All posts by Raven About The Parks

Harry S Truman National Historic Site

Overview

Harry S Truman was a farmer, soldier in World War I, judge, U.S. Senator, and Vice President before assuming the duties of Commander-in-Chief after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death in 1945.  He is perhaps best known as the man who made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The 33rd President was known for being a straight shooter; this quote speaks to us today: “You can’t divide the country up into sections… and you can’t encourage people’s prejudices.  You have to appeal to people’s best instincts, not their worst ones.”  Truman won a close reelection vote in 1948.

Highlights

Truman Home tour, film, Truman Farm Home

Must-Do Activity

The National Park Service (NPS) visitor center in downtown Independence offers a film and a few artifacts, as well as first-come, first-served tickets for ranger-guided tours of the Truman Home.  It was there Harry and Bess (his wife) lived from 1919 until his death in 1972.  It served as the summer White House from 1945 to 1953 and was given to the NPS upon Bess’ death in 1982 (the calendar still hanging in the kitchen is original). 

Best Trail

About a 30-minute drive from Independence, take a self-guided cell phone tour around the ten acres surrounding the 1894 Truman Farm Home, which once stood on a 600-acre farm that is now the Kansas City-suburb of Grandview, Missouri.

Instagram-worthy Photo

There is no photography allowed inside the Truman Home, so your best shot will be from out front behind the fence installed by the Secret Service in the 1940s to keep the public off the lawn.

Peak Season

Open year round, but we caught peak fall colors in late October.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/hstr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

The home tour costs $7 per person (no reservations) or is free with an America The Beautiful pass.

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but street parking is limited near the Truman Home.  It is easy to miss the poorly signed turn for the Truman Farm Home in Grandview.

Camping

None

Explore More – Why is a period not required at the end of Harry S Truman’s middle initial?

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Overview

During the National Park Service (NPS) centennial in 2016, a new, ambitious park was established linking three far-flung sites in the states of Washington, New Mexico, and Tennessee.  The purpose is to tell the story of the “Manhattan Project,” the military code name during World War II for the secret undertaking to create the world’s first atomic weapon. 

Highlights

Bradbury Science Museum (NM), American Museum of Science and Energy (TN), Hanford Reach National Monument (WA)

Must-Do Activity

In 1942, hundreds of eastern Tennessee families were displaced in order to construct Oak Ridge National Laboratory where experimental nuclear reactors produced plutonium and enriched uranium.  More than 75,000 people hurriedly built and operated this brand new industrial complex, which continues to be used as a Department of Energy research facility to this day.  Due to security and safety concerns, visitors can only enter on a 3-hour bus tour that leaves from the American Museum of Science and Energy.  The tour is well worth your time, as it is currently the only way to see Y-12, X-10, and K-25 and learn more about what those code names really mean.

Best Trail

The Hanford Reach is one of the last free-flowing sections of the Columbia River in eastern Washington and is an important site for salmon spawning.  The area is ecologically pristine, mostly untouched by development since it became the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in 1943.  It is home to the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor that produced the plutonium used by Los Alamos National Laboratories for its scientific breakthroughs in 1945.  Since 2000, Hanford Reach National Monument has been managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and much of the area is off limits.  Other than boating on the river, the best place to get a feel for the area is to walk around the Ringold Fish Hatchery.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The free Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos, New Mexico offers tourists a closer look at the original and ongoing research conducted at Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL), including a scale model of the “Fat Man” plutonium bomb built here in 1945.  Nearby, the Los Alamos Historical Museum is located in a cabin on historic Bathtub Row, so named because when the government took over the Ranch School in 1943 these were the only dwellings equipped with that luxury. 

Peak Season

Open year round, but summer is best at the high elevations of Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/mapr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$5 per adult for the American Museum of Science and Energy and a 3-hour tour (11:30-2:30, reservations recommended) of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Road Conditions

All roads paved except around Hanford Reach National Monument

Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed in Santa Fe National Forest surrounding Los Alamos and it is not far to the campground in Bandelier National Monument.

Explore More – What was the job of the “Calutron Girls” in Oak Ridge during World War II?

