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The National Parks: America's Best Idea

The National Parks: America's Best Idea

Photo Credit:  Craig Mellish/PBS
  • Premiered: 
    September 27, 2009
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: PBS
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
    13th Ken Burns multi-part documentary (20th film overall), preceded by The War 
  • Subject Matter:
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    Season 1

Plot Synopsis

Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales -- from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska -- "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" traces the birth of the national park idea in the mid-1800s and follows its evolution for nearly 150 years. Using archival photographs, first-person accounts of historical characters, personal memories and analysis from more than 40 interviews, the series chronicles the steady addition of new parks through the stories of the people who helped create them and save them from destruction. It is simultaneously a biography of the American landscape and a biography of compelling characters -- rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs. Peter Coyote narrates and the first-person historical accounts are read by famous actors, including: Tom Hanks; Andy Garcia; Adam Arkin; John Lithgow; Sam Waterson; and many others. This six-episode series is directed by Ken Burns and written and co-produced by Dayton Duncan.