The history of the U.S. National Parks system, including the initial ideas which led to the world's first national parks and the expansion of the system over 150 years.

Watch Now

With Prime Video





1   Unknown  
2012   2009  
Won 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 5 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Prohibition (TV Mini-Series 2011)
Documentary | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

The story of the American activist struggle against the influence of alcohol, climaxing in the failed early 20th century nationwide era when it was banned.

Stars: Peter Coyote, Pete Hamill, Catherine Gilbert Murdock
The Dust Bowl (TV Mini-Series 2012)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A documentary about the 1930s drought of North American prairie farm land, and its consequences during the great depression.

Stars: Dorothy Williamson, Donald Worster, Timothy Egan
Documentary | Adventure | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  

The story of the most important American exploration expedition in American history and the participants in it.

Director: Ken Burns
Stars: Hal Holbrook, Adam Arkin, John Logan Allen
Baseball (TV Mini-Series 1994)
Documentary | History | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.2/10 X  

A documentary on the history of the sport with major topics including Afro-American players, player/team owner relations and the resilience of the game.

Stars: John Chancellor, Daniel Okrent, Ossie Davis
The War (TV Mini-Series 2007)
Documentary | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.1/10 X  

A seven-part series focusing on the many ways in which the Second World War impacted the lives of American families.

Stars: Keith David, Katharine Phillips, Tom Hanks
The West (TV Series 1996)
Documentary | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

Stephen Ives' "The West" is a PBS 4-Video Series co-produced by Ken Burns: - "Death Runs Riot" 85 min. - "Fight No More Forever" 85 min. - "Ghost Dance" 58 min. - "The People" 82 min.

Stars: Peter Coyote, N. Scott Momaday, Murphy Guyer
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  

A documentary that weaves together the stories of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of one of the most prominent and influential families in American politics.

Stars: Meryl Streep, Edward Herrmann, Paul Giamatti
Documentary | Biography | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A biography of the life and work of the American architect.

Directors: Ken Burns, Lynn Novick
Stars: Edward Herrmann, Philip Bosco, Julie Harris
Mark Twain (TV Movie 2001)
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

A biographical film about the acclaimed American humourist and author.

Director: Ken Burns
Stars: Keith David, Kevin Conway, Philip Bosco
The Civil War (TV Mini-Series 1990)
Documentary | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.3/10 X  

A comprehensive survey of the American Civil War.

Stars: David McCullough, Sam Waterston, Julie Harris
Jazz (TV Mini-Series 2001)
Documentary | History | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

A survey of the musical form's history and major talents.

Stars: Keith David, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet
Jackie Robinson (TV Mini-Series 2016)
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Documentary chronicles the personal and professional life of Jackie Robinson from his birth in 1919 to his death in 1972. Robinson's rise from humble beginnings to became an American hero and pivotal figure in American history are detailed.

Stars: Keith David, Jamie Foxx


Series cast summary:
 Himself - Narrator (10 episodes, 2009-2012)
William Cronon ...
 Himself - Historian (6 episodes, 2009)
Dayton Duncan ...
 Himself - Writer (6 episodes, 2009)
Shelton Johnson ...
 Himself - Park Ranger (6 episodes, 2009)
Alfred Runte ...
 Himself - Historian (6 episodes, 2009)
Paul Schullery ...
 Himself - Writer (5 episodes, 2009)
Carl Pope ...
 Himself - Sierra Club (5 episodes, 2009)
Terry Tempest Williams ...
 Herself - Writer (5 episodes, 2009)
Murphy Guyer ...
 Reader (5 episodes, 2009)
 Reader (5 episodes, 2009)
Kevin Conway ...
 Reader (5 episodes, 2009)
 Reader (5 episodes, 2009)


The history of the U.S. National Parks system, including the initial ideas which led to the world's first national parks and the expansion of the system over 150 years.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis





Release Date:

27 September 2009 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(6 episodes)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Featured in Late Show with David Letterman: Episode #16.190 (2009) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Fascinating, intriguing, unexpected
3 October 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I just finished watching Ken Burn's The National Parks: America's Best Idea, and it's fabulous -- it far far far exceeded any expectations I may have had.

The series is fascinating, surprising, intriguing, unexpected, and well narrated and voiced and commentated. The visuals are a combination of historical works (photos, footage, articles, etc.), lovely paintings and photos, and of course glorious beautiful high-definition cinematography. The narration (which is so interesting you don't even need to watch the images -- as I learned when I had to eat dinner during part of it -- but who can resist!) is done by Peter Coyote, and the voices of the historical letter-writers, authors, journalists, and so forth is by various luminaries from Eli Wallach, Derek Jacobi, John Lithgow, Adam Arkin, Tom Hanks, and dozens of others. And there are the occasional live comments from historians and other experts from various walks of life.

It's exquisitely put together and organized, never leaving the viewer bored; stories flow into and out of one another, or end only to be unexpectedly picked up again in a later hour or episode. The story of the parks is told not only through the stories of the politicians and naturalists involved, but also through the lives of everyday people and of artists and photographers (such as Ansel Adams) who loved the wilderness locales. There is a perfect mix of history, nature, beauty, drama, suspense, victories, defeats, and human interest. I was in tears at a few points.

Although a small handful of the names important to the natural park system are familiar (John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, etc.), the stories involving even those few are quite unexpected and fascinating. The vast majority of the true movers and shakers in the development of the natural parks are, however, gloriously unsung -- and thus doubly interesting because their outsized stories, which affected the country so greatly, are not nationally famous.

If you wish to purchase the DVD set, it's cheapest on Amazon, and the shipping is free.

If you watch the series on TV reruns if it ever returns, make sure you do it in order. It starts in 1851:

1851-1890: The Scripture of Nature

1890-1915: The Last Refuge

1915-1919: The Empire of Grandeur

1920-1933: Going Home

1933-1945: Great Nature

1946-1980: The Morning of Creation

12 of 14 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Ken Burns and US Racism Bill-181
Just as bad as 'The War' jk1969dchs
One thing missing.... Kingactor30
Just saw the 1st episode! dhirschman
What is the name of the music from Episode 5 TooSlim
First two days interesting....but then...ahhh...well... .yeah... slipslider

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: