The Trona Pinnacles with National Natural Landmark sign
The Trona Pinnacles with National Natural Landmark sign
Shiprock National Natural Landmark
Shiprock National Natural Landmark
Wissahickon Valley plaque in Philadelphia near Valley Green Inn
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 Natural 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, as far 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, such 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 properties 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 whatsoever 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 of 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 territory Number of landmarks Number, non-duplicated Earliest declared Latest declared Image
1 Alabama 7 7 October 1971 November 1987
Bottle Creek.jpg
2 Alaska 16 16 1967 1976
Aniakchak-caldera alaska.jpg
3 American Samoa 7 7 1972 1972
Fagatogo Dock.jpg
4 Arizona 10 10 1965 2011
Barringer Crater aerial photo by USGS.jpg
5 Arkansas 5 5 1972 1976
Mammoth spring (47).JPG
6 California 37 37 1964 January 2021
Kluft-photo-Carrizo-Plain-Nov-2007-Img 0327.jpg
7 Colorado 16 15 [note 2] 1964 January 2021
2006-07-16 Summit Lake Park Colorado.jpg
8 Connecticut 8 7[note 3] April 1968 November 1973
Dinosaur State Park (Rocky Hill, CT) - prints.JPG
9 Delaware 0
10 Florida 18 18 March 1964 May 1987
Manatee Springs State Park Florida springs05.jpg
11 Georgia 11 11 1966 April 2013
12 Guam 4 4 1972 1972
Puntan Dos Amantes (Two Lovers Point) in Guam in June 2017.jpg
13 Hawaii 7 7 June 1971 December 1972
14 Idaho 11 11 1968 1980
City of rocks view NPS.jpg
15 Illinois 18 18 1965 1987
Illinois Beach State Park Lakefront.jpg
16 Indiana 30 29 [note 4] 1965 1986
Marengo Cave formations.JPG
17 Iowa 7 7 1965 1987
Iowa loesshills.jpg
18 Kansas 5 5 1968 1980
19 Kentucky 7 6 [note 4] 1966 2009
Daniel Boone National Forest Tater Knob.jpg
20 Louisiana 0
21 Maine 14 14 1966 1984
22 Maryland 6 5 [note 5] 1964 1980
23 Massachusetts 11 10[note 3] October 1971 November 1987
Gay Head cliffs MV.JPG
24 Michigan 12 12[4] 1967 1984
Porcupine Mountains.jpg
25 Minnesota 8 7 [note 6] 1965 1980
Lake Itasca Mississippi Source.jpg
26 Mississippi 5 5 1965 1976
Petrified Forest.jpg
27 Missouri 16 16 June 1971 May 1986
Marvel Cave.JPG
28 Montana 10 10 1966 1980
Orillas fósiles del lago Missoula.jpg
29 Nebraska 5 5 1964 2006
Sand Hills Nebraska.jpg
30 Nevada 6 6 1968 1973
Valley of Fire Nevada11.jpg
31 New Hampshire 11 11 1971 1987
2007 11Nov 10 Mount Monadnock Summit Rocky Plateau.jpg
32 New Jersey 11 10[note 7] October 1965 June 1983
Great Falls (Passaic River).jpg
33 New Mexico 12 12 1969 1982
34 New York 28 26[note 7][note 8] March 1964 July 2014
Round Lake (2) - Fayetteville NY.jpg
35 North Carolina 13 13 1967 1983
Pilot Mtn Knob 2.JPG
36 North Dakota 4 4 1960 1975
37 Northern Mariana Islands 0
38 Ohio 23 23 1965 1980
Cedar Bog Ohio Trail.JPG
39 Oklahoma 3 3 December 1974 June 1983
40 Oregon 11 11 1966 June 2016
41 Pennsylvania 27 27 March 1964 January 2009
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, PA - North Lookout.jpg
42 Puerto Rico 5 5 1975 1980
Cabo Rojo limestone cliffs.jpg
43 Rhode Island 1 1 May 1974 May 1974
Ell Pond-Rhode Island kettle hole.jpeg
44 South Carolina 6 6 May 1974 May 1986
SC Congaree Swamp River.jpg
45 South Dakota 13 12 [note 6] 1965 1980
The Needles in Custer State Park, South Dakota.jpg
46 Tennessee 13 13 1966 1974
47 Texas 20 20 1965 2009
48 Utah 4 4 October 1965 1977
Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry entrance.jpg
49 Vermont 12 11[note 8] 1967 2009
Mount mansfield 20040926.jpg
50 Virgin Islands 7 7 1980 1980
51 Virginia 10 10 1965 1987
Photo of the Week - Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (VA) (4578425529).jpg
52 Washington 18 18 1965 2011
53 Washington D.C. 0
54 West Virginia 16 15 [note 5] 1964 2021
55 Wisconsin 18 18 1964 May 2012
56 Wyoming 6 5 [note 2] October 1965 December 1984
Como Bluff.jpg

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.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  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.