Tag Archives: history

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

Overview

Broadway in Skagway, Alaska still looks much like it did during the 1897 gold rush, lined with boardwalks and bustling with activity, especially when a cruise ship is docked.  Paved streets instead of mud are one major difference between now and when 30,000 stampeders came here aboard ships from Seattle.  The National Park Service (NPS) visitor center is located inside the old railway depot and the NPS owns several other historic structures including the Mascot Saloon and Jefferson “Soapy” Smith’s Parlor.  The NPS also runs a free museum in downtown Seattle, Washington inside the historic Cadillac Hotel.

Highlights

Mascot Saloon, Gold Rush Cemetery, Lower Reid Falls, Chilkoot Trail, Cadillac Hotel museum (Seattle)

Must-Do Activity

Start at the visitor center with the 25-minute introductory film then wander the boardwalks up Broadway to see historic false-front buildings that never burned since the 1897 gold rush.  If you want to learn more about the infamous “Soapy” Smith and laugh really hard, then I recommend purchasing tickets to the Days of ’98 Show offered multiple times daily in the summer. 

Best Trail

The NPS cooperatively manages the Chilkoot Trail with Parks Canada who issues all permits (in Skagway) for backpacking the 33-mile trail.  The trailhead is in the ghost town of Dyea, about 12 miles west of bustling Skagway.  Almost every trekker takes 3 to 5 days to hike one way into Canada and return on the White Pass Railroad.  It is cheaper to only hike the U.S. side and spend two nights at the always empty Pleasant Camp.

Instagram-worthy Photo

During the winter of 1897-98, over 30,000 people hauled one-ton of food and gear per person over the 3,501-foot Chilkoot Pass on their way to the Yukon Territory.  Photograph the 100% slope of the “Golden Stairs” in the summer, as it can be nearly impossible to access in winter.

Peak Season

Summer due to cruise ships and the fact that the rest of the year experiences heavy snowfall.

Hours

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

Fees

It is free to explore downtown Skagway’s buildings, but overnight backpacking on the Chilkoot Trail has fees ($20.30 per person for U.S.-side only) and is limited to only 50 permits per day to cross the border into Canada.

Road Conditions

Paved to Skagway and the dirt road to Dyea is good enough for all vehicles.

Camping

There is a car campground in Dyea.  Specific backcountry campsite permits (like Sheep Camp) can fill up early.

Explore More – How many times did the average stampeder have to ascend the Golden Stairs to haul one-ton of food and gear over 3,501-foot Chilkoot Pass?

Grand Canyon National Park

Overview

Grand Canyon National Park is generally considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.   Billions of years of geologic history have been laid bare by the cutting power of the Colorado River.  It is cliché but true, you simply have to see this icon with your own eyes.  It can be overwhelming.  So can the crowds on the South Rim, but those tend to thin out if you hike a mile or two down a trail.  If you have the time during the summer months, be sure to drive five hours over the forested Kaibab Plateau to reach the North Rim (which is only 10 miles away as the raven flies). 

Highlights

Desert View Watchtower, Hopi House, El Tovar Hotel, Phantom Ranch, Toroweap Overlook, whitewater rafting the Colorado River

Must-Do Activity

Growing up in Arizona, Scott used to visit this park frequently, but he feels he never got to know it until he hiked to the bottom in 2016.  Even if you only go a couple thousand feet down in elevation on the Grandview Trail or busy Bright Angel Trail, it will give you a new perspective on the canyon.

Best Trail

We day hiked the 18 miles from South Kaibab Trailhead (7200 feet elevation) down to Phantom Ranch (2500 feet) where we filled up with water on the way back up to Bright Angel Trailhead (6800 feet, with multiple water stations on the trail).  Backcountry permits can turn this into a multiple day trek, but then you have to carry all your gear out.

Instagram-worthy Photo

It is an arduous 90-mile one-way drive down a (mostly) dirt road to access Toroweap Overlook, but there is a reason photos from this fantastic overlook show up everywhere since the canyon walls are nearly vertical here.

Peak Season

Summer when it is very hot inside the canyon, though it can also be busy around the spring, fall, and December holidays.

Hours

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

Fees

$35 per vehicle or America The Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Most roads are paved, and except for the very end of the 90-mile long graded dirt road to Toroweap Overlook is accessible to all passenger vehicles.

Camping

The park has campgrounds on both rims, but you can also find dispersed camping in the neighboring Kaibab National Forest.

This design we created to celebrate Grand Canyon National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

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Harry S Truman National Historic Site

Overview

Harry S Truman was a farmer, soldier in World War I, judge, U.S. Senator, and Vice President before assuming the duties of Commander-in-Chief after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death in 1945.  He is perhaps best known as the man who made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The 33rd President was known for being a straight shooter; this quote speaks to us today: “You can’t divide the country up into sections… and you can’t encourage people’s prejudices.  You have to appeal to people’s best instincts, not their worst ones.”  Truman won a close reelection vote in 1948.

