The National Parks: America's Best Idea: Going Home
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The National Parks: America's Best Idea: Going Home

Thursday, April 28 at 9:00 p.m.

The Great Smokies are caught in a race with lumbermen's saws.

While visiting the parks was once predominantly the domain of Americans wealthy enough to afford the high-priced train tours, the advent of the automobile allows more people than ever before to visit the parks. National Park Service Director Stephen Mather embraces this opportunity and works to build more roads in the parks.

In North Carolina, Horace Kephart, a reclusive writer, and George Masa, a Japanese immigrant, launch a campaign to protect the last strands of virgin forest in the Smoky Mountains by establishing it as a park. In Wyoming, John D. Rockefeller Jr. begins quietly buying up land in the Teton Mountain Range and valley in a secret plan to donate it to the government as a park.

Main photo above:  In the 1930s, a group of tourists listens to Superintendent John White at Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park.

Top photo at right: George Masa (pictured here photographing the Great Smoky Mountains), a Japanese immigrant, helped the crusade to create Great Smoky Mountains National Park with his scenic photographs of the region.

Bottom right photo: The first director of the new National Park Service, Stephen Mather (left) and his successor, Horace Albright (right) open Yellowstone for the 1923 season at a gate made of elk horns.