Filmed over more than six years at some of nature’s most spectacular locales — from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska — “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” is the story of an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical: that the most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone.

Directed by Ken Burns, this documentary series traces the birth of the national park idea in the mid-1800s and follows its evolution for nearly 150 years. Using archival photographs, first-person accounts of historical characters, personal memories and analysis from more than 40 interviews, and stunning cinematography, Burns chronicles the steady addition of new parks through the stories those who helped create and save them.

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” is, at its core, a story of people: people from every conceivable background who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy.

Airing this week, and online anytime

Watch the first two episodes of this 12-hour series airing on Mountain Lake PBS, this week.

“The Scripture of Nature” | Tuesday, July 28, 4pm
“The Last Refuge” | Sunday, August 2, 12:30pm

Miss the broadcast? Catch up online, anytime!

PBS LearningMedia resources

Continue to explore the beauty and history of our National Parks by visiting PBS LearningMedia and The National Parks: America’s Best Idea Collection featuring videos, lesson plans, and activities.


Can’t get enough? Check out other Ken Burns documentaries – from Jazz, to Baseball, and Country Music – with the Ken Burns in the Classroom Collection. The collection includes 300+ films along with 150+ PBS LearningMedia resources to support learning in the classroom and at home.