The United States National Park System is in charge of beautiful scenery and historic landmarks across the country. While areas that make it in the system benefit from their care and supervision, not every park gets to stay a national park forever. Here are some former national parks and monuments that are still worth a visit.
White Horse Hill National Game Preserve
In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt turned a small piece of land off the shores of North Dakota’s Devils Lake into Sullys Hill National Park. Because it was intended as a big game preserve and refuge for the land’s wild animals, the national park was re-designated a national game preserve just 10 years later.
In 1931, power was officially transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service instead of the National Park System. In 2019, a congressional act was passed to update the name to White Horse Hill at the request of the Spirit Lake Tribe.
White Horse Hill National Game Preserve, though no longer a national park, still offers accessible, stunning views of its wildlife. Visitors can drive the four-mile road through the preserve or climb the quarter-mile trail to the top of the hill, both of which provide glimpses of the elk, bison, and birds.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area
Located in south-central Oklahoma, roughly 90 miles outside of Oklahoma City, is the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, the former location of Platt National Park. This area became a national park in 1902 when the United States government purchased a plot of land from the Chickasaw Nation in order to protect the local mineral and freshwater springs.
In 1906, the park was expanded further and renamed Platt National Park in honor of Senator Orville Hitchcock Platt, who had originally introduced the legislation to turn the land into a national park. In 1976 the park merged with other surrounding land, notably Arbuckle Recreation Area, to create what we now know as the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
Today the area still welcomes tourists, boasting six campgrounds and an incredible 410 campsites. There is hiking year-round, as well as biking, fishing, and swimming.
Mackinac Island State Park
Mackinac Island is a small island in Lake Huron, settled between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas. It is home to Mackinac Island State Park, which makes up more than 80 percent of the entire island.
In 1875 the land became the country’s second national park, preceded only by Yellowstone. Just 20 years later, the park’s care was transferred to the state of Michigan, making it a state park.
Modern-day visitors will notice that the park, populated with monuments, historical sites, and educational experiences, takes deep pride in its history. Walk the Native American Cultural History Trail, learn about the flora on the Mackinac Island Botanical Trail, and tour still-standing structures from the early 1800s.
There is one thing visitors can’t do on Mackinac Island: drive a car. Explore the island via foot, bicycle, carriage, or buggy, but leave the automobiles in a parking lot. This feature is part of what makes the state park feel like such an escape into the past. For more on visiting, consider all our Mackinac Island content here.
Lewis And Clark Caverns State Park
Throughout its existence, Lewis And Clark Caverns State Park has had numerous caretakers. Native Americans first discovered and made use of the Montana caves in the 1800s, and though Lewis and Clark traveled near these underground caverns, the infamous explorers never actually knew of their existence.
The caves did not become a common exploration site until almost 100 years later, when a privately owned tourist business attempted to develop them for tours. President Theodore Roosevelt soon designated the area national park land, calling it Lewis and Clark Cavern National Monument, which was officially formed in 1908 and significantly expanded in 1911. In 1937, power was transferred to the state of Montana, and the land was turned into Montana’s first state park.
Lewis And Clark Caverns State Park is one of the largest limestone caverns in the entire Northwest, and the park offers guided tours from May through September. There are also trails, campsites, and cabins available to visitors year-round.
Shoshone Cavern National Monument
Wyoming’s Shoshone Cavern became a national monument in 1909, less than a year after its discovery. Eventually locals began campaigning for the land to be transferred to local administration rather than federal, and in 1954 power was transferred to the city of Cody, Wyoming.
The town attempted to renovate the site but eventually passed ownership back to the federal government, this time to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management rather than the National Park System.
Today the area, commonly referred to as Spirit Mountain Cave, is sealed and blocked off to the general public. Experienced cave explorers can apply for a permit to enter, and the former national monument still experiences summer traffic as groups of explorers flock to the caverns.
Papago-Saguaro National Monument
Located in Phoenix, Arizona, the Papago-Saguaro National Monument earned its status in 1914, largely due to its collection of desert flora. In 1930, ownership was transferred to the state of Arizona, making it the first national monument to lose its status. The city of Phoenix then purchased the park in 1959.
Now known simply as Papago Park, the land remains a tourist attraction, offering hiking and mountain biking, as well as the incredibly popular Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden. The park is also home to an archery range, fishing lagoon, sports complex, and golf course.