With the summer travel season finally here, we are itching to do some serious exploring of America's National Parks during the warmer months. It's the prime time of the year to go on a road trip and try to visit as many of these iconic locations as possible. One of the cooler ways to preserve a memory of your visit to each one is with the collection of cancellation stamps at each visitor center you visit. Getting your passport stamp at each stop keeps a detailed log of all your visits with the exact date. It's not just for National Parks either. These stamps can be collected at National Historic Sites and Monuments too. Plus, the passport program is a fun way to get kids interested and engaged in our country's extensive National Park System. This is everything you didn't know about the program and why you and your family adn friends should consider picking up a book this year.
Can You Still Get National Park Passport Stamps?
You can absolutely still get a park passport book stamped, and it's arguably one of the most popular souvenirs sold in the parks today. The Passport to Your National Parks Program began in 1986 and was started by Eastern National, a non-profit that was first formed in 1947 by Rangers in the National Park Service. They are the ones who run all the educational programs you'll encounter in the hundreds of National Parks, Historic Sites, and Monuments across the country. The money they raise is often also used for archaeological work, the funding of historic reenactments, and the development of the educational displays you see in many parks and visitor centers.
Eastern National also owns hundreds of gift shops and bookstores located within the boundaries of many parks. The cool thing about that is all the proceeds from the sales are then donated right back into supporting the Park System. So, when you pick up a passport book, you're not just on your way to recording memories, you're also helping support our valuable public lands. It's a win-win situation.
Since it was first started, Eastern National has slowly expanded the program to offer more types of books in camp stores. There are more National Park sites and stamps than there are spots for cancellation stamps in each book. These days they offer expander pages in case you run out, but they also sell a larger collector's edition, and the jumbo "Explorer Edition," both of which have more space in them. There's also a Junior Ranger edition that's designed just for kids. It's a great way for them to remember their National Park visits years down the line when they're older.
How Do I Use My National Parks Passport Book?
Using your passport book is simple and a big part of the fun of traveling to National Parks. The NPS is the group that determines exactly where in each spot they are located, and it varies depending on each location. Most of the time, a quick trip to the park visitor center will reveal your goal. From there, all you need to do is find the right region in the guidebook and stamp your book accordingly. Sometimes they'll hide the stamps in an unusual spot, so you may need to ask a Park Ranger if you cannot find one. There is also a list online of the locations you can find here, but for us, it's better to search without it because it forces you to explore more of each park.
If you forget to stamp your book while visiting, it's usually possible to send a self-addressed envelope to the park and get one sent back to you. Don't forget to check the gift shop for bonus passport stickers. They make these for a select few locations every year and sell them for about $3 each. You can buy the whole set or individual ones online if you miss one. They're a colorful additional souvenir to add to your National Park passport book. If you're a frequent National Parks visitor, we must warn the standard book is a little lacking on pages. You'll probably fill it quickly and need to buy a new one. We've heard of some enthusiasts buying one for each region of the country just for that reason. However, if you only get to a National Park once a year or so, there's no reason to buy one of the larger ones.
Either way, this program is one of the more engaging, easy-to-participate-in ideas developed in conjunction with the National Park Service in the last 40 years, and think it's super cool to see what stamps we can collect each year.
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