2009
In 1851, a band of Indian fighters in California encounters a place of astonishing beauty, setting in motion events that bring other newcomers to Yosemite Valley: artists, writers, entrepreneurs, tourists, and eventually John Muir, who becomes a national voice for preservation. Meanwhile, reports emerge from Wyoming Territory of a fantastical place at the headwaters of the Yellowstone River. An exploration confirms the rumors, and in 1872 Congress creates the world's first national park at Yellowstone, but does nothing to provide for its protection. In 1886, General Phil Sheridan and the U.S. Cavalry ride to the park's rescue.
Where to Watch Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea
Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea is available for streaming on the PBS website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon, Google Play and Apple TV.
  • Premiere Date
    September 27, 2009