Tag Archives: history

Camp Nelson National Monument

Camp Nelson National Monument

Kentucky

Managed by National Park Service

Established 2018

525 acres

Website: nps.gov/cane

Overview

Camp Nelson National Monument occupies 525 acres where a Civil War fort was located 20 miles south of Lexington.  During the war, Kentucky was technically a Union state so the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 did not apply to the state’s slaves.  Many local slaves were impressed by the U.S. Army to build the camp and their owners were compensated for the work.  In May 1864, when freedom was offered to any black man to join the United States Colored Troops, thousands of escaped slaves brought their families (who were not granted freedom) to this supply depot, which led to numerous conflicts between refugees and Army officials. 

Highlights

Museum, film, Oliver Perry House, barracks, Fort Putnam, Fort Jones, Home for Colored Refugees Site

Must-Do Activity

Unlike many new National Monuments, this one was already developed as the Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park so it has a historical museum, hiking trails, and interpretive film (that made our Top 10 list for NPS films).  The Oliver Perry House is the only original structure on site, although a barracks building and the earthworks of Fort Putnam have been reconstructed.  A living history weekend is typically held during the summer in the park, which is adjacent to Camp Nelson National Cemetery (see photos below) where hundreds of Civil War soldiers are buried.

Best Trail

There are four miles of trails in Fort Nelson National Monument with numerous interpretive signs and flags placed to identify the former locations of the bakery, prison, stables, Quartermaster Office, and other structures.  The Fort Jones/Overlook Trail accesses extensive stone revetment walls that provided defenses for the eastern side of Camp Nelson.  There is little shade in this grassy landscape, so come prepared on hot summer afternoons.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Built in 1846, the Oliver Perry House (also called the White House) is the only remaining original structure on site, which served as officers’ quarters.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There is no campground on site, but there are some nice ones found throughout the Kentucky state parks system and Daniel Boone National Forest (where we recommend Cave Run Lake).

Related Sites

Daniel Boone National Forest (Kentucky)

Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument (Kentucky)

Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

Explore More – When was Army policy changed at Camp Nelson to allow the families of United States Colored Troops to have a mess hall, school, and housing?

Top 10 Films at National Park Service Visitor Centers

This fall we have driven all over the country and stopped at a handful of National Park Service (NPS) sites that we had never visited.  We have been surprised at the quality of the introductory films shown at some of these lesser-known spots, so we decided to put together a list of our all-time favorites.  Not every NPS site has a film, nor have we watched every one available at the 384 units we have visited, so there is a good bet we have missed some excellent ones.  Please let us know if you have a recommendation, as quite a few of the films are now available for free through the NPS app or on YouTube.  Click here to see all of our Top 10 lists, including some lists of movies not made by the NPS.

10. Fort Davis National Historic Site (Texas)

Basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a cowboy hat is probably the best reason to watch this film about the “Buffalo Soldiers” (click to watch it on YouTube)

9. Moores Creek National Battlefield (North Carolina)

Reenactors in kilts holding swords make this seem more like Braveheart than the historically-accurate Revolutionary War scene that it is

8. Camp Nelson National Monument (Kentucky)

This recent addition to the NPS system has a great film about how a Civil War fort became a haven for runaway slaves

7. Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (Tennessee-Kentucky)

Most of these films emphasize history, but this one focuses on the natural beauty and recreational opportunities in this forested wonderland

Scott with the 42′ x 377′ Cyclorama mural

6. Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania)

The only movie on this list that charges an admission fee, it is well-produced and pairs well with viewing the Cyclorama painting

5. Nez Perce National Historical Park (Idaho-Oregon-Washington-Montana)

The Nez Perce have a thriving nation as shown in this documentary that emphasizes the present more than the past (it plays at the visitor center in Spaulding, Idaho)

4. Stones River National Battlefield (Tennessee)

A short, modern film (on YouTube) that thoroughly and artfully explains the battle with long, uncut shots and realistic depictions of bullet wounds

3. Minidoka National Historic Site (Idaho)

New film covers the internment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II, not just the 13,000 imprisoned in central Idaho

2. Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site (New York)

The excellent documentary Close To Home (on YouTube) focuses primarily on the former First Lady’s inspirational career after her time in the White House

