National Natural Landmark

The Trona Pinnacles with National Natural Landmark sign
Shiprock National Natural Landmark
Wissahickon Valley plaque in Philadelphia near Valley Green Inn

The National Natural Landmarks (NNL) Program recognizes and encourages the conservation of outstanding examples of the natural history of the United States.[1] It is the only national natural areas program that identifies and recognizes the best examples of biological and geological features in both public and private ownership. The program was established on May 18, 1962, by United States Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall.

The program aims to encourage and support voluntary preservation of sites that illustrate the geological and ecological history of the United States. It also hopes to strengthen the public's appreciation of the country's natural heritage. As of January 2021, 602 sites have been added to the National Registry of National Landmarks.[2] The registry includes nationally significant geological and ecological features in 48 states, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The National Park Service administers the NNL Program and if requested, assists NNL owners and managers with the conservation of these important sites. Land acquisition by the federal government is not a goal of this program. National Natural Landmarks are nationally significant sites owned by a variety of land stewards, and their participation in this federal program is voluntary.

The legislative authority for the National Natural Landmarks Program stems from the Historic Sites Act of August 21, 1935 (49 Stat. 666, 16 U.S.C. 641); the program is governed by federal regulations.[3] The NNL Program does not have the protection features of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Thus, designation of a National Natural Landmark presently constitutes only an agreement with the owner to preserve, insofar as possible, the significant natural values of the site or area. Administration and preservation of National Natural Landmarks is solely the owner's responsibility. Either party may terminate the agreement after they notify the other.


The NNL designation is made by the Secretary of the Interior after in-depth scientific study of a potential site. All new designations must have owner concurrence. The selection process is rigorous: to be considered for NNL status, a site must be one of the best examples of a natural region's characteristic biotic or geologic features. Since establishment of the NNL program, a multi-step process has been used to designate a site for NNL status. Since 1970, the following steps have constituted the process.

  1. A natural area inventory of a natural region is completed to identify the most promising sites.
  2. After landowners are notified that the site is being considered for NNL status, a detailed onsite evaluation is conducted by scientists other than those who conducted the inventory.[note 1]
  3. The evaluation report is peer reviewed by other experts to assure its soundness.
  4. The report is reviewed further by National Park Service staff.
  5. The site is reviewed by the Secretary of the Interior's National Park Advisory Board to determine that the site qualifies as an NNL.
  6. The findings are provided to the Secretary of the Interior who approves or declines.
  7. Landowners are notified a third time informing them that the site has been designated an NNL.

Prospective sites for NNL designation are terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems; geological features, exposures, and landforms that record active geological processes or portions of earth history; and fossil evidence of biological evolution. Each major natural history "theme" can be further subdivided into various sub-themes. For example, sub-themes suggested in 1972 for the overall theme "Lakes and ponds" included large deep lakes, large shallow lakes, lakes of complex shape, crater lakes, kettle lake and potholes, oxbow lakes, dune lakes, sphagnum-bog lakes, lakes fed by thermal streams, tundra lakes and ponds, swamps and marshy areas, sinkhole lakes, unusually productive lakes, and lakes of high productivity and high clarity.


The NNL program does not require designated properties to be owned by public entities. Lands under almost all forms of ownership or administration have been designated—federal, state, local, municipal and private. Federal lands with NNLs include those administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, Air Force, Marine Corps, Army Corps of Engineers, Navy, and others.

Some NNL have been designated on lands held by Native Americans or tribes. NNLs also have been designated on state lands that cover a variety of types and management, as forest, park, game refuge, recreation area, and preserve. Private lands with NNLs include those owned by universities, museums, scientific societies, conservation organizations, land trusts, commercial interests, and private individuals. Approximately 52% of NNLs are administered by public agencies, more than 30% are entirely privately owned, and the remaining 18% are owned or administered by a mixture of public agencies and private owners.


Participation in the NNL Program carries no requirements regarding public access. The NNL registry includes many sites of national significance that are open for public tours, but others are not. Since many NNLs are located on federal and state property, permission to visit is often unnecessary. Some private property may be open to public visitation or just require permission from the site manager. On the other hand, some NNL private landowners desire no visitors whatever and might even prosecute trespassers. The reasons for this viewpoint vary: potential property damage or liability, fragile or dangerous resources, and desire for solitude or no publicity.

