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Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area

Overview

Stretching nearly one mile (5,223 feet) in length, the Grand Coulee Dam was the first constructed across the mighty Columbia River between 1933 and 1942.  In case you are wondering what a “coulee” is, that is a regional name for a canyon, many of which were carved by the walls of water that scoured this region after Lake Missoula burst through its ice dams periodically 15,000 to 13,000 years ago.  The reservoir created by the dam was named for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which is why the National Park Service (NPS) manages it as Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

Highlights

Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center, Fort Spokane, St. Paul’s Mission, watersports

Must-Do Activity

The Bureau of Reclamation manages the museum at Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center and a free laser light show is projected on the mile-long dam during the summer months.  Near a major river confluence, Fort Spokane was established in 1880 and now has a one-mile trail explaining its diverse history.  The reservoir submerged the salmon fishing grounds at Kettle Falls that had been used for millennia.  Native Americans still inhabit this region today, as the lake creates a border between the Colville and Spokane Indian Reservations.  Campgrounds and boat launch sites are located all along the narrow lake’s 129-mile length, although some may close due to changing reservoir levels.

Best Trail

A quarter-mile trail with interpretive signs is located at St. Paul’s Mission, one of the oldest churches in Washington state.  Here you will learn about (now submerged) Kettle Falls and the Hudson’s Bay Company’s historic impact on the region.

Instagram-worthy Photo

At the time, the Grand Coulee Dam became the largest masonry structure ever built, breaking a record held for 4,700 years by the Great Pyramid in Egypt.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

The NPS charges a fee at boat launches and you cannot use the America the Beautiful pass.  Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center is free, as are the Keller Ferry and Gifford–Inchelium Ferry that cross the lake.

Road Conditions

There are some unpaved roads, but the designated Scenic Drive follows only paved roads and utilizes two free ferries.

Camping

There are 26 campgrounds available on a first-come, first-served basis, while sites at a few take reservations.  Boat-in campgrounds and shoreline camping are both free.

Related Sites

Whitman Mission National Historic Site (Washington)

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Arizona-Utah)

Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Nevada-Arizona)

Explore More – During peak construction, how many people were employed at the Grand Coulee Dam?

Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historical Park

Overview

Sweet Auburn is a neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia where Martin Luther King, Jr. was baptized and ordained as a minister in Ebenezer Baptist Church.  The National Park Service (NPS) was granted 39 acres here in 1980 to honor the Civil Rights leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.  Following his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, King’s funeral was held at Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 4, 1968.  It is free to visit the NPS museum, birth home, and affiliated Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

Highlights

Museum, Ebenezer Baptist Church, MLK birth home, Reflection Pool tomb

Must-Do Activity

Inside the NPS museum, immersive audiovisual bubbles take visitors through the life of this prominent Civil Rights protestor.  A short walk is required to enter his boyhood home (which is wheelchair accessible).  Silence is mandatory while inside.  Outside the neighboring King Center, the Reflection Pool contains the tombs of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King, as well as an eternal flame. 

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

When reviewing this picture, Tiff swore she thought Gandhi was holding a selfie stick and was wearing sunglasses.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

A large, free parking lot is located north of the NPS visitor center.

Camping

Campgrounds are located outside Atlanta at the Corps of Engineers’ Lake Sidney Lanier and Forest Service’s Chattahoochee National Forest.

Related Sites

Martin Luther King, Jr.  National Memorial (District of Columbia)

Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument (Mississippi)

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (Georgia)

Explore More – How was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mother also tragically killed by gunshot in 1974?

Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

Overview

This historic college for African Americans is also the final resting place for pioneering staff members Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver.  In 1881, a 25-year-old Washington moved to an abandoned plantation in Alabama to found the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute with a $2,000 appropriation from the state.  From its initial enrollment of 30 students, Tuskegee has grown and continues to be an active and prominent university today.

Highlights

Historic campus, George Washington Carver Museum, Tuskegee Chapel, The Oaks

Must-Do Activity

Since only eight of the 58 acres dedicated to this National Historic Site are owned by the National Park Service (NPS) on this active college campus, it behooves you to call ahead to schedule your visit.  Guided tours are available of the university and The Oaks, the historic Washington family home that was built by students.  At least make sure the excellent George Washington Carver Museum is open when you visit.  At the beginning of World War II, the school was selected to train African-American pilots, which is detailed at the nearby Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, also managed by the NPS.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

The sculpture of Booker T. Washington lifting the veil of ignorance from a slave was completed by Charles Keck in 1922.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, but there is limited parking on campus for tourists.

