Honking horns and catcalls getting you down? Not to worry, city dwellers — the National Park Foundation is here to help.
The National Park Foundation (NPF) has launched PARKTRACKS, an audio portal that lets visitors play a 12-minute-long track of sounds captured at national parks across the country. In honor of the National Parks Service’s 102nd birthday, it’s also hosting a pop-up listening event in Seattle on Friday and Saturday. But anyone can turn on, tune in, drop out — with nature — on the website.
“We hope people will take a moment to pause, listen, and let their imaginations be captivated by the natural and cultural sounds of our national parks,” Alanna Sobel, a National Park Foundation representative, told Mashable over email.
There is actually a whole division of the National Parks Service that’s devoted to capturing the more ephemeral features of nature: The Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division. That NPS department places microphones in national parks for a month at a time, capturing and analyzing audio from the likes of Yellowstone or the Hawaii Volcanoes. The Natural Sounds division has its own catalogue of sounds, organized by park and even animal, in a portal via Colorado State University.
But the track released Friday is more like the radio-ready remix of park sounds. It’s a combination of birds chirping and squawking, rivers rushing, thunder, lightning, rain, and even the occasional human chant, captured from multiple parks and edited together into one soothing soundscape. It shows that nature doesn’t mean silence — it means life.
“Nature is alive with sound,” Sobel said. “People explore nature and parks for a variety of reasons, parks are very personal. Some go in seek of solitude, others go for recreation and movement. Some go to reconnect with our shared heritage, others go to experience a dark night sky. The National Park Foundation’s goal with PARKTRACKS is to bring parks to people through actual natural and cultural sounds.”
A recent trip to the Pacific Northwest reminded me of how being in nature, surrounded by soft sound and dappled light, provides a warm feeling of calm, but also vigor, that I’d been missing from my urban life.
Listening to the NPF’s track doesn’t quite replicate the feeling of tranquil awe that being among trees, rivers, and the open sky provides. But if you shut your eyes and press play, the audio forces you to take a breath. It offers a glimpse at the natural world, in repose, and a reminder of your part in it.