Tag Archives: civil rights

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

Overview

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is composed of two separate sites located 14 miles apart in Johnson City and Stonewall, Texas.  Museums here highlight the significant legislation that passed during his presidency from 1963-1969, including the pivotal Civil Rights Act, and, for nature lovers, the Wilderness Act.  Additions to the National Park Service (NPS) system during his presidency were extensive, including five sites in his home state of Texas (see Related Sites below).

Highlights

Johnson Settlement, films, Texas White House, Johnson Family Cemetery

Must-Do Activity

The 36th President of the United States is typically referred to as LBJ.  Birders know an “LBJ” as an acronym for those hard to identify “little brown jobs” that flit away before you can focus them in your binoculars.  Fittingly, President LBJ’s wife was named Lady Bird, and together they did much to preserve our public lands for native plants and animals.  Around the boyhood home where LBJ grew up in Johnson City, there are plenty of birds to watch, as well as longhorn cattle.  A driving tour through the Stonewall property (14 miles west) requires a permit from the LBJ State Park and Historic Site.  Once you get that, tickets for a guided tour of the Texas White House are available at the NPS visitor center located inside the Airplane Hangar.

Best Trail

A walking tour through Johnson City includes stops at Withers and Spauldings General Store, LBJ’s boyhood home, and barns and cabins that date back to the 1800s within the Johnson Settlement.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Longhorn cattle can be seen at the Johnson Settlement in Johnson City, Texas.  Hereford cattle are still raised at the working ranch in Stonewall.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

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

Fees

None except for the Texas White House tour ($3 per person or free with the America the Beautiful pass)

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

East of Johnson City, Pedernales Falls State Park has a campground, as does Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Related Sites

Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)

Padre Island National Seashore (Texas)

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument (Texas)

Explore More – Which resort in Florida (later owned by a future U.S. President) was designated a National Historic Site under the Johnson administration (then eventually sold and disbanded)?

Nicodemus National Historic Site

Overview

In northwestern Kansas, a small farming community joined the prestigious ranks of National Park Service (NPS) sites in 1996.  Historically-significant Nicodemus, Kansas was founded in 1877 by former slaves from Kentucky freed during the Civil War.  Between 1860 and 1880, the population of African-Americans in Kansas jumped from 627 to 43,107, so the town is representative of a historic period of diaspora, settlement, and reconstruction. 

Highlights

Township Hall, St. Francis Hotel, Old First Baptist Church

Must-Do Activity

Start your tour at the NPS visitor center in Township Hall built by the Works Progress Administration in 1939 (it is not open every day so check online first).  Please respect private property as you drive past two churches, a circa-1880 hotel, and an old schoolhouse (which are all closed to the public) that have interpretive signs along the street out front.  Every summer around the last weekend in July, the small town grows as descendants of its founders return for the Emancipation Celebration.  This event is open to the public and would be a great time to visit.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

The First Baptist Church was completed in 1907, constructed around a smaller church (sort of like a turducken).  When it was completed, the original structure was removed in small pieces through the front door.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Weber State Park is located 10 miles east of Nicodemus, Kansas.

Related Sites

Homestead National Monument of America (Nebraska)

Fort Larned National Historic Site (Kansas)

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (Kansas)

Explore More – For whom was the town of Nicodemus named?

Antietam National Battlefield

Overview

Antietam National Battlefield was established in 1890 to commemorate those who fought in Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17, 1862, the bloodiest single day in American military history with more than 23,000 total casualties.  In fact, it was in the aftermath of Antietam that Clara Barton earned her nickname “The Angel of the Battlefield” before going on to found the American Red Cross in 1881.  The battle was a draw, but together with a Union victory at Harpers Ferry stopped the Confederate advance north and provided the impetus for President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. 

Highlights

Museum, film, driving tour, Observation Tower, Pry House Medical Museum, cannons

Must-Do Activity

Your entrance fee allows you access to the museum and eight-mile driving tour, as well as 3,200 acres of beautiful Maryland countryside.  Even though this site holds a grisly honor, today it is a charming open space with picturesque bridges and monuments, perfect for a pleasant walk or bike ride.  During our visit, Burnside Bridge was being rebuilt after it collapsed in 2014.  Overall, it is a much quieter spot than nearby Gettysburg National Military Park.

