Explore Natural Communities is designed to be an engaging way to share fascinating information about natural communities with National Park Service staff members and park visitors alike. This website provides tidbits for visitors seeking to enrich their visit to a park, and more detailed information for natural resource managers seeking to more effectively manage their natural area.

Listen to a short podcast or read the transcript.


If you are not already familiar with the concept of natural communities, this website will help you learn to see and understand nature the way a naturalist does.

If you are a NPS staff member, this website offers information, tools, and maps to help you interpret and manage your park.

Explore Natural Communities has much to offer a wide audience of users. See the Help section for tips on how you can benefit most from this website.

You'll find rich descriptions, images, and seasonal highlights of natural communities and their plants and animals. You'll learn about the physical settings and natural processes that help define each natural community. You'll have opportunities to discover more by clicking to open pop-up windows and links.

You'll see that much of the information here is about specific parks and natural places to encourage users to explore natural communities on the ground. Explore Natural Communities currently highlights Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., and other parks and natural areas will continually be added in the future.

Featured parks have an interactive map that lets you choose what to explore, with photographs, descriptions, and opportunities to dig deeper. Park visitors and interpretive staff can build a personalized hike, planning where to go and which natural features to see along the way and printing out a customized brochure to take with them. Natural resource managers can “analyze-an-area” to generate reports on natural features in the landscape. A Map Viewer Tutorial guides you through all this.

So, where to begin? Start HERE, then dig in and explore!

Transcript of Welcome Podcast

“Find Your Park.” You’ve heard the slogan. 

So, you’ve found your park, enjoyed the sights and the trails… But you’d love to go deeper—to see the park through the eyes of a naturalist. You want to be able to read the landscape the way some people can read animal tracks; to uncover stories behind what you see along the trails.

Well, you’ve come to the right place! Explore Natural Communities is your pocket guide to nature in the parks, complete with interactive maps and informational podcasts. Nature has stories to tell and patterns to be discovered, if you know what to look for. Come along and make your next hike an adventure! 

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Disclaimer: The views and conclusions contained on this website are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government.