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National Geographic celebrates national trails system anniversary

October 2, 2008 marked the 40th Anniversary of the National Trails System Act.

Read more on the 40th anniversary of the Act and facts about the National Trails System Act.

By Pam Gluck

Thanks to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail team, including Pat Noonan of the Conservation Fund (and National Geographic Board member), the October issue of National Geographic celebrates the 40-Year Anniversary. The featured article is about the lovely and magical Ozark Highlands National Recreation Trail in northern Arkansas. Having hiked and canoed in the Ozarks, I believe this article beautifully captures the "essence" of what I have experienced in the Ozarks. This NRT was chosen to be featured out of 1051 National Recreation Trails, 8 National Scenic Trails, and 18 National Historic Trails! Talk about serendipity (Hulet and Roger - we know you love this kind of thing): this article was in the works prior to anyone making the connection with the National Trails Symposium being held in Arkansas.


National Geographic called on us, along with the Partnership for the National Trails System, National Park Service, and USDA Forest Service to provide them a lot of background information for creating a two-page map of the National Trails System and they have credited each organization's assistance on the bottom right hand corner of it. This is the first map that includes all of the NST, NHT, and NRTs.

National Geographic called on us a lot - starting last December - and we were very happy to help them in any way we could. We made it a priority to pretty much drop what we were doing to be of assistance to them. American Trails did a lot of reviewing and fact-checking of the map and articles, researched information on the NRTs, provided them the NRT database, and more. In addition, I was interviewed by the author of the article and several staff writers. They incorporated many of the points and priorities we discussed. They also called on us to provide them ideas for the GeoPedia section of their website. That is where they linked to American Trails and other trails-related websites.

It is my opinion, that there is no other promotion that could be better for bringing awareness to these precious national treasures and to trails in general. Seven million (yes - that is 7,000,000!) people read National Geographic! This doesn't include all the people that will read the article and learn about these trails on the website. Hopefully by bringing more attention to these trails and to trails in general, more people will volunteer and advocate for much-needed funding in the future. National Geographic readers are people who already care about the outdoors and our planet. What better audience could there be to care about the future of our national system of trails?

It was a privilege to work with National Geographic and quite a learning experience! I have an even deeper appreciation for the level of detail they go through to make sure everything is 100% accurate. They have such dedicated staff. Hopefully they will be inspired to run even more articles about trails in the future. We will certainly encourage them!

If you have a hard copy of the October issue, visit these pages:

  • Editor's Note (page 4): American Trails is quoted on this page
  • "The Intimate Wild" feature article on the Ozark Highlands National Recreation Trail (pages 122-137)
  • Map of the National Trails System (pages 138-139)
  • "Follow Up" - How you can help (page 140)

Here are the links to the features on the National Geographic website:

For additional "follow-up" visit the GeoPedia section of their website. This is where they link to the American Trails, Partnership for the National Trails System, National Park Service, Ozark National Forest, Florida Office of Greenways and Trails, Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, and other trail-related websites.

For more information on the National Trails System and its 40-Year Anniversary:

More resources for National Scenic and Historic Trails

Resources from our partners:

National Park Service site for the National Trails System

Interview with Steve Elkinton, Program Leader for the National Trails System

40th Anniversary Parade of Trails

Join American Trails


Related topics:

More resources:

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