Friday is National Park Fee Free Day!

It’s been a long week, you need to take a day off and get out of town.  I have just the place.  Your local National Park.  Friday is Fee Free day in honor of the National Park Service 101st Birthday.  Waiving the entrance fee at all the National Parks that have one.

The National Park Service was created on August 25, 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Act.

National Park Sites Near Las Vegas

Bryce Canyon National Park – 258 miles (415 km) from Las Vegas

Capitol Reef National Park – 327 miles (526 km) from Las Vegas

Cedar Breaks National Monument – 191 miles (307 km) from Las Vegas

Death Valley National Park- 139 miles (223 km) from Las Vegas

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area – 270 miles (434 km) from Las Vegas

Grand Canyon National Park –  276 miles (444 km) from Las Vegas

Great Basin National Park – 296 miles (476 km) from Las Vegas

Lake Mead National Recreation Area – 21 miles (33 km) from Las Vegas

Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument – 18 miles (29 km) from Las Vegas

Zion National Park – 160 miles (258 km) from Las Vegas

National Park Fee Free Day


A Millionaires Dream
A lot of the credit for the creation of the National Park Services (NPS) goes to a self-made millionaire and businessman named Stephen Mather.  He was the man who created the “20 Mule Team Borax” slogan for the  Pacific Coast Borax Company.   In 1898, Mather helped a friend, Thomas Thorkildsen, create the Thorkildsen-Mather Borax Company. Their company became prosperous, and they were millionaires by 1914.

This wealth gave Mather, now in his mid-forties, the financial independence to pursue personal projects.  So he retired from the company and set off to make a difference in the world.  He became a dedicated conservationist and a friend and admirer of the influential John Muir.

Eventually, Stephen Mather would go to Washington as assistant secretary of the Interior and lobbied for the establishment of a bureau to operate the national parks. On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill authorizing the National Park Service. At the time, the government owned 14 parks and 18 national monuments, many administered by Army officers or political appointees, as battlefields were among the first parks designated.


Mather used his personal funds to hire Robert Sterling Yard to work with him on publicizing the great resources of the parks. Mather was effective in building support for the parks with a variety of politicians and wealthy corporate leaders. He also led efforts to publicize the National Parks and develop a wider appreciation for their scenic beauty among the population. He appointed Yard as head of the National Park Education Committee to coordinate their various communication efforts. In April 1917, Mather was appointed as its first director, a position he filled until he resigned due to illness in January 1929. During the course of his career, he and his staff molded the NPS into one of the most respected and prestigious arms of the federal government.

After the establishment of the National Park Service by Congress, Mather agreed to stay on. Mather was appointed Assistant Secretary of Interior and head of the National Park Service.  He served until 1929.

Along with Albright, they helped establish the new federal agency to protect and manage the national parks, together with a new appreciation for their wonders. In addition, he professionalized management of the parks, creating a cadre of career civil service people who were specialists in a variety of disciplines, to operate and manage the parks while preserving their natural character.

He introduced concessions to the national parks. Among the services they sold were basic amenities and necessities to park visitors, plus aids for studying nature. Mather promoted the creation of the National Park to Park Highway. He also encouraged cooperation with the railroads to increase visitation to normally remote units of the National Park System.

Mathers Legacy

He believed that once more of the public had visited the parks, they would become supporters for the fledgling agency and its holdings. By the time he left his position, the park system included 20 national parks and 32 national monuments. Mather also had created the criteria for identifying and adopting new parks and monuments.

Stephen Mather believed that magnificent scenery should be the first criterion in establishing a national park, and made efforts to have new parks established before the lands were developed for other purposes.

Periodically disabled by Bipolar Disorder (manic-depression), Mather had to take some leaves from work and Albright continued in their mutual understanding of the task. Over time they convinced Congress of the wisdom of extending the national park concept into the East, and in 1926 Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains national parks were authorized. In January 1929 Mather suffered a stroke and had to leave office. He died a year later.

Stephen Mather died January 22, 1930, at the age of 62 in Brookline, Massachusetts



Mark Anthony

Mark Anthony is The Vegas Tourist! Popular Tourism Ambassador, a frequent contributor to Las Vegas forums as well as travel media and bloggers. Loves to help people discover new things to see, do and experience while visiting Las Vegas and Beyond!

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