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National Parks in the US and Canada designated as World Heritage Sites

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National Parks in the US and Canada designated as World Heritage Sites

Grand Canyon National Park - courtesy of the National Park Service

In 1972, the General Conference of UNESCO adopted an international agreement (signed to date by more than 180 States Parties) with the primary mission of defining and conserving the world's heritage, by "drawing up a list of sites whose outstanding values should be preserved for all humanity and to ensure their protection through a closer co-operation among nations."

The World Heritage List, which includes more than 850 properties, grows longer every year as new nominations are accepted by the Committee and more countries sign the Convention. Drawing up the List presents a difficult challenge: what is it that constitutes the outstanding universal value of a cultural or natural treasure?

To be included on the World Heritage List, a site must satisfy the selection criteria adopted by the Committee. A cultural monument could, for example, be a masterpiece of creative genius, or have exerted great architectural influence, or be associated with ideas or beliefs of universal significance, or it may be an outstanding example of a traditional way of life that represents a certain culture. A natural site may exemplify major stages of the earth's history, or represent ongoing ecological and biological processes, or contain the natural habitats of endangered animals, or it may be a scene of exceptional beauty.

At present, there are 25 National Parks in the United States and Canada that have been designated World Heritage Sites. They are listed below, along with the years in which the properties were established as heritage sites.

Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks(1995)
The contiguous national parks of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho, as well as the Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber provincial parks, feature mountain peaks, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons and limestone caves, forming a striking mountain landscape.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park(1995)
Preserves more than 80 caves in the Guadalupe Mountains of southern New Mexico, including the nation's deepest limestone cave.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park (1987)
Features 13 major archeological sites that represent the highest point of Pueblo pre-Columbian civilization.

Everglades National Park (1979)
The largest subtropical wilderness in the continental U.S. includes extensive fresh- and saltwater areas, Everglades prairies, and mangrove forests.

Grand Canyon National Park (1979)
Focusing on the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, park illustrates one of the most spectacular examples of erosion anywhere in the world.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (1983) Encompassing portions of NC and TN, park features a diversified plant and animal life, and preserves structures representing southern Appalachian mountain culture.

Gros Morne National Park (1987) Encompassing portions of NC and TN, park features a diversified plant and animal life, and preserves structures representing southern Appalachian mountain culture.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (1987)
International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site features active volcanism and rare vegetation. Elevations range from sea level to 13,677 feet.

Independence National Historical Park (1979)
Located in central Philadelphia, park includes structures and sites associated with the American Revolution and the founding of the United States.

Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek (1979, 1992, 1994)
Parks comprise an impressive complex of glaciers and high peaks on both sides of the border between Canada (Yukon Territory and British Columbia) and the United States (Alaska), including the largest non-polar icefield in the world.

Mammoth Cave National Park (1981)
The longest recorded cave system in the world includes more than 336 miles explored and mapped.

Mesa Verde National Park (1978)
The first cultural park set aside by NPS features the best preserved and most notable pre-Columbian cliff dwellings and other works of early Americans.

Nahanni National Park (1978)
A renowned destination for canoeists and white-water enthusiasts, park was designated the first ever UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Olympic National Park (1981)
Pristine wilderness park includes glacier capped mountains, over 60 miles of scenic ocean shore, and stands of old-growth and temperate rain forest.

Pueblo de Taos (1992)
One of the best preserved group of habitations and ceremonial centers which are representative of a culture largely derived from the traditions of the pre-historic Anasazi Indian tribes.

Redwood National and State Parks (1980)
Features old growth coastal redwood forests and 40 miles of scenic Pacific coastline.

San Juan National Historic Site (1983)
Park includes three Spanish-built fortresses and five kilometers of historic city walls.

Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island[/link] (1984)
Park includes the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which played an important role in the history of immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Waterton Glacier International Peace Park (1995)
In 1932 Waterton Lakes National Park (Alberta, Canada) was combined with the Glacier National Park (Montana, US) to form the world's first International Peace Park.

Wood Buffalo National Park (1983)
Park includes the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which played an important role in the history of immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Yellowstone National Park (1978)
Yellowstone Net Company site includes multimedia tour, park newspaper and newsletter, discussion forums, and more.

Yosemite National Park (1984)
Established in 1890, this Sierra Nevada park features alpine wilderness, groves of Giant Sequoias, and the glacially-carved Yosemite Valley. Click here to select another park by classification type, by name, by state, or by activity.

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