History
NPSWilderness Photo

People have held various perspectives of wilderness throughout history. During European settlement of America, wilderness was something to be feared. One settler in the early 1600s stated, "Wilderness is a dark and dismal place where all manner of wild beasts dash about uncooked." Three centuries later, an American author stated, "[wilderness] is the ultimate source of health - terrestrial and human."

The United States was the first country in the world to define and designate wilderness areas through law. Subsequently, countries around the world have protected areas modeled after the Wilderness Act. Wilderness is part of our history and heritage and is passed as a legacy to future generations. Indispensable to the American past, the legacy that is wilderness will remain indispensable to the American future.

Explore wilderness history through The Idea of Wilderness timeline.