Watch Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea Online

Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea

Where to Watch Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea

6
The Morning of Creation (1946-1980)
2009-10-02
After World War II, an increasingly mobile and affluent nation begins placing demands on the parks as never before, and the parks are in danger of being "loved to death." A Park Service biologist named Adolph Murie argues that ingrained practices such as killing predators runs counter to the purpose of national parks, while David Brower of the Sierra Club mobilizes public opinion to defeat Congressional proposals for dams in pristine places.

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5
Great Nature (1933-1945)
2009-10-01
A new president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, expands the national park idea to embrace battlefields and other historic and iconic sites.

Watch Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea Season 1 Episode 5 Now

4
Going Home (1920-1933)
2009-09-30
As the nation enters the 1920s, Stephen Mather and Horace Albright ally themselves with the automobile to "democratize" the national parks and attract more Americans to them. Nebraskans Margaret and Edward Gehrke begin collecting parks each summer, while Glenn and Bessie Hyde spend their honeymoon in a homemade boat on the raging Colorado river through the Grand Canyon.

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3
The Empire of Grandeur (1915-1919)
2009-09-29
America boasts a dozen national parks as the park idea turns 50 years old. A millionaire businessman named Stephen Mather impulsively accepts the offer to oversee them for one year.

Watch Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea Season 1 Episode 3 Now

2
The Last Refuge (1890-1915)
2009-09-28
At the end of the 19th century, some Americans begin to question the nation's headlong rush across the continent that has devastated forests and ravaged entire species of animals. Conservation's greatest champion is the new president, Theodore Roosevelt, who creates parks and wildlife refuges, and then audaciously uses the Antiquities Act to set aside 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon as a national monument.

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1
The Scripture of Nature (1851-1890)
2009-09-27
In 1851, a band of Indian fighters in California encounters a place of astonishing beauty, setting in motion events that bring other newcomers to Yosemite Valley: artists, writers, entrepreneurs, tourists, and eventually John Muir, who becomes a national voice for preservation. Meanwhile, reports emerge from Wyoming Territory of a fantastical place at the headwaters of the Yellowstone River.

Watch Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea Season 1 Episode 1 Now

Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea is a profound and visually stunning television series that premiered on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in 2009. From the acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns - best known for his far-reaching and historical television documentaries - this series testifies to his unparalleled knack for weaving period photographs, authentic voices, captivating stories, and breathtaking cinematography together in a way that senses time, place, and the exchanges of humanity, all into a riveting narrative.

This six-part, 12-hour documentary series sets out to explore America's magnificent national parks system, which spans more than 84 million acres across the nation and influences countless lives. It not only delves into the rich and vivid beauty of these preserved natural lands but also investigates the ideas and events that led to their establishment.

Rather than acting simply as a travelogue, the series excavates the diverse layers of each site. It delves into the philosophical, sociological, political, and inspirational underpinnings that prompted the drive to safeguard these lands for public enjoyment and education. The series gives emphasis not just to the values of conservancy and our relationship to nature, but also to the notion of parks as a reflection of democratic access and shared national inheritance.

The series’ title, America's Best Idea, derived from a quotation by the writer and conservationist Wallace Stegner, sets the tone for the documentary’s philosophy. The series suggests that the creation of national parks was not merely a move for conservation or recreation, but a profound affirmation of America’s democratic ideals - an idea that the most breathtaking natural wonders of the land belong not to private or exclusive interests, but to everyone, irrespective of their social or economic status.

Beginning with the earliest initiatives to protect and value unspoiled lands during the mid-19th century, when the first intrepid explorations into the Yosemite and Yellowstone areas occurred, the series evolves through time into the 21st century. It taps into the pivotal events and influential advocates who played significant roles in birthing the National Park Service, which was officially established in 1916.

The series fleshes out charismatic and compelling personalities as it progresses, each contributing to the narrative of America's national parks. These include intellectuals such as naturalist John Muir and historians Frederick Law Olmstead and George Melendez Wright, political figures like Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, and even local citizens who followed in their expansive passionate footsteps. The series also takes care to acknowledge the contributions and complications of native and indigenous populations, who frequently bore the cost of these preservation efforts.

Moreover, the series is supplemented by magnificent visuals that superbly complement its message, bringing the audience to the heart of these national treasures. It spans across a wide array of landscapes: from the geysers of Yellowstone and the dizzying cliffs of Yosemite to the wind-swept peaks of Denali and the sub-tropical wetlands of the Everglades. By virtue of awe-inspiring cinematography and composition, viewers are invited to experience each location's unique beauty and significance, offering an intimate understanding of why these places were deemed worth preserving.

Complemented by an emotive and evocative soundtrack, this documentary uses personal narratives, historical context, and empirical details to build the substance of its exploration. Each episode is filled with a rich blend of historical photographs, authentic soundtrack recordings, narration, personal anecdotes, letters, and news clippings, all of which are carefully crafted to paint the complete picture.

In essence, The National Parks - America's Best Idea is an elegy and celebration of America's democratically shared natural assets. Over its six-part journey, Ken Burns explores and unfurls the ideal that these landscapes are more than just picturesque tourist destinations, but a manifestation of our collective heritage and ideals as a nation. This is not just a broad, sweeping history of these preserved national lands, but also an intimate exploration of people – famous, unknown, native, immigrant - who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy. With powerful visuals and compelling storytelling, it's a poignant look at the past with plenty to say about the future of America's best idea. This series is a journey for anyone in pursuit of understanding not just the land we stand on but also the principles for which our nations stands.

Ken Burns: The National Parks - America's Best Idea is a series categorized as a canceled. Spanning 1 seasons with a total of 6 episodes, the show debuted on 2009. The series has earned a no reviews from both critics and viewers. The IMDb score stands at undefined.

Channel
PBS
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