Arch Rock is one of the outstanding sights in America's second national park, Mackinac, established in 1875, not long after Yellowstone National Park.
Never heard of Mackinac? While Yellowstone remains one of the U.S. National Park Service's crown jewels, Mackinac was abolished after only 20 years—making it one of 26 sites that geographer Bob Janiskee calls "pruned" national parks.
"Six percent of all the national parks that have ever been created have been dropped," said Janiskee, now retired from the University of South Carolina. "During the sixties, seventies, and eighties, there was a period of tremendous growth, but it gets lost in the shuffle that parks also get abolished or decommissioned."
Union Station still bustles as the main rail hub for Washington, D.C., but the National Visitor Center once housed here lives on only as a dubious part of National Park Service (NPS) history. "It was a $160 million mistake," Janiskee said.
The beaux arts train station nearly met the wrecking ball in the 1960s until a plan was hatched to make Union Station the central information center for the millions of visitors Washington, D.C., receives each year.
The visitor center opened under NPS management in time for the country's Bicentennial in 1976 but, as it turned out, tourists avoided the place and the disastrous project was scuttled just two years later.
"They spent all that money," Janiskee said, "and then they had to walk away from it."
Photograph by Eric Murphy, Alamy
Oklahoma City National Memorial
The Oklahoma City National Memorial is a moving testament to the 168 persons killed and more than 650 wounded in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995.
The memorial opened as a national park in 1997, but after only seven years, the U.S. Congress transferred management responsibilities to the nongovernmental organization that had originally built the memorial and museum.
Visitors will still see rangers around the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial, however. "By agreement the Park Service is continuing to provide the same interpretive services they did before the park was decommissioned," Janiskee explained.
Photograph by Vito Palmisano, Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
Mar-a-Lago National Historic Site
After a brief stint in the public domain, this Palm Beach, Florida, playground of the rich and famous—built during the 1920s by heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post—has returned to its roots as an exclusive private enclave.
Post donated Mar-a-Lago to the U.S. federal government as a warm-weather presidential and diplomatic retreat, and it became part of the park system in 1972. However, Congress, citing the high cost of maintenance and development, returned the property to the Post Foundation in 1980.
"Getting rid of that property was economically responsible," Janiskee said. "But I am still sorry that it's not part of the park system."
Photograph by Steve Starr, Corbis
Lewis and Clark Cavern National Monument
Montana's Lewis and Clark Cavern National Monument was established in 1908. Though they traveled nearby, the namesake explorers never visited the limestone caves—and neither did many other people.
Janiskee said remoteness has been a factor in the abolition of numerous national parks. "It costs money to develop and maintain a national park, and if access is poor, chances are you're not going to get the visitation numbers to justify the budget for it."
In 1937 the site was transferred to the state of Montana, where it has enjoyed a successful second act as Montana's first state park—Lewis and Clark Caverns.
Photograph by Wayne Scherr, Photo Researchers/Getty Images
During the 1960s and 1970s, Congress focused new Park Service efforts on opportunities for urban recreation, Janiskee said. But the expensive and complicated management of the center's performance offerings and facilities fell far outside the service's traditional strengths and mission.
"It really never should have been a national park in the first place," Janiskee said.
By the early 1990s snowballing management and maintenance costs had brought the issue of Kennedy Center management to a head, and the institution's trustees took over operation of the center in 1994.
Photograph by Bob Rowan, Progressive Image/Corbis
Castle Pinckney National Monument
This Confederate island fortress in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, was used to house Union POWs, like these men from the Civil War's First Battle of Bull Run. During the war, Castle Pinckney was bombarded twice before falling to the Union with the rest of Charleston in 1865.
After the war, Castle Pinckney fell into general disuse and then into the hands of the National Park Service in 1933. After more than two sleepy decades, the Castle Pinckney National Monument was abolished in 1956—and still little has changed since.
Long ago taken from its original home, this Haida Indian totem on Alaska's Prince of Wales Island once kept watch over a national park in Southeast Alaska.
Old Kasaan National Monument, designated in 1916, preserved the ruins and totems of an abandoned Haida village called Old Kasaan. Roughly ten years earlier, the settlement's inhabitants had moved to a new settlement—New Kasaan—on Prince of Wales, where a salmon cannery promised plentiful work opportunities.
Remote Old Kasaan park was little visited, so eventually the park service reached an agreement with the villagers' descendants to move the totems from Old Kasaan to New Kasaan. There, the artifacts are part of a totem park.
After the totems' removal, nothing remained to justify the original site's inclusion in the park system, and the monument was abolished in 1955.
Photography by Rich Reid, National Geographic
Mount Shasta National Park
The area around California's Mount Shasta and Lake Shasta (pictured) was a national park for a few short years after the end of World War II.
The enormous Shasta Dam, which spawned the lake, was built on the Sacramento River between 1938 and 1945. The National Park Service took over management of the Shasta Lake Recreation Area in May 1945.
By 1948, though, Mount Shasta National Park was shuffled to the U.S. Forest Service, which administers the area as Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
Photograph by Walter Bibikow, The Image Bank/Getty Images