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So different and so much the same.Stephen Mather’s National Park Service Report of 1920

Each year, the Director of the National Park Service prepared a Report to the Secretary of the Interior. In 1920, Stephen Mather’s report filled 159 pages, plus an additional 264 pages of information on individual National Parks, statistics, and other appendices.

On his first page, Stephen calls attention to the fact that for the first time, “…tourist travel to our national parks and monuments exceeded the million mark.” [1,058,455]

In 2022, that number was 311,985,998! In 1920, Grand Canyon had 67,315 visitors. In 2022, it had 4,732,101! In 1920, the most visited park was Rocky Mountain [240,966]

In 2022, the most visited park was Great Smoky Mountain National Park [12,937,633] which didn’t become a national park until 1934.

In many ways, the report reflects concerns that remain or have recurred a century later…

An ever-present menace to the wonderful forest growth of our parks is forest fire. Particularly in Glacier and Yellowstone Parks have such conflagrations in recent years reached alarming proportions…”

“…data on the recession of the Nisqually glacier. In 63 years this glacier has receded 2,315 feet, the average being 37 feet per year, but for the last 28 years the average annual recession has been about 50 feet.”

“Taking into consideration this high inflation in the labor and material market, the service does not have as much money to carry on this year’s operations as it did last…”

In his prescient conclusion, Stephen Mather wrote…

“…I conclude this report with the prediction that with the inspiration of the past season’s accomplishments before us the glorious destiny of our national parks as the greatest play and recreation grounds on earth are firmly assured. Very respectfully, Stephen T. Mather, Director

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