Quiz: How Well Do You Know Our National Monuments?

From the Statue of Liberty standing tall above New York Harbor to Idaho’s volcanic Craters of the Moon, national monuments protect some of our country’s most prized places and objects, and tell some of our most important stories. Mountains, islands, caves, forts, ruins and birthplaces—anywhere “of historic or scientific interest” can be deemed a national monument with a law or presidential proclamation.

They protect millions of acres of public lands and offer some of the most scenic places to climb, hike, kayak and more, but national monuments also increasingly offer some of America’s least-crowded adventures—in part because many people don’t know a lot about them.

Do you? Test your knowledge of our national monuments.

A group of people sit on a log overlooking a lighthouse.
Lime Kiln Light overlooking Dead Man’s Bay; San Juan Islands National Monument, Washington. Photo credit: Ivan Lasso

Take the Quiz

What is a national monument? 

  1. A designated site with specific cultural, historical or scientific significance
  2. A protected area created on or from federally owned or controlled land
  3. A landmark created by Congressional legislation or presidential proclamation
  4. All of the above

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4. All of the above. National monuments are areas of significant natural, cultural, scientific or recreational value that are located on land owned and managed by the federal government, such as national parks. They can be established by Congress, and by presidential order via the Antiquities Act of 1906, which was created in part to prevent theft and damage to archaeological sites. (By contrast, only acts of Congress can create national parks.)

Since 1906, all but all but four U.S. presidents have invoked the act to create new national monuments.

What was the first established national monument?  

  1. Katahdin Woods and Waters, Maine
  2. Devils Tower, Wyoming
  3. Muir Woods, California
  4. Capulin Volcano, New Mexico

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2. Devils Tower, Wyoming. Theodore Roosevelt (who hated to be called Teddy—did you know that?) established this first national monument on Sept. 24, 1906. The Lakota name for this unusual geological volcanic formation is Mato Tipila, meaning “Bear Lodge”; it has been been a sacred site for the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Crow and Kiowa peoples as well.

It’s also one of the most popular crack-climbing areas in the country, with hundreds of parallel cracks—some wide enough to fit one’s whole body into, and one extending nearly 400 feet upward.

Which president designated the greatest number of national monuments??  

  1. Woodrow Wilson
  2. Theodore Roosevelt
  3. Calvin Coolidge
  4. Barack Obama

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4. Barack Obama.The 44th president handily assumed Theodore Roosevelt’s former title, designating 26 national monuments. In total, Obama newly protected over 260 million acres, including the crystal waters and stunning night skies of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument; and the historic site across the street from the Stonewall Inn, where the fight for LGBTQ+ civil rights began. He also increased existing monuments’ acreage by another 465 million.

Which of these songs could be on a playlist about our national monuments? 

  1. “Buffalo Soldier” by Bob Marley
  2. “Devils Tower” by Toto
  3. “El Corrido de Sylvia Rivera” by Renee Goust ft. La Bruja de Texcoco
  4. “Mt. St. Helens” by Mirah
  5. All of the above

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5. All of the above. Ohio’s Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers Monument commemorates General Charles Young, who was the third African-American graduate of West Point, the first Black man to become a U.S. Army colonel and the highest-ranking Black officer in the Regular Army until his 1922 death. Buffalo soldiers, as Marley sings, were African Americans serving in the post–Civil War army.

Wyoming’s Devils Tower, mentioned in this quiz’s first question, is an extremely challenging but popular site for climbers; Toto’s chorus includes the line, “Climb the devil’s tower one more time.”

LGBTQ+ rights advocates, drag queens and Stonewall riot protesters Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson would go on to lead several pivotal initiatives and organizations in the fight for equality. Mexican American musician Goust memorializes Rivera in a corrido, a traditional type of Mexican storytelling song.

Mount St. Helens is a stratovolcano whose last major eruption was in 1980; it was designated as a national monument in 1982 and became the subject of a Mirah song in 2006.

Which national monument had the most visitors in both 2021 and 2022

  1. Stonewall, New York
  2. Muir Woods, California
  3. Castle Clinton, New York
  4. Cedar Breaks, Utah

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3. Castle Clinton, New York. Did you know there’s an immigration station near New York Harbor that predates Ellis Island? That’s Castle Clinton—a former fort built during the War of 1812, called Castle Garden when it reopened in 1855 to receive new arrivals to the country. Between 1855 and 1890, more than 8 million people passed through the circular sandstone building. The Manhattan locale now welcomes over 3 million visitors each year looking to dive deep into American history—and to get to America’s second-most popular national monument, the Statue of Liberty.

