Left: Great Horned Owl; NPS Photo
Upper Right: Coyote; NPS Photo
Lower Right Photo Credit: Mason Cummings, NPS

Natural sounds are an often overlooked indicator of environmental health, and are an important element of the national park experience. Many park visitors come to national parks to enjoy serenity and solitude, expecting to hear the sounds of nature. Natural soundscapes are a critical part of both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and also hold cultural significance. These sounds are considered resources and assets in the same way as plants, wildlife, and historic structures.

Because of Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s close proximity to an urban setting, there are many sounds related to human activity that come from outside park boundaries. Road traffic, watercrafts, and aircrafts often impact these natural soundscapes and are an important and growing source of concern for all national parks. Sounds produced by human activity are often unavoidable, however, and many of them even come from within the park itself. Sounds from roads, trails, visitors, and park operations often permeate the natural soundscape. Thus park visitors and managers must strive to balance enjoyment of a park with the protection and preservation of its natural soundscapes.