Best Trail

The park has more than doubled in size since 1990 and there are walking trails accessible all along the driving tour route.  At a minimum, you should get out of the car to walk “Bloody Lane” before climbing up the Observation Tower.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A split-rail fence provided cover for Confederate troops on Sunken Road, also known as “Bloody Lane.”  A nice view of it and the Maryland countryside is offered from the Observation Tower.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

$20 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Reservations are required for organized groups to camp within the park, but there is a walk-in campground located five miles south within Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.  Greenbrier State Park offers a developed campground about 15 miles away.

Related Sites

Catoctin Mountain Park (Maryland)

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

Clara Barton National Historic Site (Maryland)

Explore More – How many Union soldiers are interred at Antietam National Cemetery (alongside veterans from four other wars)?

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Overview

Robert Harper started ferrying folks across the Potomac River at this site in 1747.  It had a strategic location at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers where the point of what is now the state of West Virginia meets the border of Maryland and Virginia.  Harpers Ferry is most famous for the 1859 raid led by abolitionist John Brown of Kansas in attempt to seize the federal armory to incite a slave rebellion.  His trial and execution for treason helped foment the Civil War, during which conflict the town changed hands between the two sides an astounding eight times!

Highlights

Historic buildings, museums, Jefferson Rock, Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Must-Do Activity

A portion of the town today is run as a series of museums by the National Park Service (NPS), though other parts remain open for business as restaurants, shops, and inns.  Parking is limited in town, so the NPS runs a shuttle (free with parking fee) two miles from their visitor center.

Best Trail

You can hike into town on the 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail that cuts right through the buildings and over the footbridge across the Potomac River.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Jefferson Rock is located just up the hill from town, named for Thomas Jefferson who visited in 1783.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

$20 to park at NPS visitor center or free with America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

There is limited parking in town so it is easier to take a shuttle from the NPS visitor center.

Camping

There are multiple private campgrounds in the area, as well as Maryland’s Gambrill State Park.

Related Sites

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

Fort Scott National Historic Site (Kansas)

New River Gorge National River (West Virginia)

Explore More – Which famous member of the Corps of Discovery visited the national armory in Harpers Ferry in 1803 before heading to the Pacific Ocean?

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Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park

Overview

This relatively undeveloped section of Maryland’s Eastern Shore might still be recognizable to Harriet Tubman, who was born here as Araminta “Minty” Ross in 1822.  After her own solo escape to Philadelphia using the Underground Railroad network in 1849, she returned thirteen times to conduct approximately 70 people north, as well as to provide detailed instructions that enabled another 70 to find freedom.  During the Civil War, Tubman served as a Union spy and became the first woman to lead an armed U.S. military assault.

Highlights

Museum, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Bucktown Village Store

Must-Do Activity

Harriet Tubman lived a hard life, as described in the exhibits at Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park (museum opened in March 2017), managed in association with the National Park Service.  Pick up a map at the museum, then make as many stops as you wish along the 125-mile long Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, which offers a free downloadable audio guide.  You will definitely be inspired by the story of this brave conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Best Trail

Near the museum at Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, 28,000-acre Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to see ospreys and overwintering birds. The Key Wallace loop trail is 2.7 miles long.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Bucktown Village Store has been restored to its 1800s appearance and is open to visitors.  Harriet Tubman accomplished amazing feats despite suffering seizures throughout her life from a skull fracture suffered at the Bucktown Village Store during her youth (see the photo below for the full story). 

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None, except at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, which is only $3 per vehicle and accepts America the Beautiful passes.

Road Conditions

All major roads are paved on the 125-mile long Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway and the driving route is well-maintained through Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. 

Camping

There are developed campgrounds at the northern end of Assateague Island National Seashore on Maryland’s Atlantic Coast.

Related Sites

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (District of Columbia)

Assateague Island National Seashore (Maryland-Virginia)

First State National Historical Park (Delaware)

Explore More – Before it became a National Historical Park, when was Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument established?