The Secret Lives of Parks

The Skeleton Crew

Episode Summary

A significant new fossil discovery at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area could deepen our understanding of ancient mammal-like reptiles that lived among some of the earliest dinosaurs. A team of scientists shares how they found this unprecedented trove of ancient remains and what it could teach us — including corollaries to our own modern experience of climate change.

Episode Notes

Paleontologists have long explored Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the border of Arizona and Utah for its fossils, notably its prolific dinosaur tracks — but few bones have ever been found there. But last March, after watching the waters at Lake Powell drop, scientists made a calculated hunch to investigate areas of the lakebed that hadn’t been exposed in 60 years. Their hunch paid off — and then some — with an unprecedented trove of remains that could provide scientists with new insights into one of the early Jurassic’s quirkiest hybrid creatures.

This episode, meet the tritylodont, the 190-million-year-old mammal-like reptile that walked among some of the earliest dinosaurs and might be able to teach us about adapting to climate change.

This episode, host Jennifer Errick speaks with the distinguished team responsible for the discovery: Andrew R.C. Milner, site paleontologist and curator at the Saint George Dinosaur Discovery site in Saint George, Utah; Vincent Santucci, senior paleontologist and Paleontology Program coordinator for the National Park Service; Dr. Hans Sues, senior research geologist and curator of paleontology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; and Dr. Adam Marsh, lead paleontologist and research coordinator at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

The Secret Lives of Parks is a production of the National Parks Conservation Association.

Episode 25, The Skeleton Crew, was produced by Jennifer Errick with help from Todd Christopher, Bev Stanton and Linda Coutant.

Original theme music by Chad Fischer.

Learn about the 286 sites across the National Park System that have known fossils at

Learn more about this podcast and listen to the rest of our stories at

For more than a century, the National Parks Conservation Association has been protecting and enhancing America's national parks for present and future generations. With more than 1.6 million members and supporters, NPCA is the nation's only independent, nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to protecting national parks.

Learn more and join us at

Episode Transcription

The Secret Lives of Parks

Episode 25
The Skeleton Crew

Jennifer Errick: A significant new fossil discovery in the southwest could deepen our understanding of ancient mammal-like reptiles that lived among some of the earliest dinosaurs. 

A team of paleontologists share what they found at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, including how they stumbled on this unprecedented trove of prehistoric remains and what it could mean for science. 

I'm Jennifer Errick, and this is The Secret Lives of Parks.


Imagine you're camping at a national park on a blustery day in early spring. You have a modest tent set up on a scenic ridge beside a lake in a remote area of the desert southwest. You wake up on a chilly morning with the urge to go to the bathroom, and you take a short brisk hike to the porta-potty. 

And then you come across one of the most important discoveries of your life.

Andrew R.C. Milner: On my way back, I could see this about foot-by-foot square rock with all of these unusual brown stains on it, something you don't normally see in these kinds of sediments. So I walked over and looked, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Jennifer Errick: That's Andrew R.C. Milner, and to be fair, he wasn't on just any camping trip. He's the site paleontologist and curator at the St. George Dinosaur discovery site in St. George, Utah, and he was on a special expedition to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in the hopes of finding fossils. Though this wasn't how he expected to find them.

Andrew R.C. Milner: The slab was covered in bone impressions — limb bones, ribs, vertebrae. I got down on my knees and looked at it super close. I couldn't believe it. I walked away. I walked back to my tent and grabbed my hand lens because I was in disbelief. I came back and looked at it with a hand lens and confirmed in fact that it's bone, and that's when I started jumping around and yelling and screaming to the rest of our crew.

Jennifer Errick: Milner was camped next to Lake Powell, one of the country's largest reservoirs. The lake is part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and sits on the Arizona-Utah border on land adjacent to the Navajo Nation. In March of this year, severe drought had forced the water level to a historic low, and a section of the lakebed was exposed for the first time in about 60 years. 

The initial bone impressions Milner saw were embedded in a geologic formation known as the Navajo Sandstone, thick layers of rock from a desert environment called a sand sea that swept across what is now the American Southwest nearly 200 million years ago. Scientists have found prehistoric animal tracks in this area, but very few bones.

Andrew R.C. Milner: I've been a fossil collector since the age of six, and I think this find on Lake Powell is probably one of the biggest, most significant in terms of vertebrate body fossils that I've ever made. 

