National Park Soundscapes

Natural and cultural sounds awaken a sense of awe that connects us to the splendor of national parks, and have a powerful effect on our emotions, attitudes and memories. From the mysterious calls of bugling elk in the Rocky Mountains to the patriotic, bugling trumpets heard across a historic battlefield, these sounds are part of a web of natural and cultural resources that the National Parks protects under the Organic Act. The sounds heard in each national park are uniquely special to that place. NPS invites you to experience our parks through this world of sound.

National Park Service Directors Order #47 specifies what actions park management must take to preserve the parks acoustic footprint. Sound pollution effects the park’s cultural soundscape and prevents visitors from making meaningful connections when contemplating the serenity of a burial landscape or enjoying a picnic next to a burbling stream. Some species of animals when conditioned to long-term noise pollution will alter their mating calls to be heard which their opposite sex may not respond to.

The park’s soundscape can be explored in geographic context by using a sound model. Using easily-measured factors such as topography, climate, human activity, and time, park scientists have created an interactive maps which show existing and natural soundscapes. The existing soundscape is based on actual measured sound levels, including those caused by human activities such as vehicles, aircraft, and other man-made noises. The natural soundscape shows expected sound conditions which include wind, running water, and animals: without the human factor.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park soundscape maps…


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