Only two of the seven NPS (National Park Service) units in Idaho have ‘National Park’ in their name. Therefore, these are the only two that I consider actual national parks.
At the end of this article, you will find a list of six NPS service units in Idaho. (The seventh is a trail, which is so not a ‘national park’ by any measure.)
How Many National Parks are in Idaho?
Idaho has two national parks: Nez Percé National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
Nez Percé National Park
The Nimiipuu (Nim-me-uh-po) people have called the inland northwest their home since time immemorial. They lived in the mountains, valleys, hills, plateaus, and prairies.
The Nimiipuu were extremely resilient and just about survived the settlement of the United States by Europeans.
38 sites critical to the history and culture of the Nimiipuu make up the Nez Percé National Park. The Park is intimately interwoven with the history of the Nimiipuu and can only be properly understood in this context.
The History of the Nimiipuu (Nez Percé) People
During the Walla Walla 1855 treaty negotiations, tribal leaders reached an agreement to retain approximately 7.5 million acres as the tribe’s exclusive reserve.
After prospectors discovered gold, theft and mass trespassing occurred on the tribe’s reservation. The federal government did not protect the reservation from encroachment.
Instead, it forced the Nimiipuu to enter into a second treaty in 1863. This reduced the reservation’s size to seven hundred and fifty thousand acres.
New trespassers in search of timber forced a third treaty on the tribe in 1863.
In 1867, the US Senate approved the document. The Nimiipuu referred to the 1863 Treaty as the “Thief Treaty” or the “Steal Treaty”.
The Treaty created the conditions for the eventual armed clash between Nez Percé troops and the US Army in what is now called the Nez Percé Flight of 1877.
In 1871, the federal government imposed an Allotment Act on the Nimiipuu. A surveyor determined parcels of land and assigned them to tribal members.
The remaining reservation areas were declared open to non-Indian settlement, and the new process was reflected in the 1893 Agreement.
Today’s reservation is a “checkerboard”, where Indian parcels are mixed with non-Indian parcels. This has resulted in a complicated jurisdictional landscape.
What’s in a name? Why is the tribe called Nez Percé, Nez Perce, and Nimiipuu?
Well, Nez Percé is the properly inflected name non-tribespeople call the tribe. Nez Perce is the ‘lazy’, everyday inflection which is increasingly gaining ground as the name of the tribe.
Tribes members call themselves Nimiipuu, pronounced “nim-me-uh-po”.
Good to know: Some Interesting Facts about the Nez Percé National Park
- The Park is spread out across four states: Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Oregon.
- Although the Park is managed by the NPS, the Nimiipuu is a key partner. Its members are consulted whenever the NPS contemplates undertaking any major work in the Park.
- The Park contains the grave of Chief Tiwi Teqis, also known as Old Chief Joseph. Chief Teqis said no to selling his homeland of Wallowa, nor signing the 1863 Treaty. His last words to his son before he died in 1871 were, “Never sell your mother and father’s bones.”
The original burial site of Chief Teqis was between the forks of the Lostine and Wallowa rivers. In 1926, his remains were reburied at its current location, a five-acre cemetery called “Old Chief Joseph Gravesite”.
Operating Seasons and Hours
The Park is generally open 24/7 all year round. However, the Visitors’ Centers operate during normal business hours and are closed on some holidays.
Visit the Center’s official opening hours web page for more information.
Yellowstone National Park
Founded in 1872, Yellowstone National Park’s one of the oldest US national parks.
Yellowstone National Park covers over two million acres and spans five counties. Yellowstone Park’s lakes are at some of the highest North American elevations.
The Park offers many leisure activities for visitors, including boating, camping, fishing, and hiking.
Good to know: Some Interesting Facts about Yellowstone Park
- Yellowstone National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Park is in UNESCO’s Natural category.
- Yellowstone is also the most popular National Park in the United States, with over four million tourists annually.
- Yellowstone has over 10,000 hydrothermal elements such as mud pots, hot springs, and, obviously, geysers.
- Yellowstone’s most famous for the geysers it has. The Old Faithful Geyser, the most famous attraction, is among them all.
- The Park features travertine terraces, home to odd little microorganisms called thermophiles. (Thermophile means “heat-loving”, and thermophiles give the Park its vibrant colors.)
- Yellowstone Park is one of the few areas in America where both grizzlies and black bears coexist. Don’t believe you can tell grizzlies from black bears by their color because you can’t! Despite their names, both types of bears sport relatively the same fur color throughout much of the year.
- The Yellowstone National Park sits atop of a supervolcano. Although the volcano is still active, it has been around 70,000 years since its last eruption. What would happen if the supervolcano erupted? Short answer: it would be really, really bad!
Did you Know?
The Grand Canyon also goes through Yellowstone. The Yellowstone River carved out the canyon to where it is now a thousand feet deep and between one-and-a-half thousand to four thousand feet wide.
There are approximately 20 miles of Grand Canyon going through Yellowstone Park.
Operating Seasons and Hours
Yellowstone National Park operates a complicated schedule that is subject to change.
To access the latest information, visit the official operating hours & seasons page.
Frequently Asked Questions about How Many National Parks are in Idaho
Is camping allowed at Nez Percé?
The Park does not have its own camping facilities. However, several nearby private and public campsites close the Park.
Why is the geyser “Old Faithful” called that?
For more than 70 years, Old Faithful has been erupting at regular intervals more-or-less consistently. Eruptions used to occur approximately every 67 minutes, but this has increased to about every 90 minutes in recent decades.
Afterword: How many National Parks are in Idaho
There are only two national parks in Idaho if you count by areas called ‘National Park’.
However, if you count all those areas managed by the National Park Service (discounting trails which span several states), then there are six:
- Nez Percé (Park)
- Yellowstone (Park)
- City of Rocks (Reserve)
- Craters of the Moon (Monument)
- Hagerman Fossil Beds (Monument)
- Minidoka (Historic Site)
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