That was a great way to start fieldwork.

Jennifer Errick: The specimens Milner and his team found were of an extinct mammal-like reptile known as a tritylodont or tritylodontid. These small, curious animals were a kind of precursor to mammals and lived about 190 million years ago alongside early dinosaurs in the late Triassic and early Jurassic periods.

Andrew R.C. Milner: A find like this adds to our understanding of the Navajo environment. We know a lot about it based on the footprints, but skeletal remains are so rare. Basically, all known sites you can count on both hands, and this is by far the richest one ever found in the Navajo Sandstone.

Jennifer Errick: But at this point, the crew only had the slightest hint of what they discovered, and to learn more, they needed to act fast. 

Before Milner stumbled on his initial find — before he had even pitched his tent the day before — the waters at Lake Powell were already rising again. The scientists found themselves in a high speed chase, relatively speaking, to capture the past.

Vincent Santucci: This was going to be a race against time because everybody was telling us that the water levels in the next 30 to 60 days were probably going to resubmerge this site.

Jennifer Errick: That's Vincent Santucci, senior paleontologist and paleontology program coordinator for the National Park Service. Some listeners may remember Santucci from Episode 4 of the podcast when we learned about a cave of ancient bat fossils at the Grand Canyon that had been previously untouched by humans. He told us then:

Vincent Santucci: There are new discoveries made every year all across the planet. Most of what is to be discovered is still out there. It's still laying beneath the ground or exposed at the surface.

Jennifer Errick: The findings at Glen Canyon would soon bear out this wisdom. But first, the crew had to navigate a significant speed bump in their race against time. They needed a Park Service permit.

Vincent Santucci: Something that doesn't normally happen in the federal government is that everybody got on board and worked out a development of a permit and getting it approved and working out the logistics of getting another boat out there within a very quick timeframe in order for that team to get out there and do an emergency rescue and recovery of what's turning out to be a really important fossil discovery in North America.

Jennifer Errick: That very quick process amounted to about 35 days, which in Park Service terms is whiplash-inducing speed — and exactly what the crew needed.

Vincent Santucci: The timing was perfect because the team was able to get out there. They were able to remove some incredible blocks that were not exposed to the elements. They were actually pristine, and they had better preservation of bone and articulated skeletons compared to things that were weathering at the surface.

Jennifer Errick: An articulated skeleton is an intact set of bones and joints, which is more informative and harder to find than single bones or bone pieces. This alone was remarkable for such a rare species, but perhaps even more astonishing was the presence of tracks in close proximity to the bones.

Vincent Santucci: We learn in paleontology 101 that where you find footprints are not in the same layers of rock where you find bone and shells and teeth and other remains. They are two different environments of preservation. 

But here, the footprints are being found in the layers below the bone bed. They're found in the layers above the bone bed. And it's like, "Oh, my goodness, what a smoking gun of evidence." Being able to perhaps correlate a track maker with an actual footprint.

Jennifer Errick: Scientists had found numerous sets of footprints in this part of the desert that they suspected belonged to this kind of reptile, but they had never been able to definitively link the tracks to a particular animal. This new discovery could provide that elusive match. 

This is significant because bones and tracks give scientists different information about how an animal lived and behaved. The enamel on a tooth, for example, can indicate whether a species was a vegetarian or a carnivore. The pattern of an animal's toes and its footprints can give us clues to how it walked.

Vincent Santucci: Tracks provide information that you can't necessarily find in the bone, and that is behavior, and so whether they were solitary, there's one track site or whether they're colonial and they lived in family groups where you can compare adults with sub-adults and juveniles as part of a family.

Here we now are able to take all of these footprints and all the evidence and data about the behavior of these animals and compare it to these skeletons that are preserved of multiple individuals. We've got quite a story to tell.


Jennifer Errick: That story continued to deepen during the crew's second trip to the site a month later after they received the permit for their emergency fossil rescue mission. Here, again, is Andrew Milner describing a moment when he was digging into the sandstone on his second trip to Glen Canyon with his colleague Dr. Adam Marsh, who we'll hear from later in the episode.

Andrew R.C. Milner: I took a turn with an eight pound sledge pounding away on this thick sandstone carbonate, and then Adam took a turn, and then I took another turn and this chunk of rock popped off, flipped upside down and there was an articulated skeleton with the skull, forelimb, the backbone and the ribs, everything in place. I actually fell over with excitement. We just could not wipe the smiles off our face that entire trip. It was just one discovery after another.

