Tag Archives: memorial

Top 10 Most Depressing National Park Service Sites

Depression is not usually celebrated, but sometimes it is important to remember the terrible events that happened in the past.  You can either choose to avoid these National Park Service (NPS) sites or learn from them.  Southwest Pennsylvania is somewhat famous in the NPS for having three sites with an unpleasant history.  Click here to see all of our other Top 10 Lists, which are much more uplifting!

10. Whitman Mission National Historic Site (Washington)

Following a devastating 1847 measles epidemic , 13 missionaries were killed by grieving Cayuse families

9. River Raisin National Battlefield Park (Michigan)

American prisoners were slaughtered here during the War of 1812

8. Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument (Mississippi)

Like Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers was assassinated for his civil rights work

7. Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site (District of Columbia)

The place where President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth

6. Johnstown Flood National Memorial (Pennsylvania)

More than 2,200 people died when a dam broke on May 31, 1889

5. Freedom Riders National Monument (Alabama)

Site of a 1961 public beating and bus burning where, fortunately, nobody was killed

4. Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site (Colorado)

A senseless massacre by the U.S. military took place here and at Washita Battlefield National Historic Site in Oklahoma

3. Manzanar National Historic Site (California)

A Japanese internment camp during WWII, as are Tule Lake National Monument and Minidoka National Historic Site

2. Andersonville National Historic Site (Georgia)

This infamous Civil War prison is now site of the National Prisoner of War Museum

…and finally our #1 most depressing NPS site:

1. Flight 93 National Memorial (Pennsylvania)

The freshest wound of any of these historic sites, it is an emotional place to visit

Honorable Mentions

Booker T. Washington National Monument (Virginia)

Representative of the tragic life that all slaves led throughout the United States

Antietam National Battlefield (Maryland)

All Civil War battles were horrifying, but this one had an especially high casualty rate

Fort Necessity National Battlefield (Pennsylvania)

Rounding out the three southwest Pennsylvania sites is this ignominious George Washington defeat

Flight 93 National Memorial

Overview

One of the most emotionally difficult places we have ever visited is the Flight 93 National Memorial in southwest Pennsylvania.  Most readers remember the details of September 11, 2001 vividly and the feelings of that day still resonate.  Thanks to the courage of the 40 passengers and crew aboard United Flight 93, the airplane crashed only 18 minutes short of its target in Washington, D.C.

Highlights

Museum, Memorial Plaza, Wall of Names

Must-Do Activity

Even if you never saw the Hollywood film, the story of Flight 93 is well known.  The National Park Service (NPS) has put together a high-quality museum near the airplane crash site and the memorial itself is simple yet strong.  One wall is inscribed with this excellent quote: “A common field one day.  A field of honor forever.”  The focus is on the bravery of the 33 passengers and seven crew members that stood up to the four hijackers that tragic morning.  Since it is essentially a mass grave, the actual crash site is off limits except to family members of the victims, but it is marked by a large boulder visible from the Memorial Plaza.  We left after our visit feeling both saddened and empowered.

Best Trail

An allée (formal walkway) leads from the NPS visitor center past the 40 Memorial Groves of trees (planted in 2012) to the Memorial Plaza and the Wall of Names.  You can also drive to the parking lot at the visitor shelter next to the Memorial Plaza.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The names of the Flight 93 passengers and crew are on the 40 marble panels of the Wall of Names (the NPS visitor center is visible in the background).

Peak Season

Summer and the September anniversary

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

We camped on state forest land near Stoystown, Pennsylvania.

Related Sites

Johnstown Flood National Memorial (Pennsylvania)

Fort Necessity National Battlefield (Pennsylvania)

Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania)

Explore More – Where was the United Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey bound for on September 11, 2001?

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

Overview

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park was authorized in 1890, the first park of its kind in the United States.  It covers multiple battlefields from late-1863 that straddle the Tennessee-Georgia borderline.  Though the Confederate army initially won at Chickamauga, Georgia, the Union took control of Chattanooga, Tennessee after the arrival of General Ulysses S. Grant with reinforcements in November.  Like Fort Monroe in Virginia, this area then became a beacon for escaped slaves, eventually numbering 2,000 people.

Highlights

Museums, film, driving tour, Point Park, Ochs Memorial Observatory, Cravens House, cannons

Must-Do Activity

Point Park sits on top of Lookout Mountain offering awesome views of the city of Chattanooga and Moccasin Bend on the Tennessee River.  It is also the home of Ochs Memorial Observatory and museum, one reason Point Park charges an admission fee.  The nearby National Park Service (NPS) visitor center displays the 30×13-foot painting The Battle of Lookout Mountain by James Walker.  At the Chickamauga battlefield, a seven-mile long driving tour explains what happened there on September 20, 1863.  The National Military Park also entails seven small military reservations and the Phelps Monument along the road atop Missionary Ridge, east of Chattanooga.

