America’s Best Idea

An exploration of our national parks

Ken Burns’ documentary explores the untold stories behind some of our country’s most magnificent sites.

National Parks: America's Best Idea: Image 1
In Fall 2009, PBS stations across the country broadcast Ken Burns’s latest film, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”
The film, scheduled to air as a six-part series, chronicles the evolution of the National Parks over nearly 150 years. Photo by Carleton E. Watkins
The film, which aired again in 2016, is a six-part series that chronicles the evolution of the National Parks over nearly 150 years.
National Park
“The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” tells the rich cultural, historic and environmental stories that lay behind the creation and preservation of some of America’s most important sites.
National Park
“Our national parks are a defining part of who we are as a people. We’re hopeful new generations of Americans will discover our parks, embrace them, and pass them on to their children as part of their heritage.” — Ken Burns
Untold Stories from America's National Parks
The Haas, Jr. Fund specifically supported “Untold Stories,” a related project collecting the stories of people from diverse backgrounds who helped shape the parks we know and love today. The project produced a book, several mini-documentaries and a 45-minute film.
Israel “Parson” Jones and Family
Chronicled in the “Untold Stories,” which were developed into a companion book and shorter film, is the story of Israel “Parson” Jones, an African American man who bought land in the late 1800s which later became the backbone of Florida’s Biscayne National Park after his son insisted that it not be sold to developers.
PBS Presentation
The Haas, Jr. Fund provided the largest grant in PBS history for public outreach to make sure the film reaches communities that have traditionally been underrepresented in the National Parks, through educational materials, translation of the film, and grants for local outreach.
National Parks - Parks For All Preview Day
At the Parks for All press conference and forum in San Francisco, Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan met with members of the press and the community to launch the “Untold Stories” campaign, and to provide details on the components of the unprecedented outreach effort.
National Parks: America's Best Idea: Image 1
The film, scheduled to air as a six-part series, chronicles the evolution of the National Parks over nearly 150 years.
National Park
National Park
Untold Stories from America's National Parks
Israel “Parson” Jones and Family
PBS Presentation
National Parks - Parks For All Preview Day