National Parks, Lakeshores, and Seashores


A few night’s ago, I came across this picture (above) of Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore from over the summer.  A family wedding landed us in northern Michigan, and a relative recommended we swing by the dunes during our down time.  Man was I glad we did.  The visit to the lakeshore was welcoming, the views were breathtaking, and the enormity of the dunes were unbelievable!  This picture does not do it justice (they never do in these cases).  In talking to people at the dunes, we found out it can take one to two hours to climb from the lake to the top of the dunes.  What a grueling workout!  Since we were on a schedule, we did not make the trek down and up, but I would love to tackle that challenge in the future.

As I reminisced about this grand experience, I began to think – my family and I should try to visit all of the national parks, lakeshores, and seashores.  How many are there?  Where are they located?  How many have I already been to?  Which are the most popular?


As a final product for this exploration, I wanted to end up with a map showing all of the national parks, lakeshores, and seashores of the United States.  This required me to find a list containing the name and coordinates of each destination.  After a quick search, I found that Wikipedia provided a great list of national parks with not only this information, but also the acreage of the park and number of recreational visitors in 2014.  I could work this information into my analysis as well!

Wikipedia also provided the list of lakeshores and seashores with coordinates and acreage, but it did not provide the number of visitors.  For this information I turned to the National Park Service statistics page.  Here I was able to search for the number of visitors to each ‘shore destination, as well as cross-check the Wikipedia national park visitor information for a handful of the sites (they checked out).  At this point, I had a table containing all parks/lakeshores/seashores, their coordinates, acreages, and visitor information from 2014.

As I scanned the table, it occurred to me that multiple locations exist outside the contiguous 48 states (Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa, Virgin Islands).   Since my final product for this exploration was going to be a map, it would be difficult to provide a nicely scaled map with these distant locations included.  Therefore, I trimmed the list to include only those parks, lakeshores, and seashores that reside within the contiguous 48 states.  The table below shows the result (apologies for the length).

Type Name Latitude Longitude Acreage Visitors 2014
National Park Acadia 44.35°N 68.21°W 47,390 2,563,129
Arches 38.68°N 109.57°W 76,519 1,284,767
Badlands 43.75°N 102.50°W 242,756 868,094
Big Bend 29.25°N 103.25°W 801,163 314,102
Biscayne 25.65°N 80.08°W 172,924 525,745
Black Canyon of the Gunnison 38.57°N 107.72°W 32,950 183,045
Bryce Canyon 37.57°N 112.18°W 35,835 1,435,741
Canyonlands 38.2°N 109.93°W 337,598 542,431
Capitol Reef 38.20°N 111.17°W 241,904 786,514
Carlsbad Caverns 32.17°N 104.44°W 46,766 397,309
Channel Islands 34.01°N 119.42°W 249,561 342,161
Congaree 33.78°N 80.78°W 26,546 120,122
Crater Lake 42.94°N 122.1°W 183,224 535,508
Cuyahoga Valley 41.24°N 81.55°W 32,861 2,189,849
Death Valley 36.24°N 116.82°W 3,372,402 1,101,312
Dry Tortugas 24.63°N 82.87°W 64,701 64,865
Everglades 25.32°N 80.93°W 1,508,538 1,110,901
Glacier 48.80°N 114.00°W 1,013,572 2,338,528
Grand Canyon 36.06°N 112.14°W 1,217,403 4,756,771
Grand Teton 43.73°N 110.80°W 309,995 2,791,392
Great Basin 38.98°N 114.30°W 77,180 107,526
Great Sand Dunes 37.73°N 105.51°W 42,984 271,774
Great Smoky Mountains 35.68°N 83.53°W 521,490 10,099,276
Guadalupe Mountains 31.92°N 104.87°W 86,416 166,868
Hot Springs 34.51°N 93.05°W 5,550 1,424,484
Isle Royale 48.10°N 88.55°W 571,790 14,560
Joshua Tree 33.79°N 115.90°W 789,745 1,589,904
Kings Canyon 36.80°N 118.55°W 461,901 502,268
Lassen Volcanic 40.49°N 121.51°W 106,372 432,977
Mammoth Cave 37.18°N 86.10°W 52,830 522,628
Mesa Verde 37.18°N 108.49°W 52,122 501,563
Mount Rainier 46.85°N 121.75°W 235,625 1,264,259
North Cascades 48.70°N 121.20°W 504,781 23,865
Olympic 47.97°N 123.50°W 922,651 3,243,872
Petrified Forest 35.07°N 109.78°W 93,533 836,799
Pinnacles 36.48°N 121.16°W 26,606 196,635
Redwood 41.30°N 124.00°W 112,512 429,166
Rocky Mountain 40.40°N 105.58°W 265,828 3,434,751
Saguaro 32.25°N 110.50°W 91,440 673,572
Sequoia 36.43°N 118.68°W 404,051 1,039,137
Shenandoah 38.53°N 78.35°W 199,045 1,255,321
Theodore Roosevelt 46.97°N 103.45°W 70,447 559,580
Voyageurs 48.50°N 92.88°W 218,200 239,160
Wind Cave 43.57°N 103.48°W 28,295 542,022
Yellowstone 44.60°N 110.50°W 2,219,791 3,513,484
Yosemite 37.83°N 119.50°W 761,266 3,882,642
Zion 37.30°N 113.05°W 146,598 3,189,696
National Lakeshore Apostle Islands 46.97°N 90.66°W 69,372 290,059
Indiana Dunes 41.65°N 87.12°W 15,067 1,553,372
Pictured Rocks 46.56°N 86.31°W 73,236 527,897
Sleeping Bear Dunes 44.91°N 86.02°W 71,198 1,395,401
National Seashore Assateague Island 38.08°N 75.21°W 39,727 2,170,681
Canaveral 28.77°N 80.78°W 57,662 1,451,225
Cape Cod 41.95°N 70.00°W 43,608 4,426,750
Cape Hatteras 35.30°N 75.51°W 30,351 2,153,350
Cape Lookout 34.61°N 76.54°W 28,243 430,927
Cumberland Island 30.83°N 81.45°W 36,415 61,401
Fire Island 40.70°N 72.98°W 19,579 384,343
Gulf Islands 30.36°N 86.97°W 137,991 4,455,240
Padre Island 27°N 97.38°W 130,434 578,815
Point Reyes 38.00°N 123.00°W 71,068 2,433,944

