August 25 marks the 100th birthday of America’s National Park Service, once described by author Wallace Stegner as the “best idea” America ever had. When the NPS was founded in 1916, telephones were a rarity, the first television station was more than a decade away and the internet wasn’t yet a twinkle in Al Gore’s grandfather’s eye. Today, technology can detract from the park experience, but it can also enhance it greatly. Here are some of the coolest, most innovative ways to use technology to enrich your park visit this summer.
Spotting bears in real time with #bearcam
Seeing brown bears in the wild is one of the highlights of visiting Alaska’s Katmai National Park. In summer, you can stand on a platform and watch bears snatch sockeye salmon out of the Brooks River, spot them meandering through the forest in the park’s Pacific Coast backcountry or swoop in via helicopter to watch them munching clams in Hallo Bay. But to see bears in more remote locations, or in situations where it would be dangerous to get close, visitors can turn to Katmai’s multiple bear cameras, which broadcast live footage. There’s even an underwater river camera, which often catches bears paddling happily in pursuit of salmon. Katmai isn’t the only park with a wildlife cam. The Kelp Cam of Channel Islands National Park captures sea lions, fish and anemones.