Property status

NNL designation is an agreement between the property owner and the federal government. NNL designation does not change ownership of the property nor induce any encumbrances on the property. NNL status does not transfer with changes in ownership.

Participation in the NNL Program involves a voluntary commitment on the part of the landowner(s) to retain the integrity of their NNL property as it was when designated. If "major" habitat or landscape destruction is planned, participation in the NNL Program by a landowner would be ingenuous and meaningless.

The federal action of designation imposes no new land use restrictions that were not in effect before the designation. It is conceivable that state or local governments on their own volition could initiate regulations or zoning that might apply to an NNL. However, as of 2005 no examples of such a situation have been identified. Some states require planners to ascertain the location of NNLs.

List of landmarks

Listed by state or territory in alphabetical order. As of January 2021, there were 602 listings.[2]

State or territoryNumber of landmarksNumber, non-duplicatedEarliest declaredLatest declaredImage
1Alabama77October 1971November 1987Bottle Creek.jpg
2Alaska161619671976Aniakchak-caldera alaska.jpg
3American Samoa7719721972
4Arizona101019652011Barringer Crater aerial photo by USGS.jpg
5Arkansas5519721976Mammoth spring (47).JPG
6California37371964January 2021Kluft-photo-Carrizo-Plain-Nov-2007-Img 0327.jpg
7Colorado1615 [note 2]1964January 20212006-07-16 Summit Lake Park Colorado.jpg
8Connecticut87[note 3]April 1968November 1973Dinosaur State Park (Rocky Hill, CT) - prints.JPG
10Florida1818March 1964May 1987Manatee Springs State Park Florida springs05.jpg
11Georgia11111966April 2013OkefenokeeCanalDiggersTrail.wmg.jpg
12Guam4419721972Puntan Dos Amantes (Two Lovers Point) in Guam in June 2017.jpg
13Hawaii77June 1971December 1972Diamond-Head-Hawaii-Nov-2001.jpg
14Idaho111119681980City of rocks view NPS.jpg
15Illinois181819651987Illinois Beach State Park Lakefront.jpg
16Indiana3029 [note 4]19651986Marengo Cave formations.JPG
19Kentucky76 [note 4]19662009Daniel Boone National Forest Tater Knob.jpg
22Maryland65 [note 5]19641980BattleCreekCypressSwamp3.JPG
23Massachusetts1110[note 3]October 1971November 1987Gay Head cliffs MV.JPG
24Michigan1212[4]19671984Porcupine Mountains.jpg
25Minnesota87 [note 6]19651980Lake Itasca Mississippi Source.jpg
26Mississippi5519651976Petrified Forest.jpg
27Missouri1616June 1971May 1986Marvel Cave.JPG
28Montana101019661980Orillas fósiles del lago Missoula.jpg
30Nevada6619681973Valley of Fire Nevada11.jpg
31New Hampshire111119711987
32New Jersey1110[note 7]October 1965June 1983Great Falls (Passaic River).jpg
33New Mexico121219691982Shiprock.snodgrass3.jpg
34New York2826[note 7][note 8]March 1964July 2014Round Lake (2) - Fayetteville NY.jpg
35North Carolina131319671983Pilot Mtn Knob 2.JPG
36North Dakota4419601975
37Northern Mariana Islands0
38Ohio232319651980Cedar Bog Ohio Trail.JPG
39Oklahoma33December 1974June 1983
40Oregon11111966June 2016Vistahouse.jpg
41Pennsylvania2727March 1964January 2009Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, PA - North Lookout.jpg
42Puerto Rico5519751980Cabo Rojo limestone cliffs.jpg
43Rhode Island11May 1974May 1974Ell Pond-Rhode Island kettle hole.jpeg
44South Carolina66May 1974May 1986SC Congaree Swamp River.jpg
45South Dakota1312 [note 6]19651980The Needles in Custer State Park, South Dakota.jpg
48Utah44October 19651977Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry entrance.jpg
49Vermont1211[note 8]19672009Mount mansfield 20040926.jpg
50Virgin Islands7719801980Salt-River-Bay-1.jpg
51Virginia101019651987Photo of the Week - Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (VA) (4578425529).jpg
53Washington D.C.0
54West Virginia1615 [note 5]19642021
55Wisconsin18181964May 2012WyalusingStateParkWisconsinRiverIntoMississippiRiver.jpg
56Wyoming65 [note 2]October 1965December 1984

