America's National Park Service, a jewel beyond price, celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.
Floridians can boast of one of its greatest treasures, Everglades National Park. The park's 1.5 million acres of wetlands, the southern 20 percent of the original Everglades, form a place unique on the planet.
The River of Grass, as Florida writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas called it, is the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi River. Although urgently threatened by everything from drought and agricultural pollutants to invasive species, the Everglades is still home to a complex ecosytem of mangroves and sawgrass, alligators and herons, millions of mosquitoes and a precious population of Florida panthers.
The third-largest park in the NPS system, Everglades draws about 1 million visitors each year. It has been named an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site and a Wetland of International Importance.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the legislation that created Everglades National Park in 1934, and the park opened to visitors in 1947. Franklin Roosevelt's cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt, was instrumental in creating the NPS. An avid naturalist and outdoorsman, he founded a number of individual national parks, including Mesa Verde, Glacier and Rocky Mountain, during his administration.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the law that created the NPS. Today, it oversees 412 national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House. In 2015, 307 million people visited those places, finding beauty, adventure and solace in the natural world.
Colette Bancroft, Times staff writer