18 Park Service Podcasts

Jul 29th, 2008 | By | Category: General, Podcast Quickies

The US National Parks Service is getting into podcasting in a big way, and now offers 18 park service podcasts and virtual tours, offering hundreds of audio and video programs that you can get from park websites or iTunes.

The podcasts include:

  1. Acadia NP
  2. Antietam National Battlefield
  3. Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP
  4. Canyonlands NP
  5. Clara Barton National Historic Site
  6. Curecanti National Recreation Area
  7. Everglades NP
  8. Gettysburg National Military Park
  9. Glacier NP
  10. Grand Canyon NP
  11. Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
  12. Katmai National Park and Preserve
  13. Mississippi National River & Rec. Area
  14. Petersburg National Battlefield
  15. Richmond National Battlefield
  16. Rock Creek Park
  17. Yellowstone NP
  18. Yosemite N

Many parks offer interpretive podcasts about wildlife, history, and topical issues like climate change and fire management. The most extensive collection of park podcasts is from Yellowstone National Park where they are reaching out to new and nontraditional audiences to spark an interest in visiting the park. The Inside Yellowstone series has more than 50 episodes, which are one to two minutes in length. More episodes are on the way.

“Our podcasts give people from every corner of the earth the chance to fall in love with Yellowstone and become its stewards for the future,” said George Heinz, one of the writers and on-screen personalities for the podcast series. The park has another online series called Yellowstone InDepth that presents mini-documentaries on subjects like volcanoes, invasive species, bears, and wolves.

“While nothing can replace a personal experience in a national park, we think our podcasts will enhance people’s trips or give them the opportunity to learn about a park that they can’t visit,” said Mary A. Bomar, Director of the National Park Service. “Whether people download them to portable devices or watch them on their computers, these free electronic presentations give us another way to serve park enthusiasts of all ages.”

Other National Park Podcasts

Yosemite National Park launched a new monthly podcast called Yosemite Nature Notes. A printed publication of the same name began in the 1920s and existed for five decades. “Just like the earlier version of Nature Notes, our podcasts tell Yosemite’s stories from the perspective of the people who work here,” said Steve Bumgardner, videographer and producer at Yosemite National Park. “I like the idea that we’ve brought this institution back to life and that we use new media to put a personal face on the National Park Service.”

“My favorite podcast about Canyonlands National Park is the one on potholes,” said Carter, an 8-year-old visitor who watched all of the park’s podcasts before his trip. “It was so interesting to learn that tiny creatures are living in a bunch of dirt.” Carter’s sister Brooke, 11, appreciated knowing how to recognize cryptobiotic soils so she didn’t walk on the delicate crust. Their mother, Tiffani, thought the podcasts empowered her kids and said, “they loved being the experts and teaching us ( their parents ) what they learned while we walked around the park.”

At Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, people stop at overlooks along the South Rim Road and watch podcasts about geology, history, life, and recreation at those exact spots. Everglades National Park also has a car tour ( audio only ) that leads listeners on a guided exploration down the main park road. Four civil war battlefields – Gettysburg, Antietam, Petersburg, and Richmond – offer podcasts that allow you to walk or drive along as you listen to an NPS historian talk about decisive and dramatic battles.

Urban parks use podcast tours to reach local residents who may not know much about the parks they pass every day. For example, residents in Minneapolis and St. Paul can listen to information about Mississippi National River and Recreation Area while walking a four-mile loop near the river. Residents of Washington D.C. can download walking tours for Rock Creek Park and people in St. Louis can do the same for Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Glacier National Park offers videos online about hiking, and rangers say the programs speed up the backcountry permit process. “Rather than having to watch the video at the permit station which is required, more and more visitors have watched it online ahead of time,” said Bill Hayden, Interpretive Specialist.

Other parks help people plan trips with podcasts, too. Visitors can learn about recreational activities at Curecanti National Recreation Area, like fishing, hiking, and camping. Katmai National Park and Preserve has an audio podcast weaving together music, stories, and tips for reaching that remote wilderness area.

Virtual Tours

While not available for download like podcasts, virtual tours are also available. For example, Clara Barton National Historic Site offers a virtual tour of Barton’s home, a building that served as the national headquarters for the American Red Cross. The tour allows visitors to navigate through all three levels of the house and gives access to images, text, and audio clips.

Acadia National Park has an eCruise along the rocky shores of Mount Desert Island and Glacier National Park offers eHikes that take visitors through stunning wilderness areas among glaciers, wildflowers, and bears.

New virtual tours are coming soon:

  • Zion National Park will release an eHike for Angel’s Landing;
  • Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks will launch eHikes that go through the Sierra Nevada foothills or among the giant sequoias; and
  • The Statue of Liberty will provide an eTour covering Liberty Island, the inside of Lady Liberty, and a 360-degree view from her crown.

Some worry that creating podcasts and virtual tours about national parks may keep people, especially children, disconnected from the actual places. “Personally, I don’t think that people are going to give up on the real thing,” said Todd Edgar, Media Specialist at Acadia National Park. “After learning about parks from our online resources, people want to get outside and explore on their own.”

For many other national park podcasts and virtual tours, go to www.nps.gov. If a park unit offers online programs, you will find them by clicking on “Photos and Multimedia” in the left navigation bar of their homepage.

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2 Responses to “18 Park Service Podcasts”

  1. Keirsun says:

    James – thanks for sharing all of this information. It’s great to see the NPS share their “content” through podcasting. I agree with Todd Edgar that the podcasts will inspire people to explore our national parks. In addition, kids (and adults) who don’t have the means to travel to the parks now have the opportunity to experience our national treasures.

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