See also


  1. ^ This step was dropped after 1979 but was reinstituted in 1999.
  2. ^ a b Sand Creek shared between Colorado and Wyoming
  3. ^ a b Bartholomew's Cobble shared between Connecticut and Massachusetts
  4. ^ a b Ohio Coral Reef shared between Indiana and Kentucky
  5. ^ a b Cranesville Swamp Nature Sanctuary shared between Maryland and West Virginia
  6. ^ a b Ancient River Warren Channel shared between Minnesota and South Dakota
  7. ^ a b Palisades of the Hudson shared between New Jersey and New York
  8. ^ a b Chazy Fossil Reef shared between Vermont and New York


  1. ^ "National Natural Landmarks Program". National Park Service. Retrieved June 7, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "High Plateaus, Smelly Caverns, and Coastal Dunes, Meet the Nation's Newest Natural Landmarks". National Park Service. National Park Service. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  3. ^ "National Natural Landmarks Program; Final Rule 36 CFR 62," Federal Register Vol. 64, No. 91, Wednesday, May 12, 1999, pp. 25708-25723.
  4. ^ Roscommon Red Pines, Department of Natural Resources.

External links

Media files used on this page

Kluft-photo-Carrizo-Plain-Nov-2007-Img 0327.jpg
Author/Creator: Ikluft, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
San Andreas Fault in the Carrizo Plain, aerial view from 8500 feet altitude
Valley of Fire Nevada11.jpg
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Sand Hills Nebraska.jpg
(c) I, Pfly, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Photograph of the Sand Hills of Nebraska.
Illinois Beach State Park Lakefront.jpg
Beach area in the northern unit of Illinois Beach State Park. Photo taken in 2006 by Dave Piasecki.
Author/Creator: Bobak Ha'Eri, Licence: CC BY-SA 2.5
Trona Pinnacles — with NPS sign in the Mojave Desert of California.
Author/Creator: Bowie Snodgrass, Licence: CC BY 2.0
A photograph of Shiprock, Navajo Nation, New Mexico, USA.
Lake Itasca Mississippi Source.jpg
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
2006-07-16 Summit Lake Park Colorado.jpg
Author/Creator: Matt Wright, Licence: CC BY-SA 2.5
Summit Lake Park in Colorado, USA
Iowa loesshills.jpg
(c) Billwhittaker at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
Loess hills bluffs, Council Bluffs, Iowa, north of I-80
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, PA - North Lookout.jpg
Author/Creator: Zeete, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
View, looking northeast, of Hawk Mountain and Blue Mountain from the North Lookout at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania. Visitors birdwatching during migration season.
Porcupine Mountains.jpg
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Marengo Cave formations.JPG
Formations observed through a tour in Marengo Cave.
Petrified Forest.jpg
Author/Creator: NatalieMaynor, Licence: CC BY 2.0
A cliff in the Petrified Forest near Flora, Mississippi.
Aniakchak-caldera alaska.jpg
Aerial view, looking east, of Aniakchak caldera, one of the most spectacular volcanoes on the Alaska Peninsula. Formed during a catastrophic ash-flow producing eruption about 3,400 years ago, Aniakchak caldera is about 10 km (6 mi) across and averages 500 m (1,640 ft) in depth. Voluminous postcaldera eruptive activity has produced a wide variety of volcanic landforms and deposits within the caldera. The volcano is located in Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, Alaska, which is administered by the National Park Service.
Dinosaur State Park (Rocky Hill, CT) - prints.JPG
Author/Creator: Daderot, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Dinosaur State Park and Arboretum, Rocky Hill, Connecticut, USA. General view of dinosaur prints.
Pilot Mtn Knob 2.JPG
Author/Creator: Berean Hunter, Licence: CC BY-SA 2.5

Pilot Mountain Knob — in North Carolina.