Jennifer Errick: This was essentially the paleontologist's equivalent of being a kid in a candy store. As the crew was taking a set of measurements, Milner heard his colleague Dr. Marsh yelling in the distance much as he himself had been yelling just the month before.

Andrew R.C. Milner: We couldn't believe it. He found another bone bed. The second older bone bed is even more extensive than the original one, and the quality of preservation of the bone is a little better. It's a bit more durable.

Jennifer Errick: Marsh discovered this distinct new fossil bed within the same 150 yards of the shoreline where the scientists had found the first set of fossils. The second bed hadn't been submerged under water for quite as long as the first site, which is likely why the bones are in even better condition.

Andrew R.C. Milner: We're going to learn a lot about tritylodonts based on this find.

Jennifer Errick: Now, I'm just going to confess that I had never heard of tritylodonts before learning about this discovery, but fortunately I got to speak with a tritylodont expert on the team.

Hans Sues: I would say it's an amazing discovery to have layers of sandstone just full of bones, just full of bones. Animals that in most places in the world are extremely rare, and here we have the remains of literally countless tritylodonts.

Jennifer Errick: Dr. Han Sues is senior research geologist and curator of paleontology at the National Museum of Natural History, which is part of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. He studied the same tritylodont species that Milner and his team discovered at Glen Canyon for his doctoral thesis in 1983.

Hans Sues: I initially had worked on dinosaurs, and I still work on dinosaurs, but for my PhD, I could avail myself of this fantastic collection of tritylodontids. Tritylodontids had never really been very thoroughly studied. There were dribs and drabs around the world. Given that they're extremely mammal-like, it seemed of great evolutionary interest to actually really understand what their anatomy was like, what we could deduce about their mode of life and so on.

Jennifer Errick: Among the tritylodont fossils that existed at that time, a small group had been discovered in northern Arizona in the 1950s, but the material wasn't in good condition. Dr. Sues instead studied South African fossils for his thesis, and his research helped to build our understanding of these curious hybrid creatures.

Hans Sues: Since I was the only one who worked on it, I became the authority on it. I was the best and the worst researcher in the subject.

Jennifer Errick: Sues explains where the word tritylodont comes from.

Hans Sues: It basically refers to the fact that the upper cheek teeth have three rows of little cusps. When you feel in your mouth, your molars have basically sort of a central basin and then cusps around it, but these animals have three neatly aligned rows of cusps, which are sort of each half moon shape and they bite against lower cheek teeth, and that's a very effective way of eating plant.

Jennifer Errick: Although the tritylodont was technically a reptile, scientists believe it looks similar to a small rodent, and its' features show strong similarities to animals like beavers and cats.

Hans Sues: They're now really considered among the closest relatives of mammals. They're not the actual precursors of mammals, but they were part of this group of animals that eventually gave rise to mammals.

Jennifer Errick: Sues is hoping these new findings could help answer questions about how the animals grew. Because the team uncovered so many bones, scientists can study the animals in different life stages. He's also hoping the findings could give more clues into how tritylodonts walked, whether they sprawled out like lizards or had more upright postures like mammals. And with so many intact skulls and jaws, the findings could help us learn more about the transition from reptiles to mammals, a process in which small bones from the back of the reptile skull eventually formed into the tiny bones in a mammal's inner ear and helped more modern animals evolve to do things like listen to podcasts.

Hans Sues: It's always a real thrill that you suddenly get a snapshot of the history of life in a particular place.


Jennifer Errick: But you might be wondering why were there so many fossils in this particular place? The team discovered these fossils in a part of the desert where two very different climates intermingled over time.

Adam Marsh: Through the end of the Triassic and into the early Jurassic, that environment is changing over tens of millions of years.

Jennifer Errick: That's Dr. Adam Marsh, lead paleontologist and research coordinator at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. He was the member of the field crew at Glen Canyon who was swinging a sledgehammer with Andrew Milner on the team's second trip last April and who eventually discovered the second fossil bed.

Adam Marsh: And so what we're seeing is a gradual drying and changing over from rivers, lakes, and streams into these kind of Sahara-like massive wind-blown dune environments. Those don't tend to bury fossils as efficiently as rivers, lakes, and streams, and it could be that there's not as many animals around because it's just a tough place to live.

