Did You Know? Marine and Coastal Resources of the National Park System

Ofu Island in the National Park of American Samoa.

Miles of coastal shoreline in the National Park System: 11,217*
Acres of marine and Great Lakes water in the National Park System: 2,490,839*

Many people think of scenic mountain vistas, sprawling canyons, thundering waterfalls, and towering timber when they think about the spectacular natural features protected by our National Park System. But 85 national park units also harbor spectacular scenery along and under the surface of wide-open oceans and Great Lakes.

Park staff manages the coral reefs, kelp forests, glaciers, estuaries, beaches, wetlands, historic forts, and shipwrecks in these 85 units with the assistance of the National Park Service’s Ocean and Coastal Resources Branch in the Water Resources Division. NPCA’s Great Waters Program works on the organization’s regional efforts to protect critical bodies of water and other resources in a number of these parks around the country. NPCA was also instrumental in the establishment of Fort Monroe National Monument, the system’s newest coastal addition (November 2011), and continues to work to protect additional shoreline in the Chesapeake Bay area.

*Source: Shoreline Length and Water Area in the Ocean, Coastal and Great Lakes Parks, March 2011 (PDF, 2.5 MB)

About the Author

Dr. Gail Dethloff is former director of NPCA's Center for Park Research.