Vicksburg National Military Park

Overview

During the Civil War, control of the Mississippi River was “the key” (in President Abraham Lincoln’s words) to preserving the Union by dividing the Confederacy and limiting its supply movement.  By 1862, Vicksburg and Port Hudson were the only fortifications not under U.S. control.  The numerous failed attempts to take Vicksburg by force are evidenced by the 17,000 soldiers buried in the National Cemetery here.  Following a 46-day bombardment, the city finally surrendered on July 4, 1863.

Vicksburg

Highlights

USS Cairo ironside ship, museums, 1,330 monuments, interpretive film

Must-Do Activity

The most fascinating exhibit in the park is the partially reconstructed USS Cairo, an ironclad gunboat which was carefully salvaged from the Yazoo River during the 1960s.

Best Trail

There are a few short trails with interpretive panels, but instead you might consider hiring a licensed guide to ride along with you for 2 hours on the auto tour.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Gates close precisely at 5 p.m. for the 16-mile auto tour, but the end of the day provides the best lighting on the Shirley House, the only surviving structure inside the park from the time of the Civil War.

The only house still standing from 1863

Peak Season

The weather is nicest in spring and fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/vick/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

$20 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

27 miles to the south, the National Park Service runs the Rocky Springs Campground (with running water) on the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Sunset over the battlefield

imgp1788.jpg

Tiff on steps of Illinois Memorial
The Illinois Memorial is the largest of approximately 1,330 located inside the park.
Mural of Illinois Memorial dedication day
A mural along the Mississippi River depicts the opening day for the Illinois Memorial
Scott with USS Cairo
USS Cairo is a well-preserved specimen of an ironclad ship, and the museum next door displays thousands of its artifacts.

Tiff with cannon

Explore More – Why did many residents flee their houses to live inside hand-dug caves during the Civil War?

1WonsTiny2

WONDON WAS HERE

 

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Grand Portage National Monument

Overview

Beaver fur top hats were a must-have fashion accessory for every wealthy man in Europe and America in the late 1700s.  To access the trapping grounds to the west, it was necessary for the French-Canadian voyageurs to walk their canoes along an 8 mile portage to bypass the rapids on the Pigeon River.  In 1784, the end of the trail on the edge of Lake Superior became the site of the North West Company headquarters where they held an annual Rendezvous—a giant party and opportunity for trade.

Northwoods 2013 600

Highlights

Reconstructed fort, Ojibwa village, living history demonstrations, Rendezvous Days every August

Must-Do Activity

Walk around the reconstructed buildings and talk with the costumed reenactors that demonstrate canoe building, bread baking, weapons firing, and other activities during the summer.

Best Trail

Day hikers and backpackers can follow the historic Grand Portage Trail 8.5 miles one-way along the Pigeon River to the former site of Fort Charlotte.  The 300 foot climb to the top of Mt. Rose is also popular for views of Lake Superior.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The reconstructed North West Company headquarters buildings have wonderfully warped glass panes which are fun to take photographs through.

Northwoods 2013 612

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads to the monument are paved, but Partridge Falls Road offers four-wheel drive opportunities.

Camping

The only camping inside the park are two backpacking sites at Fort Charlotte available with a free permit.  Most people waiting to catch the morning ferry to Isle Royale National Park camp at Grand Portage Casino right on Lake Superior or 20 miles south at Judge Magney State Park.

Northwoods 2013 622

Northwoods 2013 589

Northwoods 2013 592

 

Northwoods 2013 604

Northwoods 2013 603

Northwoods 2013 614

Explore More – After hat fashion changed to silk instead of beaver, when was the portage abandoned?

1WonsTiny2

WONDON WAS HERE

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Overview

The turquoise waters of Lake Superior beneath the sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore make it seem warmer than it actually is.  Glaciers carved this shoreline thousands of years ago, but the Ice Age never seems far off in the lake’s cold waters.  Minerals leaching from the stone paint the cliffs in many hues, hence the name Pictured Rocks.

Pictured

Highlights

Petit Portal, Miners Castle, Munising Falls, Sable Falls

Must-Do Activity

Kayaking through Petit Portal is an unforgettable experience.  Guides can provide the necessary gear and know-how, as well as commercial boat operators that get close to but do not actually pass through the natural arch.