Best Trail

There are miles of trails atop Lookout Mountain and Ochs Memorial Observatory is only accessible by trail (and many stair steps).  It contains a museum dedicated to the Civil War and American Indians, specifically the Cherokee who passed through Moccasin Bend (which has its own three-mile loop trail) on the Trail of Tears in 1838.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The entrance to Point Park is designed to look like the Army Corps of Engineers insignia.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

$10 per person to enter Point Park or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but there is limited free parking available at the NPS visitor center near Point Park.

Camping

Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia is about 20 miles southwest of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Related Sites

Fort Donelson National Battlefield (Tennessee-Kentucky)

Shiloh National Military Park (Tennessee-Mississippi)

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park (Georgia)

Explore More – Why did President Abraham Lincoln consider capturing Chattanooga (a town of only 2,500) as important as Atlanta?

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park

Overview

The Shenandoah Valley was the Confederate States of America’s “breadbasket” in the 1860s and thus had strategic importance during the Civil War.  This led to numerous skirmishes and the fight that took place on October 19, 1864 is commemorated at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.  Little of the land within this 3,700-acre park established in 2002 is owned by the federal government, but the National Park Service (NPS) has done a significant amount of work to improve its interpretive signage since our first visit in 2016.

Highlights

Morning Attack Trails, driving tour, Hupp’s Hill Museum, Belle Grove historic plantation

Must-Do Activity

If you need the stamp for your NPS passport, stop at the Visitor Contact Station located in a strip mall in Middletown, Virginia.  There you can pick up a free guide to help you follow the driving tour focused on the October 19, 1864 battle fought at Cedar Creek.  There is also a free app available on the park’s website.  Managed by a non-profit that organizes an annual reenactment of the battle, Hupp’s Hill Civil War Park has a museum (fee).  You can also pay to take a tour of the manor house at Belle Grove.

Best Trail

The Morning Attack Trails are located next to the NPS Headquarters off Highway 11 with interpretive signage placed on the 300-yard long 8th Vermont Monument Trail, 0.6-mile Thomas Brigade Loop, and 0.7-mile Hayes-Ramseur Loop.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Available for guided tours (fee) between April and December, the manor house at Belle Grove plantation dates back to 1797.  Union General Philip Sheridan used the house as his headquarters in 1864 and most of his 31,600 troops camped on the property.

Peak Season

Fall

Hours

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

Fees

Admission charged for guided tours of Belle Grove manor house and entrance to Hupp’s Hill Museum.

Road Conditions

Some of the roads on the driving tour are unpaved and not recommended for buses or RVs.

Camping

None

Related Sites

Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania)

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

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

Explore More – Belle Grove was owned by Isaac Hite, Jr. and his wife Nelly, who was the sister of which U.S. President?

Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Overview

Even in the wake of Patriot victories at Kings Mountain and Cowpens, the British army was not giving up their southern colonies without a fight.  Major General Nathanael Greene was in charge of the Continental Army in the southern theater and his troops were aggressively pursued by British General Charles Cornwallis.  Although he lost the battle on March 15, 1781, Greene’s name was later applied to the nearby town of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Highlights

Museum, film, Hoskins Farm, Major General Nathanael Greene statue

Must-Do Activity

Start at the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center, watch the short film (also available on the NPS website), then make stops along the 2.25-mile auto tour.  You will learn the story of what took place on March 15, 1781, when Greene’s defensive position at Guilford Courthouse was attacked by British forces.  While the Patriots withdrew they only suffered 7% casualties, compared to the British who lost 28% of their army, leading them to eventually retreat to Yorktown, Virginia.  After the battle, Greene continued to fight, leading his men against overmatched backcountry outposts of British troops such as the one at Ninety Six, South Carolina. 

Best Trail

In addition to the auto tour route, a paved bicycle path wends through the battlefield.  The lovely 229-acre Guilford Courthouse National Military Park is heavily utilized for recreation by the local people of Greensboro.  As such, you are allowed to walk your dog in the park. In the summer, you can also walk around Hoskins Farm, though its buildings are closed, as is the old Colonial Heritage Center.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Many monuments line the pathways that cut through 229-acre Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, with the equestrian statue of Major General Nathanael Greene being the most prominent.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

The city of Greensboro operates a campground with showers south of town.

Explore More – Which British politician remarked, “Another such victory would destroy the British Army” following the battle at Guilford Courthouse?