…and finally our #1 film at a National Park Service visitor center:

1. Minute Man National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Multiple screens with props in the foreground make for an unforgettable telling of Paul Revere’s ride at the visitor center in Lexington

Honorable Mentions

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming-Montana-Idaho)

One of the biggest theaters in the NPS system is at Old Faithful geyser, and the footage is breathtaking

President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace National Historic Site (Arkansas)

Interviews with the former President highlight this retelling of his childhood in the small town of Hope where he was born to a widowed mother under the name Billy Blythe III

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (District of Columbia)

This film is very dated to the 1970s, so it is unintentionally funny while still being informative

Independence National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)

There are actually two films shown at the visitor center in downtown Philadelphia, but only one stars a young Kristen Bell (from Veronica Mars and Disney’s Frozen)

Coronado National Forest

Coronado National Forest

Arizona

Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Southwestern Region

1,859,807 acres (1,786,620 federal/ 73,187 other)

Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/coronado

Overview

Coronado National Forest is sprinkled across the southeastern Arizona landscape, encompassing many forested “sky islands” that rise above the surrounding Sonoran Desert.  The isolation of these ranges has led to the evolution of some endemic species of plants and animals unique to this region.  That isolation also allows for clear night skies, so there are several peaks with astronomical observatories.  The most visited portion of the forest is the Santa Catalina Mountains, easily accessible along the paved 35-mile-long Catalina Highway east of Tucson, Arizona. 

Highlights

Catalina Highway, Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, Mt. Lemmon, Windy Point, Madera Canyon, Sky Island Scenic Byway, Mt. Graham, Onyx Cave, Madera Canyon, Mt. Hopkins Observatory, Pena Blanca Lake, Ramsey Canyon, Miller Peak, Cochise Stronghold

Must-Do Activity

The Santa Catalina Mountains offer many recreational opportunities, from road biking to downhill skiing at the top of 9,157-foot Mt. Lemmon (the southernmost ski area in the U.S.).   The scenic beauty and expansive vistas along the Catalina Highway are worth the many switchbacks, and you might drive past some of the most famous triathletes in the world who train here in the winter.  The drive ascends through multiple life zones from saguaro-dotted desert to ponderosa pine forest.  At the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains is the busy Sabino Canyon Recreation Area (fee).

Best Trail

Box Camp Trail is special to us as it was the site of our first date, marriage proposal, and wedding ceremony.  Over the course of 13 miles, Box Camp Trail drops 5,000 feet in elevation from ponderosa pine forest through pinyon-juniper woodland to the desert of Sabino Canyon dominated by saguaro cacti.  The rugged trail disappears in places, but offers incredible views along the way.  Route finding is required as the trail is somewhat overgrown (with downed trees from wildfires), plus the one-way hike requires two cars, one left at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area and one at the trailhead on the Catalina Highway. 

Watchable Wildlife

The Sonoran Desert is home to numerous unique wildlife species from roadrunners to Coues white-tailed deer.  Many of the animals are nocturnal to avoid the heat of the day, including ringtails (or ring-tailed cats), kangaroo rats, and javelinas (or collared peccaries).  The “sky islands” provide habitat for black bears, coyotes, skunks, mountain lions, bobcats, pronghorns, mule deer, and elk.  Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is known for its coatis, relatives of raccoons that typically travel in packs.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Windy Point is a spectacular overlook along the Catalina Highway in the pinyon-juniper woodland zone.  Not a bad spot for wedding photos, if we do say so ourselves.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Fees

There is a fee to park at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, plus a charge for the tram ride. Check the USFS website for details.

Road Conditions

The paved Catalina Highway is sometimes closed due to snow and ice in the winter.  There are some rough roads in this part of the Sonoran Desert, and especially be aware of the potential for flash flooding.

Camping

There are designated campgrounds along the Catalina Highway and throughout Coronado National Forest.  We dispersed camped near Dragoon Springs Station south of Interstate 10, but the access roads were in bad shape.

