The first movement to build a national park in the United States came amidst the civil war when some soldiers entered the Yosemite Valley to pursue Indians in 1851. Claims on the valley lands were filed and tolls charged. Haphazard tourism began even as the fame of the valley spread to a wondering and suspicious East. In 1964 Congress took the land from alienation and handed over the valley and a nearby grove of giant sequoias to California as a public park. California state-managed until 1906 when it was merged with Yosemite National Park.
Eight years later, Congress established the world’s first national park. Instrumental in its creation was the Northern Pacific Railroad, beginning a fifty-year period during which railroads became the most profound influence on establishing these reserves and on the development of tourism in them. President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service on August 25, 1916. Today, the National Park System has grown to include 418 natural, historical, recreational, and cultural areas throughout the United States, territories, and island possessions.