Camping

Chewacla State Park is located northeast of town and primitive camping is allowed in Tuskegee National Forest (the smallest U.S. National Forest at 11,252 acres).

Related Sites

Booker T. Washington National Monument (Virginia)

George Washington Carver National Monument (Missouri)

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site (Alabama)

Explore More – How many bricks were made and laid by Tuskegee students to build the original chapel in 1896-98?

Nez Perce National Historical Park

Overview

Nez Perce National Historical Park is unique because it comprises 38 sites stretching across four states, not even including an 1877 incident inside Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park.  Many of the locations (as well as Big Hole National Battlefield) cover the War of 1877, when a portion of the tribe fled more than 1,000 miles from Oregon towards the Canadian border only to be stopped 40 miles short by the U.S. Army at Bear Paw Battlefield in Montana.  Under the leadership of legendary Chief Joseph they crossed the Rocky Mountains at Lolo Pass, made famous by the Lewis and Clark Expedition that the tribe assisted in 1805.

Highlights

Museum, film, Heart of the Monster, Lolo Pass, Bear Paw Battlefield

Must-Do Activity

The main National Park Service (NPS) visitor center is in Spalding, Idaho on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation where the “heart of the monster” resides.  According to legend, after Coyote slew the monster that inhaled all the people, its heart and liver came to rest on the banks of the Clearwater River.  This park is also unique because the Nez Perce remain an active tribe with a strong sense of community, as documented in the excellent new film at the visitor center.  Highway 12 follows the beautiful Clearwater River through northern Idaho and provides access points for the unpaved Lolo Motorway (a section of the Nez Perce National Historical Trail) and its many scenic overlooks.

Best Trail

Nez Perce National Historical Trail stretches 1,170 miles from Oregon to Montana, ending at the NPS site at Bear Paw Battlefield where a five-day fight finally led to the tribe’s surrender in October 1877.

Instagram-worthy Photo

At a roadside pullout on Highway 95 in Idaho, the NPS interprets White Bird Battlefield where 34 U.S. Army soldiers were killed on June 17, 1877 escalating the U.S. government’s conflict with the Nez Perce into a war.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Most of the major roads are paved, with the notable exception of the Lolo Motorway which requires a high clearance vehicle (and four-wheel drive on its western end).

Camping

There are camping opportunities ranging from dispersed to developed located throughout Clearwater, Nez Perce, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests.

Related Sites

Big Hole National Battlefield (Montana)

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site (Montana)

Whitman Mission National Historic Site (Washington)

Explore More – After the 1863 “Steal Treaty” reduced the Nez Perce Reservation by 90%, what was the 1887 federal law that allowed another 90% to end up in white ownership?

Adams National Historical Park

Overview

The Adams Family (doo doo doo doo snap snap) was very influential in American history, with members serving as foreign ministers, two presidents, and literary historians.  They resided in Quincy, Massachusetts for five generations from 1720 to 1927.  The two presidents and their first ladies are buried in the crypt beneath United First Parish Church (admission fee charged), which is located a short walk from the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center.

Highlights

Film, trolley ride, Birthplaces of John and John Quincy Adams, Old House at Peace Field, United First Parish Church

Must-Do Activity

Start your visit at the NPS visitor center by watching a short film and purchasing tour tickets, which do not take reservations (so arrive early).  When your tour starts, board a trolley to travel to the two small houses (75 feet apart) where presidents John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams were born.  Next the trolley will take you to the Old House at Peace Field where your tour group splits in two to go inside the mansion and the Stone Library.

Best Trail

The two-hour tour is well orchestrated so no time is wasted, but you can enjoy a glimpse of the formal gardens as your tour group walks to the Stone Library, which houses more than 12,000 books.  If you drive there yourself, you can walk around outside the buildings.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Carriage House at Peace Field is not part of the guided tour, but you can get a good photograph of it from where the trolley picks you up and drops you off.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

$15 per person for tour or free with the America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

There is a parking garage near the NPS visitor center that allows free parking when you get your ticket validated by an NPS employee.

Camping

About 400 developed campsites are available at Wompatuck State Park, located 11 miles southeast of Quincy, Massachusetts.

Related Sites

Boston National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Minute Man National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Salem Maritime National Historic Site (Massachusetts)

Explore More – John and Abigail Adams moved into the Old House in 1788, but when was it originally built?