Wilderness Areas

Chiricahua Wilderness

Galiuro Wilderness

Miller Peak Wilderness

Mount Wrightson Wilderness

Pajarita Wilderness

Pusch Ridge Wilderness

Rincon Wilderness

Santa Teresa Wilderness

Related Sites

Coronado National Memorial (Arizona)

Tumacácori National Historical Park (Arizona)

Chiricahua National Monument (Arizona)

Nearest National Park

Saguaro

Conifer Tree Species

two-needle pinyon pine, alligator juniper, ponderosa pine, Chihuahua pine, Apache pine

Flowering Tree Species

Emory oak, Arizona oak, Mexican blue oak, Arizona rosewood, black alder, Arizona walnut, velvet ash, Arizona sycamore, quaking aspen

Explore More – Who was the famous ecologist that studied the similarity of increasing elevation to increasing latitude more than a century ago in the Santa Catalina Mountains?

Learn more about this and the 154 other National Forests in our new guidebook Out in the Woods

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.

Colville National Forest

Colville National Forest

Washington

Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region

1,029,617 acres (954,409 federal/ 75,208 other)

Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/colville

Overview

In northeast Washington, Colville National Forest is divided into two sections on either side of the Columbia River.  In the west are the Kettle River Mountains, which are crossed by Sherman Pass Scenic Byway (Highway 20).  To the east, the remote Selkirk Mountains contain the Salmo-Priest Wilderness that spills over into Kaniksu National Forest.  Colville National Forest also borders Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

Highlights

Sherman Pass Scenic Byway, Pewee Falls, Sullivan Lake, Marble Creek Falls, Trout Lake, Kettle Creek National Recreation Trail, Crowell Ridge Trail, Sherman Creek Trail, Grassy Top National Recreation Trail, Brown’s Lake Interpretive Trail, Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail

Must-Do Activity

In the Selkirk Mountains east of the Pend Oreille River, the large Sullivan Lake is a scenic spot for boating and camping.  Designated in 1978, the Sullivan Lake National Recreation Trail runs 4.3 miles between the two campgrounds located at either end of the lake.  Colville National Forest is also known for 200-foot-tall Pewee Falls that cascades into the Boundary Dam Reservoir near the Canadian border, but we did not make it up there.

Best Trail

Hoodoo Canyon Trail is 4.8 miles one-way and accessible from two trailheads, one on unpaved Deadman Creek Road and the other at Trout Lake Campground, which is five miles from the Sherman Pass Scenic Byway.  We started out in the rain from our dispersed campsite along Deadman Creek Road and the trail soon made a steep climb through a dense conifer forest.  Eventually the route leveled out and we got our first view of shamrock green Emerald Lake, so we took a well-worn path down to its shoreline.  The trail was officially closed at the 3.2-mile point due to a small landslide (see photo), but it was not hard to navigate past that spot to gain a view of Trout Lake, at which point we turned around.

Watchable Wildlife

The remote Selkirk Mountains represent the sole place south of Canada where there is a herd of mountain caribou.  Grizzly bears, Canadian lynx, mountain lions, and gray wolves also inhabit this wild borderland region.  More common species include mule deer, bighorn sheep, moose, beavers, bald eagles, and loons.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The water of Emerald Lake truly lives up to its gem of a name, even on a cloudy day.

Peak Season

Summer

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Sherman Pass Scenic Byway (Highway 20) is paved, but most the roads we drove through Colville National Forest were unpaved but in very good condition.

Camping

Trout Lake Campground seemed like a nice spot, secluded but only five miles off the Sherman Pass Scenic Byway.  We found many excellent dispersed campsites along the unpaved portions of Deadman Creek Road.

Wilderness Areas

Salmo-Priest Wilderness (also in Kaniksu National Forest)

Related Sites

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area (Washington)

Ross Lake National Recreation Area (Washington)

Lake Chelan National Recreation Area (Washington)

Nearest National Park

North Cascades

Conifer Tree Species

Douglas-fir, grand fir, subalpine fir, lodgepole pine, western larch, western redcedar

Flowering Tree Species

syringa, quaking aspen, Pacific dogwood, red alder, balsam poplar, dwarf birch, paper birch, Piper’s hawthorn, boxelder, Bebb willow, western mountain-ash, choke cherry, western serviceberry, red alder, mountain alder

Explore More – Who was Andrew Colvile, other than the man that Fort Colville [sic] was misnamed for in 1825?