Manzanar National Historic Site

Overview

One of the many things that makes this country great is its willingness to remember inglorious moments in its past, such as the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.  Following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order authorizing the detention of more than 110,000 U.S. citizens of Japanese descent.  Manzanar War Relocation Center was the first of 10 internment camps built throughout the western U.S.  It held about 10,000 citizens (mostly from Los Angeles, California) in 36 blocks of wooden barracks across a one square-mile fenced enclosure. 

Highlights

Museum, film, reconstructed barracks, gardens, memorial

Must-Do Activity

Opened in 2004, the National Park Service visitor center is located inside the former camp auditorium, which now houses an excellent museum.  Self-guided walking and auto tours take visitors to two reconstructed barracks, the camp gardens, and a cemetery with the Manzanar Memorial.

Best Trail

You can walk or drive the 3.2-mile auto tour with 27 interpretive stops.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Located in the camp’s cemetery, the Manzanar Memorial is often swathed in origami paper cranes.

Peak Season

Summer, though temperatures can get hot with little shade.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/manz/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Manzanar is located right off Highway 395 west of Death Valley National Park and the dirt roads inside the site are passable by all vehicles.

Camping

Camping is available in Death Valley National Park and dispersed camping is allowed in the scenic Alabama Hills managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Explore More – How many Japanese-Americans served in the U.S. military during World War II?

Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park

Overview

On the east side of the San Francisco Bay, Richmond was chosen by the National Park Service (NPS) in 2000 to commemorate the work of thousands of women and men nationwide who built the machines needed to fight World War II.  By 1945, women made up almost a third of the workforce in the U.S. and about 41% of welders in the Kaiser shipyards here.  The Visitor Education Center offers hands-on exhibits housed in a Ford Assembly Building formerly used to make tanks.  Tours are also offered on the SS Red Oak Victory, a cargo ship built here during the war. 

Highlights

Museum, film, Rosie the Riveter Memorial, SS Red Oak Victory, real-life “Rosies”

Must-Do Activity

The special thing about this park is the incredible opportunity on most Fridays to meet real-life “Rosies” who worked here during the war.  During our visit, we got to hear the stories of two women, Agnes and Marian.  They won’t be around forever, so put this site at the top of your NPS to-do list. 

Best Trail

The paved Bay Trail winds through Richmond and stops at the Rosie the Riveter Memorial in Marina Bay Park.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The poster of a woman in factory work clothes flexing her right bicep is perhaps the most famous image to come out of World War II.  “Rosie the Riveter” was also a popular song on the radio in the 1940s. 

Peak Season

Year round, but especially on Fridays when real-life “Rosies” are at the visitor center.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/rori/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but you do have to pass through a guard station to access the Visitor Education Center.

Camping

None

Explore More – At its peak, how many people worked around the clock in the Kaiser shipyards?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Overview

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is a series of sculptures representative of the variety of struggles he faced during his twelve years as President.  Opened in 1997, this unique memorial is appropriately wheelchair-accessible.  After contracting polio at age 39, the future President would never walk again without assistance, but that disability gave him the courage to lead the nation through the Great Depression and World War II.

Highlights

1930s breadline statue by George Segal, FDR in a wheelchair statue

Must-Do Activity

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) dedicated the Thomas Jefferson Memorial on April 13, 1943, exactly 200 years after Jefferson’s birth.  The nearby memorial to FDR is not such a grand and imposing coliseum, but is more approachable and unassuming as it winds past small waterfalls and statues depicting FDR’s four terms as President.  Here two great Presidents are remembered in two very different, but equally eloquent ways.

Best Trail

The Inlet Bridge connects a walking trail between the FDR Memorial and Thomas Jefferson Memorial which passes some of Washington, D.C.’s famous Japanese cherry trees.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The memorial is on the Tidal Basin of the Potomac River, so it is a great place to see reflections of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, especially when it is lit up at night.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

Open 24 hours a day, NPS rangers present 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved and street parking is available near the memorial

Camping

None

Explore More – Was any U.S. President other than FDR elected more than twice?