  • Photo taken 10-30-2008 from Little Pinnacle.
Como Bluff.jpg
(c) Anky-man, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Como Bluff, Wyoming, site of numerous important dinosaur discoveries in the late 1800s.
Round Lake (2) - Fayetteville NY.jpg
Author/Creator: Easchiff, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Round Lake, Green Lakes State Park, Fayetteville, New York. Looking NE down the spillway.
City of rocks view NPS.jpg
Fritillaria pudica, Yellow Bells at City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho.
Daniel Boone National Forest Tater Knob.jpg
Author/Creator: The original uploader was Mzzl at English Wikipedia., Licence: Copyrighted free use
View from Tater Knob in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, USA.
(c) Meniscus at the English-language Wikipedia, CC-BY-SA-3.0
The "lighthouse" formation in Palo Duro Canyon.
Mount Katahdin is the peak having the greatest spire measure in Eastern United States.
Author/Creator: Valerius Tygart, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, Maryland, USA, in spring
Barringer Crater aerial photo by USGS.jpg
The origin of this classic, simple meteorite impact crater was long the subject of controversy. The discovery of fragments of the Canyon Diablo meteorite, including fragments within the breccia deposits that partially fill the structure, and the presence of a range of shock-metamorphic features in the target sandstone, confirmed its impact origin. Target rocks include Paleozoic carbonates and sandstones; these rocks have been overturned just outside the rim during ejection. The hummocky deposits just beyond the rim are remnants of the ejecta blanket. This aerial view shows the dramatic expression of the crater in the arid landscape.
Gay Head cliffs MV.JPG
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Wissahickon NHL.jpg
Author/Creator: Peetlesnumber1, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Wissahickon Valley NHL
Cabo Rojo limestone cliffs.jpg
Author/Creator:, Licence: Copyrighted free use
limestone cliffs in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
Author/Creator: Brian Stansberry, Licence: CC BY 3.0
Looking east from an overlook near the summit of Black Mountain in Cumberland County, Tennessee, in the southeastern United States. Part of Grassy Cove is visible below on the right. The edge of the Cumberland Plateau is visible along the horizon (the border between the dark brown and blue area). The smoke plume faintly visible at the top is from Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant. This overlook is located just off the Cumberland Trail.
Mount mansfield 20040926.jpg
Author/Creator: The original uploader was Redjar at English Wikipedia., Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0

Description: Photograph of en:Mount Mansfield

Source: Photograph taken by Jared C. Benedict on 26 September 2004. Full resolution original available at:

Copyright: © Jared C. Benedict.

en:Category:Stowe, Vermont
Fagatogo Dock.jpg
(c) Eric Guinther at the English-language Wikipedia, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Portion of the dock area at Fagatogo, Pago Pago Harbor, American Samoa with Rainmaker Mt. (Pioa Mtn.) in the background.
The Crown Point Vista House in the Columbia River Gorge. Beacon Rock is visible in the background, above and to the left of the Vista House; Hamilton Mountain is to the left of Beacon Rock.
Orillas fósiles del lago Missoula.jpg

Description: Shorelines from Glacial Lake Missoula on the hills above Missoula, Montana.

Source: National Park Service photograph from [1]

Caption: Wave-cut strandlines cut into the slope at left in photo. These cuts record former high-water lines, or shorelines of Glacial Lake Missoula near Missoula, Montana. Gullies above the highway are the result of modern-day erosion.
Author/Creator: © Wyatt Greene, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Canal Diggers Trail in Okefenokee Swamp
(c) Pytheas at the English-language Wikipedia, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Germany Valley in Pendleton County, West Virginia. Picture taken on US 33 on North Fork Mountain in July 2006. Picture taken and uploaded by Wyatt Greene.
Author/Creator: Cindy, Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0
The w:Wisconsin River delta into the w:Mississippi River taken at w:Wyalusing State Park in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin flows from the near right to the Mississippi River. The Mississippi River flows from the right to the left. Iowa is visible in the distance on the other side of the Mississippi River. w:Prairie du Chien is just out of view to the right.
Wyalusing View 2
Photo of the Week - Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (VA) (4578425529).jpg
Author/Creator: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region, Licence: CC BY 2.0

Photo of the Week - 05/04/2010

Lake Drummond at Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.

Credit: Rebecca Wynn/USFWS
Author/Creator: ProveIt, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Diamond Head. Diamond Head is Oahu's largest tuff cone formed over 100,000 years ago by an active bubbling volcano. Nineteenth century British sailors nicknamed the crater Diamond Head when they mistook the calcite crystals for diamonds. A well-graded trail leads you up the 760-feet summit to a World War II bunker with a bird's eye view of Honolulu.
Puntan Dos Amantes (Two Lovers Point) in Guam in June 2017.jpg
Author/Creator: Eddy23, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Taken in June of 2017 from Two Lovers Point in Guam.
Manatee Springs State Park Florida springs05.jpg
Author/Creator: Ebyabe, Licence: CC BY 2.5
Manatee Springs. A huge karst spring in Manatee Springs State Park, near Chiefland, Florida, USA