How many national monuments are there? 

  1. 133
  2. 203
  3. 113
  4. 103

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1. 133—as of this publication. On Aug. 8th, 2023, President Joe Biden designated the 133rd national monument: Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni—Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument. This monument protects nearly 1 million acres surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. Baaj Nwaavjo means “where tribes roam” for the Havasupai Tribe; I’tah Kukveni means “our ancestral footprints” in Hopi. With your help, however, the number of national monuments could increase by the end of the year. (More on that below.)  

Which of these national parks started out as a national monument? 

  1. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  2. Arches National Park, Utah
  3. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  4. All of the above

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4. All of the above—and then some. Believe it or not, nearly half of America’s beloved national parks started out as national monuments. California’s Pinnacles National Park and Missouri’s Gateway Arch National Park are just two recent examples of this process in action.

President Biden recently proclaimed two national monuments in two weeks in Aug. 2023. One was the aforementioned Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni—Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument, in Arizona. What was the other? 

  1. Avi Kwa Ame, Nevada
  2. Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley; Illinois, Mississippi
  3. Castner Range, Texas
  4. Camp Hale, Colorado

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2. Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley; Illinois, Mississippi. This national monument honors the life of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley. It includes three sites in two states: Graball Landing on Mississippi’s Tallahatchie River, where the child’s body was retrieved; the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi, where his alleged killers’ trial took place; and Chicago, where his mother decided to hold an open-casket funeral to expose the racist brutality that Till suffered. 

Which state has the most national monuments

  1. Arizona
  2. California
  3. Utah
  4. New Mexico

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1. Arizona. With the creation of the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni—Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument, Arizona is now home to 19 national monuments, from Chiricahua to Tuzigoot. The Grand Canyon State’s previous tie with California—which has 18—is officially broken.

What is the largest national monument in the Lower 48 states? 

  1. Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni—Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon, Arizona
  2. Bears Ears, Utah
  3. Mojave Trails, California
  4. Grand Staircase–Escalante, Utah

Bonus question: What are some ways you can support national monuments

  1. Visit and enjoy them
  2. Commit to protecting them
  3. Join the REI Co-op and the REI Cooperative Action Network in advocating for the Places We Love
  4. All of the above

4. All of the above. By recreating responsibly in protected areas, you can show our government how meaningful and significant national monuments are for the well-being of our nation and its people. Always follow the Leave No Trace Principles when visiting national monuments in order to keep them preserved and pristine for generations to come. You can even consider volunteering at a national monument site: Volunteer.gov has stewardship, educational, interpretive and other opportunities year-round and nationwide.

Read on to learn how you can help protect more significant places as national monuments by joining the REI Cooperative Action Network‘s Monument Campaign Mobilizing for Monuments.

Hikers in a river crossing
Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, Utah. Photo courtesy of Arizona Outback Adventures

Mobilizing for Monuments

REI Co-op has joined the Conservation Alliance, The North Face, Patagonia, Keen, the Outdoor Alliance and more to form the Mobilizing for Monuments coalition, which encourages businesses, American citizens and everyone who loves the outdoors to act now to permanently protect our lands and waters from climate change and urban development. One of the swiftest ways to enact that big a change is by establishing and expanding national monuments.

This August, President Biden designated Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni—Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument, a nearly 1-million-acre addition to monument lands, thanks to an awareness initiative and campaign that has been led by 12 Indigenous tribes in the area. Now, through our REI Cooperative Action Network, we’re working with Mobilizing for Monuments to urge Biden to establish, expand and protect several more national monuments, including California’s San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument and Colorado’s Dolores River Canyon Country National Monument

Together, we can join voices to support national monument designations across the U.S. Protecting the country’s remaining wild places and outdoor spaces, preserving cultural and historical sites, improving opportunities for recreation, getting more citizens outdoors and growing the economies of in-need communities—these are matters in everyone’s interest.

Join the REI Cooperative Action Network in advocating for America’s most precious places and learn more about how you can continue advocating for new and expanded national monuments.

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