Subpar Parks


Amber Share




Date Reviewed:

January 2, 2022

t is probably just coincidence, but Subpar Parks: America's Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors and The Art of the National Parks (Fifty-Nine Parks) both came out within one week of each other, in July of 2021. Both have the same format - on one page is a poster of art depicting one of our National Parks, and on the facing page are a few paragraphs describing that park's wonders, along with some interesting factoids, and perhaps some humorous anecdote. I loved the The Art of the National Parks, which featured poster art from numerous contributors. In Subpar Parks, author Amber Share created all of the artwork on her own. Some of the art is quite nice, but it isn't all uniformly inspired. And I felt that the ridiculous, disparaging comments from the mindless commentators rather marred the nicest of her posters. I liked best her art for the Blue Ridge Parkway, Arches, Rainier, Kobuk and the Gateway Arch.

Amber Share is loves our National Parks. And who doesn't? Well apparently, the parks are not universally appreciated. Share read with disbelief comments posted by park visitors - people who give one star reviews to places like the Grand Canyon or Death Valley. People who complain about bugs, lack of WiFi, or unable to appreciate a primeval forest or a landscape of windblown dunes. Outraged and discouraged, Share began to repost these foolish reviews, and added her own commentary and artwork of the disparaged park. This eventually evolved into her book, with her poster art, reprinted one star reviews, and her own rebuttal to the foolish remarks of the unimpressed visitors.

Here are some of the details I found interesting from Share's text:

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is the tallest arch in world, at 630 feet. Though it doesn't look it, the arch is as wide as it is tall. It was designed by the Finnish architect Eero Saarinen in 1947. The arch had to be constructed exactly right, if the two arcs had an error of more than 1/64th of an inch, they would not have aligned properly at top.

The unique trees in Joshua Tree National Park were named by Mormon settlers who thought that the outstretched limbs on the tree looked like the prophet Joshua welcoming the Jews into the promised land.

Mesa Verde is Spanish meaning Green Table. The National Park is named for the flat land above the Anazi ruins - the land is covered in a lush green forest of piņon and juniper trees.

Bryce Canyon is not a canyon.

Names in the US for geological formations are not allowed to have apostrophes, which is why there isn't one in Devils Tower. The name is thought to have come from a mistranslation of the Lakota term Mato Teepee, which meant Bear's House, but somehow got garbled into Bad God's Tower.

Death Valley was named by a group of pioneers who got stranded while trying to cross it in 1849. The party was rescued, only one pioneer died, but one rescued member is supposed to have turned around and said "Goodbye, Death Valley".