Tag Archives: architecture

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Overview

The Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal was supposed to connect ports in Washington, D.C. with the Ohio River, but it never reached its destination before the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad rendered it obsolete in 1850.  It employed 35,000 laborers (mostly European immigrants) during its 22 years of construction and eventually carried coal out of the Appalachian Mountains for decades.  The canal closed in 1924, but it left behind indelible historic landmarks like locks, dams, aqueducts, historic hotels, and a 3,118-foot long tunnel.

Highlights

Historic locks, boat tours, Great Falls Tavern, boating

Must-Do Activity

C&O Canal National Historical Park is run by the National Park Service (NPS) and offers multiple free visitor centers along the route that are open seasonally.  Near Washington, D.C. both the Great Falls Tavern and Georgetown Visitor Centers offer mule-drawn canal boat rides on a first-come, first-served basis April through October.  We enjoyed touring the historic locks of the canal in Hancock, Maryland after visiting Catoctin Mountain Park and Antietam National Battlefield.

Best Trail

Today you can walk and bike the graded 184.5-mile towpath that follows the Potomac River, camping at designated sites along the way if you choose.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The canal locks at Hancock, Maryland became part of the park that was created in 1971.  The boarding house located there now serves as an NPS visitor center.

Peak Season

Summer, as most of the visitor centers are closed seasonally

Hours

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

Fees

None, except at Great Falls Tavern

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There are primitive drive-in camping areas at five spots along the canal path, as well as 30 backpacking campsites spaced approximately five miles apart.  There is also a nice NPS campground at Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland.

Related Sites

George Washington Memorial Parkway (Virginia-Maryland)

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (West Virginia-Maryland-Virginia)

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Explore More – At its peak of operation, how many mule-drawn boats were in service on the C&O Canal?

Mojave National Preserve

Overview

Mojave National Preserve is a massive 1.6-million acres of desert bounded by Interstate 15 to the north and Interstate 40 to the south.  Passed by millions of commuters every year, it does not take many miles of driving to leave behind the bustling freeways for a quiet landscape.  Species diversity is high here given its elevation range from 800 to 7,929 feet and its place at the intersection of three deserts: the Mojave, Great Basin, and Sonoran.  Watch for desert tortoises, Mojave rattlesnakes, roadrunners, ravens, kangaroo rats, mountain lions, mule deer, and some of the 1,000 bighorn sheep that reside in the preserve.

Highlights

Kelso Depot, film, Kelso Dunes, Hole-in-the-Wall Nature Trail, Rings Loop Trail

Must-Do Activity

If you are driving on I-15 between California and Nevada consider entering the preserve via the Cima Road exit, with a first stop at its gas station’s interesting waterfall urinal in the men’s restroom.   From there drive south on a paved road into a dense Joshua tree forest on the gently sloping flanks of the enormous Cima Dome (an extinct volcano) and then stop at Kelso Depot where the National Park Service (NPS) operates a visitor center and museum.  From there you can continue south to the beautiful Kelso Dunes or take the paved Kelbaker Road back to Interstate 15 at Baker, home of the world’s tallest thermometer.

Best Trail

The one-mile Rings Loop Trail has metal rings cemented into its canyon walls in some places to help you ascend and descend steep portions.  Hole-in-the-Wall Nature Trail and the six-mile Barber Peak Loop Trail are also found in this area near the NPS campgrounds.

Instagram-worthy Photo

We love sand dunes (see our Top 10 list) and one of our favorites is the nearly 700-foot tall Kelso Dunes, which create a booming sound when the sand shifts and moisture conditions are right.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The main roads are paved, however, most of the 1,000 miles of roads are unpaved and some of them require a high-clearance vehicle, especially if you want to access neighboring Castle Mountains National Monument.

Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed throughout most of the preserve, but there are also NPS campgrounds around the Hole-in-the-Wall Ranger Station.

Related Sites

Castle Mountains National Monument (California)

Joshua Tree National Park (California)

Death Valley National Park (California)

Explore More – How many acres of Wilderness are designated within Mojave National Preserve?

Martin Van Buren National Historic Site

Overview

Martin Van Buren was the eighth President of the United States and the first to be born after it became a country in 1776.  The “little magician” started as a tavern-keeper’s son in Kinderhook, New York, then worked his way up to state senator, state attorney general, U.S. senator, governor, secretary of state, vice president, and president from 1837 to 1841.  During his presidency, he purchased the estate of “Lindenwald” (named for its linden or basswood trees) in his hometown and ran his unsuccessful presidential campaigns of 1844 and 1848 from there. 

