Tag Archives: history

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

Overview

In the wake of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson was anxious to know what he had just bought from France and find out if it provided an easy route to the Pacific Ocean.  He tapped his secretary Captain Meriwether Lewis as leader of the Corps of Discovery, who in turn named his former colleague Captain William Clark co-commander.  Lewis and Clark National Historical Park celebrates the wet winter of 1805-06 that the expedition spent on the coast of Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River.

Highlights

Fort Clatsop, Fort to Sea Trail, Cape Disappointment State Park, Fort Stevens State Park

Must-Do Activity

The park is spread across multiple sites, including scenic Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington, plus Fort Clatsop and Fort Stevens State Park in Oregon.  Fort Clatsop was named a National Memorial in 1958 and still serves as the primary National Park Service (NPS) visitor center with exhibits and a film.  Other points of interest include the spot Sacagawea visited to see a beached whale and the salt works where seawater was boiled to produce the necessary commodity for the return trip.

Best Trail

When the Corps of Discovery finally saw the Pacific Ocean on November 7, 1805, Clark journaled, “Ocian in view! O! the joy.”  You can follow in their footsteps by starting at Fort Clatsop then hiking the 6.5-mile one-way Fort to Sea Trail, which marks the terminus of the 4,900-mile long Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (which is mostly a driving route).

Instagram-worthy Photo

Fort Clatsop is a well-made replica of the small structure where Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1805-06 and inside you will find rustic furniture similar to that built in 1805.

Peak Season

Summer for costumed demonstrations, though a winter visit would be more historically accurate.

Hours

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

Fees

$10 per person to visit Fort Clatsop (or America the Beautiful pass) and each State Park has a separate entry fee

Road Conditions

Access roads are paved

Camping

Fort Stevens State Park on the Oregon coast has hundreds of campsites for tents and RVs, and there is also camping available at Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington.

Related Sites

Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site (North Dakota)

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

Missouri National Recreation River (Nebraska-South Dakota)

Explore More – Where did the Corps of Discovery spend the winter prior to Fort Clatsop and first meet Sacagawea?

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Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Overview

As one of the easiest crossings of the Alleghany Mountains, Cumberland Gap saw steady foot traffic from 1775 to 1810 as American settlers moved west then sent their trade goods and livestock east.  It later became the corner where the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia all converge.  Today there is a tunnel on Highway 25E, maintaining the park’s quiet and its appearance of centuries ago. 

Highlights

Pinnacle Overlook, Tri-State Peak, Wilderness Road Trail, Hensley Settlement, Gap Cave

Must-Do Activity

All visitors will want to drive the steep four-mile long Pinnacle Road, along which trailheads lead to scenic overlooks and earthen forts dating to the 1860s.  Reservations are recommended if you want to take a tour of the Hensley Settlement or Gap Cave, which typically sell out.  Even if you cannot make it on a tour, there are 85 miles of shady trails through the park’s 24,000 acres of forest to make your visit worthwhile.

Best Trail

At Cumberland Gap National Historical Park you can follow in the footsteps of salt-seeking bison, Shawnee and Cherokee warriors, hundreds of thousands of pioneers, and Civil War soldiers from both sides.  Hike the Wilderness Road Trail to the saddle of the official Cumberland Gap, which is marked by a sign.  You will also pass the same Indian Rock that was seen by frontiersman Daniel Boone when he helped blaze the Wilderness Trail in 1775.

Instagram-worthy Photo

You can see parts of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee from Pinnacle Overlook at 2,440 feet in elevation.  With its commanding views, you can see why both sides found the Cumberland Gap strategic during the Civil War.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None, except for the separate tours of Hensley Settlement and Gap Cave (reservations recommended).

Road Conditions

The four-mile long road up to Pinnacle Overlook is paved but steep enough to be closed to all trailers and vehicles over 20 feet in length.

Camping

The park’s Wilderness Road Campground is large and open year round.  Free permits are available for backcountry campsites.  Black bears are common in the park, so proper food storage is required.

Related Sites

Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

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

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee-North Carolina)

Explore More – Who was the Virginian who first “discovered” and named the Cumberland Gap in 1750?

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Morristown National Historical Park

Overview

Not as famous as Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania, Morristown was the winter camp for the Continental Army during the winter of 1776-77, following the successful Christmas surprise attack on Trenton, New Jersey.  General George Washington again chose this site for his 10,000 troops during the winter of 1779-80, considered by historians as the harshest weather of the 18th century.  Morristown was established as the nation’s first National Historical Park in 1933.

Highlights

Ford Mansion, films, Wick House, replica huts at Jockey Ridge

Must-Do Activity

In the town of Morristown, the Georgian-style Ford Mansion served as George and Martha Washington’s home during the winter of 1779-80.  Tours inside the house start at the museum behind it, which also has exhibits and a film.  Down the road, there are no remains of the earthworks built in 1777 at Fort Nonsense, but interpretive panels at the site explain its strategic position and how it later got its name. 

