Two of our newest National Parks in the United States are the Indiana Dunes NP and the Gateway Arch located in St. Louis, Missouri. We saw both on our summer 2020 National Parks trip. There are now 63 National Parks in the United States. There are many more lands managed by the national parks system in the US and they bear other titles such as National Landmark, National Monument, National Forest, National Lakeshore, etc. Only 63 locations bear the highest title of National Park. Our family enjoys visiting National Parks during the summer. This is our fifth summer of visiting National Parks, with a total of 36 under our belt.

Indiana Dunes National Park is located on the the shores of Lake Michigan in Indiana. Here is some information from the National Parks Service website about this park “Indiana Dunes National Park hugs 15 miles of the southern shore of Lake Michigan and has much to offer. Whether you enjoy scouting for rare species of birds or flying kites on the sandy beach, the national park’s 15,000 acres will continually enchant you.  Hikers will enjoy 50 miles of trails over rugged dunes, mysterious wetlands, sunny prairies, meandering rivers and peaceful forests.”

The best way to see the dunes is to go to one of the beaches within this National Park area. We stopped into the Visitor’s Center to ask about the best beach locations for families. The ranger recommended that we go to the West Beach. This family friendly beach has ample parking, lifeguards, concessions, bathrooms, and showers. It was a perfect place for our family to see the Dunes and enjoy the beach. The kids loved playing in the water and on the beach. It was a perfect day!

Below are photos from our visit to Indiana Dunes National Park. It is a nice beach area right on the shores of Lake Michigan. I am glad they gave this area National Park status so that it can be protected and preserved. People are no longer allowed to go into the dunes, unless it is on the pathways and boardwalks designated for visitors. The dunes can be appreciated for their beauty and protected for generations to come as a National Park.

The St. Louis Arch is a newer National Park. For years it has had National Monument status, and in 2018 it received National Park status. Because of Covid and construction the tram up to the top was not open when we were there. I have been in the tram all the way to top. I think the year was 2005 or 2006. It was a great view at the top, but the tram ride itself was very close quarters. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who gets claustrophobic.

I was surprised to learn that the Arch was given National Park status. It is an amazing monument with great historical value. However, it does not fit the criterion for a National Park, even according to the National Park Service’s standards. Here is some information on that topic from a good website about the National Parks:

At 91 acres in downtown St. Louis, Gateway Arch National Park does not fit the definition of National Park Service’s own designation of National Parks.  According to National Park Service:

“Generally, a national park contains a variety of resources and encompasses large land or water areas to help provide adequate protection of the resources.”

“The title national memorial is most often used for areas that are primarily commemorative. “

There is nothing natural about Gateway Arch National Park.  It doesn’t have a “variety of resources.”  There is no resource to protect.  It is in the middle of a large city, with a modern man-made object as its focal point.  The park consists of the Gateway Arch park and the Old Courthouse where the Dred Scott case was heard.  That’s it.  It does not encompass large land or water areas.

Regardless of whether it is a monument or a national park, it is an important structure in our country’s history. Here is information about the Arch from their official website:

Founded by the National Park Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a transcontinental United States, the Gateway Arch National Park (formerly known as the “Jefferson National Expansion Memorial”) stretches from the Old Courthouse to the steps overlooking the Mississippi River. In between, the Gateway Arch rises high, a bold monument to the pioneering spirit.

Today, the Gateway Arch celebrates the diverse people who shaped the region and the country. The dreamer, Thomas Jefferson, negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, doubling the size of the United States. The explorers, Lewis & Clark and their Shoshone guide Sacagawea, scouted the new territory and mapped a route to the Pacific Ocean. The challengers, Dred and Harriet Scott, filed suit at the Old Courthouse for their freedom from slavery, and St. Louis suffragette Virginia Minor sued for women’s right to vote. The artist, architect Eero Saarinen, designed the monument that honors them all.

The monument we know today began in 1935, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated property along the St. Louis riverfront to be developed as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (now known as Gateway Arch National Park). While the land was cleared for construction, the City of St. Louis deeded the Old Courthouse to the National Park Service to be incorporated into the Memorial. In 1948, a nationwide design competition determined what shape the Memorial would take, and in 1963, construction began on architect Eero Saarinen’s design for a stainless steel arch. Completed in 1965, the Gateway Arch stands as a symbol of national identity and an iconic example of mid-century modern design.