Highlights

Lindenwald mansion, film, Kinderhook Dutch Reformed Cemetery

Must-Do Activity

National Park Service (NPS) rangers provide free guided tours inside the 36-room Gothic Revival mansion where Martin Van Buren lived from 1841 until his death in 1862.  One highlight is the elaborate French wallpaper in the dining room depicting a hunting scene.  We were assured by our tour guide that it is an apocryphal story that the saying “O.K.” came from Van Buren’s nickname “Old Kinderhook.”  We are still not convinced.

Best Trail

A 0.75-mile interpretive trail winds through some of the park’s 300 acres.  You can also visit Martin Van Buren’s grave by driving to Kinderhook Dutch Reformed Cemetery.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The lighting can be difficult for photography inside the mansion, but be sure to snap a picture of the many levels of stairs inside.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Lake Taghkanic State Park offers a campground 15 miles southeast of Kinderhook, New York.

Related Sites

Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site (New York)

Fort Stanwix National Monument (New York)

Saratoga National Historical Park (New York)

Explore More – Martin Van Buren helped establish the Democratic party, but he ran for president in 1848 as the nominee for what other political party?

Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park

Overview

A flowing 77-foot waterfall in a narrow 300-foot wide gorge, Paterson Great Falls has long stood out as a natural wonder in New Jersey.  The entire Passaic River drops over this volcanic ridge, making it the second largest waterfall by volume east of the Mississippi River (Niagara Falls is first).  In 1792, the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, founded the City of Paterson to harness this hydropower for manufacturing.  Paterson Great Falls was named a National Natural Landmark in 1966 and a National Historical Park in 2011.

Highlights

Great Falls Historic District Cultural Center, Colt Gun Mill, Overlook Park, Mary Ellen Kramer Park

Must-Do Activity

Start your visit at the Great Falls Historic District Cultural Center, and, if you have time, explore the Paterson Museum (donation requested).  Carefully cross the street to Overlook Park for excellent view of the Great Falls Power Plant, then take the footbridges behind the hydroelectric plant to Mary Ellen Kramer Park for better photographic angles of the waterfall.  Guided tours by park rangers are offered in the summer months.

Best Trail

A walking tour of Paterson, New Jersey continues beyond Mary Ellen Kramer Park to Hinchcliffe Stadium where Negro League Baseball was once played.  On the other side of the Passaic River, follow the river’s raceways to the red-brick ruins of Allied Textile Printing and the Colt Gun Mill.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Great Falls Power Plant opened in 1914 and still produces enough power to supply 11,000 households.  The “S.U.M. 1791” on the building’s exterior refers to Alexander Hamilton’s Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved and there is a free parking lot at Overlook Park.

Camping

None

Related Sites

Lowell National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Thomas Edison National Historical Park (New Jersey)

Morristown National Historical Park (New Jersey)

Explore More – It cost $14.5-million to refurbish the Great Falls Power Plant in 1986; how much did it cost to build the entire thing in 1914?

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

Overview

After the tragic “Long Walk” to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico, the Navajo Nation was officially recognized by the U.S. government in 1868 and trading posts were established throughout the reservation.  One near Ganado, Arizona was purchased by John Lorenzo Hubbell in 1876.  He and his sons established a network of 30 trading posts with a wholesale warehouse in Winslow.  Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is still an active store (run by a nonprofit organization) with an adjacent National Park Service (NPS) visitor center. 

Highlights

Historic trading post, Hubbell Home, museum, farm animals

Must-Do Activity

This is a unique NPS site with livestock (sheep, horses, turkeys) and a hands-on play area for children, as well as the original dusty store which allows visitors to travel back into the late-1800s.  There are frequent Navajo rug weaving demonstrations and tours inside the Hubbell Home are available for a fee.  The area has seen many changes over the years, including an 1883 smallpox epidemic that killed thousands of locals, the building of Fred Harvey Company hotels, a 1915 grant of a 160-acre homestead to Hubbell, and the discovery of oil then uranium on the reservation. 

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

Livestock maintained on site include horses, chickens, turkeys, and sheep, significant for the wool that was such an important trade item when weaved into world-famous Navajo rugs.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

Note: the Navajo Nation and this NPS site practice Daylight Savings Time while the rest of Arizona (including Grand Canyon National Park) does not

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

Fees

None, except for the house tour

Road Conditions

The access road is a well-maintained gravel road that can accommodate large RVs.

Camping

None on site, but there is a large NPS-managed campground 40 miles north at Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

Related Sites

Chaco Culture National Historical Park (New Mexico)

Homestead National Monument of America (Nebraska)

Navajo National Monument (Arizona)

Explore More – In the 1920s American Indians were finally permitted citizenship, but Arizona tribes were still not allowed to vote until when?