Best Trail

A short trail leads from a parking area up a small hill to replicas of soldiers’ huts at Jockey Ridge.  There are a total of 27 miles of trails in this section of the park that are also open to horseback riding and cross-country skiing.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Wick House at Jockey Hollow has been restored to its 1750 appearance.  It served as the quarters for Major General Arthur St. Clair during the winter of 1779-80.  Costumed interpreters are sometimes on hand to take visitors inside the farmhouse.

Peak Season

Summer, though winter is more authentic to the American Revolution.

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved and parking is free

Camping

Allamachy Mountain State Park is about 20 miles northwest of Morristown, New Jersey.

Related Sites

Valley Forge National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)

Gateway National Recreation Area (New York-New Jersey)

Thomas Edison National Historical Park (New Jersey)

Explore More – Morristown National Historical Park is part of which National Heritage Area and located along which National Historic Trail?

Ninety Six National Historic Site

Overview

Ninety Six was a bit of a misnomer for this 18th-century trading village in South Carolina.  It was estimated at the time to be 96 miles from a major Cherokee village, but was actually closer to 78.  Then again, Seventy Eight does not have the same ring to it, does it?  A small stockade built around a barn survived two attacks by Cherokees in the 1750s, then during the American Revolution the town fell into British hands after a battle on November 19, 1775.  They proceeded to build a star-shaped earthen fort that was partially reconstructed in the 1970s.

Highlights

Reconstructed Revolutionary War earthen fort, museum, film

Must-Do Activity

In 1781, six year after the town fell into British hands, a month-long Patriot siege led by General Nathanael Greene failed, but the Patriots abandoned their underground tunneling when they learned of British reinforcements arriving.  The British wound up retreating to Charleston anyway and burning the town behind them.  Ninety Six never fully recovered and remained undeveloped, which allowed archaeologists in the 1970s to rediscover the old tunnels and zigzag trenches designed by Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko. 

Best Trail

With interpretive pamphlet in hand, you can get a good idea of Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko’s strategy from atop the observation platform built along the one-mile self-guided trail.  The park also contains the 27-acre Star Fort Pond, which is accessible by road or the Cherokee Path Trail from the visitor center.

Instagram-worthy Photo

This is the only National Park Service site we know of where visitors are encouraged to brandish a musket.  They also have a pillory to pose in.

Peak Season

Spring and fall, since it can be very hot in the summer with little shade.

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Access road paved

Camping

Greenwood State Recreation Area has a campground on a lake about nine miles north.

Related Sites

Cowpens National Battlefield (South Carolina)

Fort Sumter National Monument (South Carolina)

Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial (Pennsylvania)

Explore More – Who was Robert Gouedy and why was he significant in the history of Ninety Six?

Boston National Historical Park

Overview

Boston National Historical Park is famous for the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail that leads through historic downtown Boston, Massachusetts.  Tourists should not try to drive into the city because parking is difficult and the public transportation system is so good.  We recommend that you hire a guide or bring along your own information because almost nothing along the route has outdoor interpretive signs.

Highlights

Faneuil Hall, Charlestown Navy Yard, Bunker Hill Memorial, burying grounds, Boston Common

Must-Do Activity

One of our favorite misnomers in American history is that the Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place on Breed’s Hill north of Boston.  This first major skirmish took place shortly after the Revolutionary War kicked off in Lexington, Massachusetts in 1775 and is well-known for the Patriot commander that told his men not to “fire ’til you see the whites of their eyes.”  The 221-foot obelisk built to memorialize this fight (which the Patriots lost) was started in 1825 but not completed until 1843.  The National Park Service does not charge to climb the 294 stairs to its peak for great views of the area. 

Best Trail

The famous 2.5-mile long Freedom Trail through downtown Boston, Massachusetts is a walking path marked by a line painted on the sidewalk.  Of the many historic places you will pass along the route, some of the free ones include the site of the 1770 Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall known as the “Cradle of Liberty” (and now a National Park Service visitor center), the site of the first public school in America established in 1635, several burying grounds, and the Old Corner Bookstore that has been turned into a restaurant.  You can also pay to enter the Old State House and Paul Revere House, among other sites.

Instagram-worthy Photo

If you keep walking the Freedom Trail north you cross the Charlestown Bridge to the Charlestown Navy Yard where you can walk aboard the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, and learn about it from active-duty U.S. Navy servicemen and women.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None, except at specific buildings like the Old State House and Paul Revere House.

Road Conditions

Roads are paved, but traffic is bad and parking is expensive.  It is best to use public transportation to get into the city and then walk.

Camping

There are camping opportunities (reservations required) in Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, which are accessible by ferry from the city.

Related Sites

Minute Man National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Boston African American National Historic Site (Massachusetts)

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area (Massachusetts)

Explore More – The live oak wood used to build the USS Constitution came from what island, now managed by the National Park Service?