National Parks vs true Wilderness

 Mt. Rainier has amazing trails for its large number of visitors to hike.

Mt. Rainier has amazing trails for its large number of visitors to hike.

    As wild as National Parks may be here in the USA it is a common misconception that these are true wilderness. We look at these treasures of our natural lands, seeing them as icons attracting millions of visitors each year. They are really just that though, natural theme parks with iconic locations meant to amuse visitors.

    That was harsh. I am honestly a big fan of our national park system, as it and its rangers do an amazing job of showing people the value of our public lands. They would agree however that national parks are not true wilderness for a variety of reasons. This is what I would like to do a deeper dive on as it has value in what we do to protect public lands and designate their importance in the grander scheme of things.

    Now, some national park land is true wilderness and a good example of this is Alaska, where 95% of the national park land has some level of wilderness protection and accounts for 30% of the total wilderness area in the entire USA according to the National Park Service. This is not the rule, but the exception. Most National Park land in the USA is very domesticated.

 Mt Hood National Forest is designed for recreational use and foresting using the natural resources.

Mt Hood National Forest is designed for recreational use and foresting using the natural resources.

    If you go into national park land there are roads, trails, and other amenities that we have all become accustomed to. Land designed to make sense to humans and accommodate our needs. It is comfortable at some level and familiar to us city dwellers myself included. 

    Wilderness is wild. It is untamed and uncontrolled. Practically ungoverned by anyone other than those that inhabit it. It is allowed to function naturally without interference. No roads, power lines, trails, or even cell service to post your latest instagram pic from the wilderness. True wilderness is truly a wild experience compared to what most of our ‘wild’ experiences are in nature.