Jennifer Errick: This Sahara-like dune environment is preserved in the Navajo Sandstone formation where fossils are rarely found, but just beneath the sandstone in the Glen Canyon region is an older geologic layer known as the Kayenta Formation. This formation existed during a subtropical period when a wet climate supported a biodiversity of life. The earliest tritylodonts were found after a mass extinction in the late Triassic period during this wetter time. If you were lucky enough to make it past the big die off, life seemed pretty good. For a while, at least.

Adam Marsh: Tritylodontids were co-occurring with things like dilophosaurus likely in the earliest part of the Jurassic period, so this is the crested dinosaur that eats Newman in Jurassic Park. Dilophosaurus running around, smaller bodied meat-eating dinosaurs are running around, some of the earliest long-necked dinosaurs are in the Navajo Sandstone and adjacent units. It's this mixture of what we would consider a modern fauna in terms of it's got mammal-like things, it's got frogs, it's got turtles, it's got bird-like things. It's a cool mix of who survived that in Triassic mass extinction and then the formation of our modern ecosystems.

Jennifer Errick: But as all of these creatures adapted to living near rivers and lakes during these balmy subtropical conditions, an enormous sand sea began rolling in over millions of years. It could be that the fossils the team is finding now in depressions throughout the region are animals that died in lake beds and stream beds and became preserved over time by the giant incoming desert.

Adam Marsh: There are places in the Navajo Sandstone where I think this is what we're looking at in terms of this tritylodontid bone bed where you get low spots where water collects, and that's where your life is going to collect as well because things are going to get drawn into that water. The rivers and lakes and streams are good places to bury fossils.

Jennifer Errick: Everyone on the team also expressed excitement that they may have found evidence that these animals were burrowers, something that scientists have long suspected but haven't yet been able to prove. According to Milner, the positioning of the skeletons within the sandstone suggests that some of the animals may have died in their burrows. 

Marsh is particularly intrigued by what they might learn from this behavior.

Adam Marsh: There are pockets in the sandstone units where these things are coming out of, so is this a burrow, and are these things burrowing potentially as a way to accommodate a changing environment? And this is a story we see in different vertebrate groups in different environmental changes over deep time.

Jennifer Errick: He suggests the animals might even have adapted to become semi-aquatic, burrowing into riverbanks to escape the drier conditions.

Adam Marsh: Evolutionarily, it's trying to understand behavior and how it may or may not give some kind of selective advantage in tough times like extinctions.

Jennifer Errick: Marsh shared that like Milner, he was caught completely by surprise when he found that remarkable second fossil bed just yards from the first collection of remains.

Adam Marsh: We weren't looking for fossils on purpose. We were there literally to just measure the section and get out, because at that point, we had put all the fossils onto the houseboat, and it was gone. We all had five- to eight-hour drives ahead of us, so, of course, that's when you find new fossils.

Jennifer Errick: As a Park Service employee, Marsh takes a particular pride in this discovery.

Adam Marsh: We don't get a lot of tritylodontids from the Navajo Sandstone. We don't get a lot of fossils, period, outside of dinosaur tracks in the Navajo Sandstone. For them to occur in Glen Canyon is great because that's part of why we set these places aside is to protect fossil resources like these.

Jennifer Errick: The fact that the crew was able to find these fossils in just the right place at just the right time was a bit of a hunch, but no accident. Not only has Vincent Santucci been monitoring Glen Canyon's fossils for decades, he and his team chose the site as the pilot park in a nationwide program to monitor fossils.

Vincent Santucci: How do we manage, how do we protect, how do we interpret, how do we make decisions if we don't even know the resources that are out there?

Jennifer Errick: Santucci is a fervent advocate for inventorying and monitoring these resources, and he spearheaded a program in the late 1990s to formalize how the Park Service tracks and maintains them in the field. This starts with knowing where they are.

Vincent Santucci: Inventory is trying to understand the scope, the significance, the distribution, and the management issues associated with managing these fossils.

Jennifer Errick: Inventorying wasn't a new concept for Park Service paleontologists who regularly conduct surveys in the field. But monitoring wasn't a regular practice back in the 1990s.