Highlights

Truman Home tour, film, Truman Farm Home

Must-Do Activity

The National Park Service (NPS) visitor center in downtown Independence offers a film and a few artifacts, as well as first-come, first-served tickets for ranger-guided tours of the Truman Home.  It was there Harry and Bess (his wife) lived from 1919 until his death in 1972.  It served as the summer White House from 1945 to 1953 and was given to the NPS upon Bess’ death in 1982 (the calendar still hanging in the kitchen is original). 

Best Trail

About a 30-minute drive from Independence, take a self-guided cell phone tour around the ten acres surrounding the 1894 Truman Farm Home, which once stood on a 600-acre farm that is now the Kansas City-suburb of Grandview, Missouri.

Instagram-worthy Photo

There is no photography allowed inside the Truman Home, so your best shot will be from out front behind the fence installed by the Secret Service in the 1940s to keep the public off the lawn.

Peak Season

Open year round, but we caught peak fall colors in late October.

Hours

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

Fees

The home tour costs $7 per person (no reservations) or is free with an America The Beautiful pass.

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but street parking is limited near the Truman Home.  It is easy to miss the poorly signed turn for the Truman Farm Home in Grandview.

Camping

None

Explore More – Why is a period not required at the end of Harry S Truman’s middle initial?

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Overview

During the National Park Service (NPS) centennial in 2016, a new, ambitious park was established linking three far-flung sites in the states of Washington, New Mexico, and Tennessee.  The purpose is to tell the story of the “Manhattan Project,” the military code name during World War II for the secret undertaking to create the world’s first atomic weapon. 

Highlights

Bradbury Science Museum (NM), American Museum of Science and Energy (TN), Hanford Reach National Monument (WA)

Must-Do Activity

In 1942, hundreds of eastern Tennessee families were displaced in order to construct Oak Ridge National Laboratory where experimental nuclear reactors produced plutonium and enriched uranium.  More than 75,000 people hurriedly built and operated this brand new industrial complex, which continues to be used as a Department of Energy research facility to this day.  Due to security and safety concerns, visitors can only enter on a 3-hour bus tour that leaves from the American Museum of Science and Energy.  The tour is well worth your time, as it is currently the only way to see Y-12, X-10, and K-25 and learn more about what those code names really mean.

Best Trail

The Hanford Reach is one of the last free-flowing sections of the Columbia River in eastern Washington and is an important site for salmon spawning.  The area is ecologically pristine, mostly untouched by development since it became the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in 1943.  It is home to the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor that produced the plutonium used by Los Alamos National Laboratories for its scientific breakthroughs in 1945.  Since 2000, Hanford Reach National Monument has been managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and much of the area is off limits.  Other than boating on the river, the best place to get a feel for the area is to walk around the Ringold Fish Hatchery.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The free Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos, New Mexico offers tourists a closer look at the original and ongoing research conducted at Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL), including a scale model of the “Fat Man” plutonium bomb built here in 1945.  Nearby, the Los Alamos Historical Museum is located in a cabin on historic Bathtub Row, so named because when the government took over the Ranch School in 1943 these were the only dwellings equipped with that luxury. 

Peak Season

Open year round, but summer is best at the high elevations of Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Hours

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

Fees

$5 per adult for the American Museum of Science and Energy and a 3-hour tour (11:30-2:30, reservations recommended) of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Road Conditions

All roads paved except around Hanford Reach National Monument

Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed in Santa Fe National Forest surrounding Los Alamos and it is not far to the campground in Bandelier National Monument.

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Manzanar National Historic Site

Overview

One of the many things that makes this country great is its willingness to remember inglorious moments in its past, such as the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.  Following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order authorizing the detention of more than 110,000 U.S. citizens of Japanese descent.  Manzanar War Relocation Center was the first of 10 internment camps built throughout the western U.S.  It held about 10,000 citizens (mostly from Los Angeles, California) in 36 blocks of wooden barracks across a one square-mile fenced enclosure. 

Highlights

Museum, film, reconstructed barracks, gardens, memorial

Must-Do Activity

Opened in 2004, the National Park Service visitor center is located inside the former camp auditorium, which now houses an excellent museum.  Self-guided walking and auto tours take visitors to two reconstructed barracks, the camp gardens, and a cemetery with the Manzanar Memorial.

Best Trail

You can walk or drive the 3.2-mile auto tour with 27 interpretive stops.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Located in the camp’s cemetery, the Manzanar Memorial is often swathed in origami paper cranes.

Peak Season

Summer, though temperatures can get hot with little shade.

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Manzanar is located right off Highway 395 west of Death Valley National Park and the dirt roads inside the site are passable by all vehicles.

Camping

Camping is available in Death Valley National Park and dispersed camping is allowed in the scenic Alabama Hills managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

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