Tag Archives: museum

Russell Cave National Monument

Overview

Humans have been visiting Russell Cave in northeast Alabama since about the time its limestone roof collapsed creating an entrance around 10,000 years ago.  A timeline of human invention was preserved in the floor of this hunting camp for millennia, from atlatls to bows, pottery to pump drills.  The park rangers were the friendliest we encountered during Pretirement and often offer demonstrations of prehistoric tools and weapons.

Highlights

Museum with American Indian artifacts, boardwalk to cave entrance, nature trails

Must-Do Activity

There are a select few artifacts displayed on site in the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center.  From there a short boardwalk leads through the forest to an overlook of the archaeological digs at the cave entrance, which you cannot enter. 

Best Trail

Two nature trails (0.6 and 1.2 miles long) split off from the boardwalk to explore the surrounding hills.

Instagram-worthy Photo

This cave is not famous for its pretty cave formations, but for its incredible archaeological record.  If you want to see beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, I recommend you head west to the impressive Cathedral Caverns State Park.

Peak Season

Summer, when it can be muggy and buggy.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/ruca/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but RVs are not recommended on Highway 156 if entering from the north.

Camping

DeSoto State Park has a campground and primitive camping is allowed at three sites in nearby Little River Canyon National Preserve.

Explore More – How far down into the cave floor did archaeologists dig in the 1950s?

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?

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.

Explore More – What was the job of the “Calutron Girls” in Oak Ridge during World War II?

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.

Explore More – How many Japanese-Americans served in the U.S. military during World War II?

Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park

Overview

On the east side of the San Francisco Bay, Richmond was chosen by the National Park Service (NPS) in 2000 to commemorate the work of thousands of women and men nationwide who built the machines needed to fight World War II.  By 1945, women made up almost a third of the workforce in the U.S. and about 41% of welders in the Kaiser shipyards here.  The Visitor Education Center offers hands-on exhibits housed in a Ford Assembly Building formerly used to make tanks.  Tours are also offered on the SS Red Oak Victory, a cargo ship built here during the war. 

Highlights

Museum, film, Rosie the Riveter Memorial, SS Red Oak Victory, real-life “Rosies”

Must-Do Activity

The special thing about this park is the incredible opportunity on most Fridays to meet real-life “Rosies” who worked here during the war.  During our visit, we got to hear the stories of two women, Agnes and Marian.  They won’t be around forever, so put this site at the top of your NPS to-do list. 

Best Trail

The paved Bay Trail winds through Richmond and stops at the Rosie the Riveter Memorial in Marina Bay Park.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The poster of a woman in factory work clothes flexing her right bicep is perhaps the most famous image to come out of World War II.  “Rosie the Riveter” was also a popular song on the radio in the 1940s. 

Peak Season

Year round, but especially on Fridays when real-life “Rosies” are at the visitor center.

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but you do have to pass through a guard station to access the Visitor Education Center.

Camping

None

Explore More – At its peak, how many people worked around the clock in the Kaiser shipyards?