Vincent Santucci: Monitoring is trying to assess the stability and the condition of fossils that are left out there in the field, and so through monitoring we assess both the natural processes and sometimes the human activities that may result in the loss of these resources over time, whether it's a landslide or whether it's a visitor that comes out and unfortunately illegally collects a specimen of dinosaur track because they think it's cool are things that we're trying to monitor for.

Jennifer Errick: After publishing papers in 2003 and 2009 to research and define what a monitoring program should look like, Santucci and his team decided that Glen Canyon would be an ideal site to begin testing their new practices — to monitor the monitoring, so to speak.

Vincent Santucci: We decided that we wanted to go to Glen Canyon because Glen Canyon preserved a really interesting scenario where fossils were being subjected to this variety of impacts due to the changes in the water level of Lake Powell. Sometimes fossil sites would be beneath water, and sometimes they would be exposed during low water levels.

Jennifer Errick: The conditions of the lake are an integral part of the fossil monitoring, and so as the water levels dropped near areas of the park where fossil tracks had been found before, Santucci and his team were able to make a calculated decision to send the scientists out in March to look at what the lake had revealed.

Vincent Santucci: The planning that paid off for us is that we were able to time it albeit during a cold time of year that we were able to plan to get out there where this site was accessible, and it wasn't accessible to any of us in our lifetime previously.

Jennifer Errick: Monitoring fossils for the entire park system as he does, Santucci is able to give some perspective on Glen Canyon's significance.

Vincent Santucci: We have 286 national parks that preserve fossils. We have this record collectively of fossils from national parks that span back to these stromatolites, these algal mats that are very primitive, high in the mountains at Glacier National Park all the way through ice age caves in Grand Canyon that have fossils in them. Glen Canyon is right in the middle of that. It spans the entire Mesozoic, that time of the age of reptiles and dinosaurs. And so paleontologically, this very, very big national park preserves a beautiful cross-section for Mesozoic paleontology in the park service. In fact, I kid the staff all the time. We need to re-designate Glen Canyon National Recreation area, the Glen Canyon Fossil Beds National Park because it is an incredible fossil locality.

Jennifer Errick: The new find also helped vindicate the long work he and many others put into carefully keeping tabs on this large remote park and its hidden potential.

Vincent Santucci: We put a lot of 16-, 18-hour days in in our career because we love what we do, and it's just hard to stop, particularly when we're onto something. So when we invested in saying we need to determine what is monitoring because nobody's done this before, there's not a lot of scientific literature that can help guide us, we invested a lot of time, but it was all a risk. It was a lot of work to try to do something right with a vision that someday maybe this will pay off. When we discovered this site in Glen Canyon, we were paid off. We were paid off in ways that we could have never dreamt of.

Jennifer Errick: The full extent of that payoff will take a long time to determine. Right now, the team has a series of large sandstone blocks, most of them weighing about 50 pounds to nearly 300 pounds each, and they've only just begun to peer inside them. The scientists worked with a medical facility in Utah to obtain an initial set of CT scans. This helped to determine the quantity and placement of specimens contained within the blocks. A CT or computed tomography scan is a kind of x-ray that produces detailed internal images like you might get at the doctors, but the initial medical scans weren't clear enough to determine important information such as the species of each fossil. The next step will be to get more sophisticated scans at a scientific laboratory. The team is partnering with Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico to get a better understanding of just what it is they excavated. Here again is Andrew Milner.

Andrew R.C. Milner: We need to get some good results with these CT scans so we can at least identify what kind of tritylodonts they are. Once we've got that in place, then we're looking to get a preliminary paper out describing what we have. That is only the beginning. We expect it's going to take years to prepare specimens and process the scans.

Jennifer Errick: With this technology, the team hopes to produce 3D models of their discoveries, including replicas of bones that dissolved over time but left detailed impressions in the rock. The team is just beginning to prioritize the research questions that the specimens could help answer from behavioral insights to new information about the environment the tritylodonts lived in. 

Dr. Hans Sues suggests we might find corollaries to our own modern experience of climate change.

Hans Sues: Anything about living organisms that we can deduce from fossils is helpful, because you have to remember, 99.99999% of all living things that ever existed on earth have already vanished. So we are just looking at a very tiny slice of all of the living things that have existed. 

So, for instance, when we look at climate change, which certainly was involved here, we went from a warm climate to an extremely desert-like extremely dry climate, so we can see how animals and plants responded to that.

