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The National Parks: America's Best Idea 

1:23 | Trailer
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.




Won 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 5 nominations. See more awards »





Series cast summary:
Peter Coyote ...  Self - Narrator 6 episodes, 2009
William Cronon William Cronon ...  Self - Historian 6 episodes, 2009
Dayton Duncan Dayton Duncan ...  Self - Writer 6 episodes, 2009
Shelton Johnson Shelton Johnson ...  Self - Park Ranger 6 episodes, 2009
Alfred Runte Alfred Runte ...  Self - Historian 6 episodes, 2009
Paul Schullery Paul Schullery ...  Self - Writer 5 episodes, 2009
Carl Pope Carl Pope ...  Self - Sierra Club 5 episodes, 2009
Terry Tempest Williams Terry Tempest Williams ...  Self - Writer 5 episodes, 2009
Murphy Guyer ...  Reader 5 episodes, 2009
Philip Bosco ...  Reader 5 episodes, 2009
Kevin Conway ...  Reader 5 episodes, 2009
Tom Hanks ...  Reader 5 episodes, 2009
Kim Heacox Kim Heacox ...  Self - Writer 4 episodes, 2009
Adam Arkin ...  Reader 4 episodes, 2009
Lee Stetson Lee Stetson ...  Reader / ... 4 episodes, 2009
Amy Madigan ...  Reader 4 episodes, 2009
Lee Whittlesey Lee Whittlesey ...  Self - Historian 3 episodes, 2009
Nevada Barr Nevada Barr ...  Self - Former Ranger 3 episodes, 2009
Juanita Greene Juanita Greene ...  Self - Journalist 3 episodes, 2009
Gerard Baker Gerard Baker ...  Self - Park Superintendent 3 episodes, 2009
Carolyn McCormick ...  Reader 3 episodes, 2009
Tim Clark Tim Clark ...  Reader 3 episodes, 2009
Derek Jacobi ...  Reader 3 episodes, 2009
Josh Lucas ...  Reader 3 episodes, 2009
Gene Jones ...  Reader 3 episodes, 2009
Eli Wallach ...  Reader 3 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.

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Featured in Ken Burns: America's Storyteller (2017) See more »

User Reviews

An Immigrant's View
17 December 2009 | by anthony_retfordSee all my reviews

I am watching this series and am currently viewing part 5. I have been transfixed by the film. I am not a new immigrant, having come here back in 1964, but I have only visited two Parks in all that time I am disgusted to report. I have seen the Redwoods and Crater Lake, but now I want to see much more before it is too late. I just have not paid any attention to the Parks in my backyard it seems. Now I will.

I would quibble about the frequent references to religion but I understand it because most of the US was religious to some sort of degree. For instance, I did not feel the presence of some supernatural being standing among the redwoods or gazing at Crater Lake. I was impressed for sure but not awed.

I am mindful of the constant struggle to maintain the Parks and think schools should show major portions of this series in their classrooms. Young people need to be aware of what a valuable and irreplaceable resource we all share. I am sure, given the history of the Park system, that greedy people will continue to try to eat away at it. Vigilance is needed for now and forever. Once this country becomes so crowded it will be most difficult to maintain these Parks. As in the Hetch Hetchy dam the question will always be: What is more important, some scenery or the rights of multitudes who need the resources contained within the Parks? I fear the answer will be the needs of people.

I appreciate being able to see these videos and have my eyes opened, and tearing at times, many times. Thanks to Ken Burns for making this series.

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Release Date:

27 September 2009 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The National Parks: America's Best Idea See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Florentine Films, WETA See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(6 episodes)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

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