06-IMGP9885

Best Trail

Not far from the visitor center is a short trail to Munising Falls, one of several waterfalls in this 42-mile stretch of shoreline.

Instagram-worthy Photo

It will be hard to maintain a flat horizon line while bobbing on the waves in your kayak as you pass through Petit Portal, so take plenty of pictures.

Peak Season

Primarily a summer destination, but even then be prepared for sudden storms that can suddenly blow across Lake Superior.

Hours

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

Fees

No entry fee, but there is a charge for backcountry camping permits that are only available online.

Road Conditions

All roads are paved (to our knowledge).

Camping

Three campgrounds, plus 14 backcountry camping areas in the National Lakeshore.  More backcountry campsites can be found offshore in Grand Island National Recreation Area, administered by Hiawatha National Forest, which also offers dispersed camping opportunities.

06-IMGP9869

Tiff with the Petit Portal

Colors like Yellowstone

11-IMGP9997

Munising Falls
Munising Falls near the south Visitor Center

Explore More – What valuable mineral stains the sandstone cliffs green and blue?

1WonsTiny2

WONDON WAS HERE

 

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Lowell National Historical Park 

Overview

Built in the 1820s, Lowell, Massachusetts took the idea of a mill town and scaled it up to a factory city.  Utilizing the power of the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, its textile mills grew until its population reached 33,000 by 1850.  The workers were primarily immigrants and predominantly women, many of whom were single and lived in boarding houses like the one you can tour today in Lowell National Historical Park.

Lowell.JPG

Highlights

Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibit, Boot Cotton Mills Museum, canal boat tours, Lower Locks, Jack Kerouac Commemorative Park

Must-Do Activity

It is worth the entry fee to go inside Boott Cotton Mills Museum to hear, feel, and see early-1900s machines still running and learn more about the manufacturing process, living conditions, and labor unrest.

Best Trail

Not a traditional trail, but it is a short walk along the historic canals from the NPS Visitor Center to Boott Cotton Mills Museum, the Lower Locks, and the Commemorative Park to author Jack Kerouac.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Hand dug canals from the Concord and Merrimack Rivers powered the Lower Locks in downtown Lowell.

A dam on the canal system in Lowell

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None for most sites and NPS Visitor Center (free parking there), but Boott Cotton Mills Museum charges $6 per adult for admission (discount with America the Beautiful pass).

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Harold Parker State Forest has a campground open in summer 13 miles east of Lowell.

imgp1484.jpg

A mill at Lowell

Mill reflections

Tiff in the room with all the looms - she was loving it
Feel the power of these loud machines in action inside Boott Cotton Mills Museum.

IMGP1470

The detail on the model was quite extraordinary

Kerowac's typewriter
There are a few artifacts from the life of hometown hero Jack Kerouac whose books inspired the Beat Generation.

Explore More – How did the “kiss of death” slowly kill many textile workers?

1WonsTiny2

WONDON WAS HERE

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Catoctin Mountain Park

Overview

This park was purchased in 1935 during the Great Depression as part of a demonstration program to rehabilitate poor agricultural land under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  They worked on a visitor center, campground, rental cabins, and 25 miles of trails now run by the National Park Service.

Catoctin.JPG

Highlights

Chimney Rock, Blue Blazes Whiskey Still, hiking, camping

Must-Do Activity

Hiking.  Also consider a stop just south of Highway 77 at Cunningham Falls State Park (entrance fee) on your visit to Maryland’s mountains.

Best Trail

A loop hike can hit both Chimney Rock and Wolf Rock, though the views from the latter are not quite as sweeping.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Chimney Rock offers a stunning overlook of Maryland’s forests.

Chimney Rock

Peak Season

Summer for camping and autumn for changing foliage.

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Stay at the historic CCC campground or south of Highway 77 at Cunningham Falls State Park.

IMGP9772

Blue Blazes whiskey still
Tiff at the historic Blue Blazes Whiskey Still from the Prohibition Era

IMGP9795

Some fall colors above 1,400 feet elevation
On top of Wolf Rock

 

IMGP9777
Don’t miss a stop at Cunningham Falls State Park on your visit to Maryland’s mountains.

Explore More –What famous presidential retreat is located within the boundaries of the park, but is not shown on maps and includes plenty of warning signs about stopping anywhere near its driveway?

1WonsTiny2

WONDON WAS HERE