Learn more about this and the 154 other National Forests in our new guidebook Out in the Woods

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.

Coeur d’Alene National Forest

Coeur d’Alene National Forest

Idaho

Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Northern Region

801,759 acres (725,797 federal/ 75,962 other)

Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/ipnf/

Overview

Coeur d’Alene National Forest is located on both sides of Interstate 90, east of the city of Coeur d’Alene, which was the French name given to the indigenous people.  In 1973, it was joined with Kaniksu and St. Joe National Forests to form Idaho Panhandle National Forests.  A good base for exploration, Wallace is a silver mining boomtown that refused to die despite its close call during the infamous Big Burn of 1910 (read more about it and the Pulaski Tunnel in Timothy Egan’s book).  On the Montana border, Lookout Pass Ski Area provides permits, equipment rentals, and shuttles for the famous Route of the Hiawatha bicycling trail (that is technically in St. Joe National Forest).

Highlights

Lake Hayden, Lookout Pass, Prichard Bridge, Stevens Lake, Willow Creek Falls, Steamboat Rock, Grassy Mountain Lookout, Lake Hayden, Settler’s Grove of Ancient Cedars, Pulaski Tunnel Trail

Must-Do Activity

North of Wallace, a good dirt road follows the West Fork of Eagle Creek to the Settler’s Grove of Ancient Cedars.  This 173-acre stand contains western redcedar trees up to seven feet in diameter, as well as large western hemlocks.  Fire has burned through the understory of this grove freeing nutrients for a lush growth of ferns and devil’s-club.  Look for a geocache near the sign that reads “end of Cedar Grove Trail” and points uphill to Trail No. 162, which continues another three miles.

Best Trail

The Idaho Centennial Trail follows the mountainous Idaho-Montana border on the eastern side of Coeur d’Alene National Forest, although it does dip west to cross Interstate 90 near the town of Mullan.  The old Mullan Road was cut through this rugged area in 1859-61; the terrain was so steep that workers had to construct 47 bridges to cover a distance of only 28 miles. 

Watchable Wildlife

Coeur d’Alene National Forest is home to mule deer, elk, moose, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions.  This close to Canada, it is also possible to find grizzly bears and gray wolves.  Common large birds include ospreys, golden eagles, bald eagles, wild turkeys, and ravens.  Although the National Forest does not encompass Lake Coeur d’Alene, it does contain many of the rivers and creeks that feed it, which provide incredible fishing opportunities.

Instagram-worthy Photo

There are some impressive western redcedar trees growing in the Settler’s Grove of Ancient Cedars.

Peak Season

Summer

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Even the paved roads we drove north of Wallace were slow going—very steep with hairpin switchbacks.  Once we got on the unpaved road following the West Fork of Eagle Creek, it was wide and flat.  We drove through Coeur d’Alene National Forest to access Bullion Pass on a four-wheel-drive-only road up a steep three-mile-long grade about a mile west (on a paved frontage road) from the Dena Mosa-Lookout Pass Rest Area on eastbound Interstate 90.

Camping

There are campgrounds located throughout the National Forest, including Mokins Bay Campground on Hayden Lake and Bell Bay Campground on Lake Coeur d’Alene.  We found a good dispersed campsite along the West Fork of Eagle Creek on the road to the Settler’s Grove of Ancient Cedars.

Wilderness Areas

None

Related Sites

Challis National Forest (Idaho)

Clearwater National Forest (Idaho)

Nez Perce National Historical Park (Idaho-Oregon-Montana)

Nearest National Park

Glacier

Conifer Tree Species

western redcedar, Engelmann spruce, lodgepole pine, western white pine, Douglas-fir, western hemlock, grand fir, subalpine fir, Pacific yew, western larch

Flowering Tree Species

quaking aspen, Pacific dogwood, red alder, balsam poplar, dwarf birch, paper birch, Piper’s hawthorn, boxelder, Bebb willow, western mountain-ash, choke cherry, western serviceberry, red alder, mountain alder

Explore More – How did the Coeur d’Alene tribe get its French name?

Learn more about this and the 154 other National Forests in our new guidebook Out in the Woods

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.