Jennifer Errick: In fact, scientists are already using discoveries like this one to learn how life could adapt to climate change in the future.

Hans Sues: We already know from studies of the plants from this time level that there's a real change in the vegetation to forms that have all kinds of specializations like really thick cuticles on the outside of a leaf to minimize water loss. So when we discuss now what will the coming climate changes look like in terms of what the impact on organisms is, we'll actually then have data to develop predictive models. There's actually now an area already called conservation paleontology, which is concerned about current ecosystems, and we look at the fossil record to find out what does happen if you crank up the temperature.

Jennifer Errick: Though the full significance of the discovery will take time to understand, and the sites of the fossil beds have been back underwater for months, Andrew Milner is already thinking about his next trip to the place he now calls Tritylodont Cove.

Andrew R.C. Milner: We can't wait to get back. Oh, yeah. Ever since we left in April, I can't wait to get back. 

As we were pulling away on the last day with the smiles on our faces heading north up the lake from Tritylodont Cove, we could see the exact same kinds of beds going for miles and extending well up above the high watermark on Lake Powell. There's so much rock to explore. We're going to find more track sites, but Adam Marsh and I are convinced we're going to find more bone sites too.

Jennifer Errick: I spoke with all four of these scientists last month just days after they presented their initial findings at a major conference. Vincent Santucci also had his mind on the future in a different way.

Vincent Santucci: Just coming back from the paleontology meetings, I can't tell you how many students of paleontologists said, "Hey, do you need help? Do you think there's any master's projects in here that we can get involved in?" 

And so the excitement of being able to mentor another young generation to build on some of these principles and practices that we've pioneered, this is going to pay off for us in a lot of ways beyond just the understanding of this world of the early Jurassic desert.

Jennifer Errick: As we were winding down our conversation, Dr. Marsh took a moment to emphasize the importance of preserving sites like Glen Canyon.

Adam Marsh: As a federal paleontologist, I always come back to the fact that Glen Canyon wasn't necessarily set aside for fossils like Petrified Forest was, but at least 60% of all the NPS sites in the country have fossils. These are non-renewable paleontological resources that are important, and they're protected for a reason. And places like Glen Canyon we're just scratching the surface in terms of understanding the fossil resources at Glen Canyon.

Jennifer Errick: He hinted at some of the wonder that inspires people to return again and again to parks like this one. And even as someone who isn't a scientist, I could really relate to what he had to say.

Adam Marsh: This just shows us that no matter how many people go up and down a place like Glen Canyon, there's always something more to find in these protected places, and I think that's really special. There's always new things to learn from our Park Service units.

[end theme]

The Secret Lives of Parks is a production of the National Parks Conservation Association. 

Episode 25, The Skeleton Crew, was produced by Jennifer Errick with help from Todd Christopher, Bev Stanton and Linda Coutant.

Original theme music by Chad Fischer. 

Learn about the 286 sites across the National Park System that have known fossils at

Learn more about this podcast and listen to the rest of our stories at

For more than a century, the National Parks Conservation Association has been protecting and enhancing America's national parks, for present and future generations. With more than 1.6 million members and supporters, NPCA is the nation's only independent, nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to protecting national parks. 

And we're proud of it too. 

You can join the fight to preserve the Chesapeake Bay and all of our nationally significant lands and waters. Learn more and join us at

Andrew R.C. Milner: As we always say, so much rock, so little time.


I'm Abbey Robertson and I am Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships and Marketing with National Parks Conservation Association. The outdoors are places for inspiration for so many people, and for our latest project with our partners at Yellowstone Bourbon, we took musicians into New River Gorge National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and recorded them in these beautiful places playing songs that were inspired by their experiences.

Some of these people I'd already met by going to their shows, so I think that resonated with them as authentic. But everybody was really excited. Who doesn't want to go out to a national park for a day and do the thing that you love the most?

Not only does the videos themselves showcase the beauty of the parks, but we also get to see the source of inspiration right alongside the actual song, what the artist created.

These are some of my favorite artists, and having the opportunity to bring them into places that are their favorites and see these parks through their eyes was a really unique experience that I think comes through in the series. 

If you're interested in learning more about NPCA's partnership with Yellowstone Bourbon and viewing the videos, you can visit

And they are some of my favorite artists. It was very, very insane.