Equipped with this information, I turned to Microsoft Excel and a feature I had not used before – Power Map.  Like any standard map-generating software, objects are applied to a map in layers.  The map I generated consisted of two layers of data, with both containing the coordinates of each location and their classification type (park/lakeshore/seashore).  The only difference was that the first layer contained the acreage statistic, and the second layer contained the number of visitors.  Power Map gives you the option of how you want to show these numerical measures.  For the acreage, I decided to use a bubble chart centered on the coordinates, and a column chart was used to show the number of visitors.  The map below is the result (note – the bubbles on the map do not denote the actual footprint of each site, rather they depict a way of comparing the acreage).  The two sites labeled in yellow are the only ones I have visited thus far (Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Everglades).



Having been born, raised, and lived my entire life in the United States, I must admit that I feel a little ashamed (and embarrassed) that I don’t know more about our national parks, lakeshores, and seashores.  The two I’ve visited thus far have been absolutely amazing, and I look forward to experiencing more of them with my family in the future (road trip!).  Below are a list of things that jumped out to me as I completed my exploration:

  • In the contiguous 48, there are 47 national parks, 4 national lakeshores, and 10 national seashores
  • The majority of the national parks are located out West (as I suspected)
  • All national lakeshores are located along the Great Lakes
  • Only one of the ten national seashores is on the west coast (I expected  a more even distribution)
  • Death Valley is the largest national park at just over 3.3 million acres
  • Hot Springs is the smallest national park at 5,550 acres
  • The Great Smoky Mountains had the most visitors with over 10 million (2014)
  • Isle Royal was the least visited with just 14,560 visitors (2014)

At almost 20 million acres, there is so much natural beauty to see in our nation’s protected land.  The sites, sounds, and feelings experienced when visiting these locations are some you will never forget.  With only two locations under my belt, my family and I have a lot of work ahead of ourselves if we want to try and visit each site.  Anyone have extra frequent flier miles lying around? 🙂

– SD


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