Tag Archives: National Historic Site

Steamtown National Historic Site

Overview

In downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania, 52 acres have been turned into a dreamscape for railroad enthusiasts by the National Park Service (NPS).  Specifically, the site is dedicated to steam engines, which truly got started in 1830 with the South Carolina Railroad and lasted more than century before being fully replaced by diesel locomotives.  A unique opportunity at this park is the chance to take one of several steam train excursions (additional fee) that leave from the site.

Highlights

Museum, film, turntable, tours, steam train excursions

Must-Do Activity

Steamtown National Historic Site is located on the grounds of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, which relied on the region’s cleaner-burning anthracite coal.  The park includes a theater, multiple museums, a 90-foot-diameter operating turntable, restoration shops, locomotives, and a collection of railroad cars.  A highlight is one of the few Union Pacific “Big Boys” built to haul freight trains through the mountains of Utah and Wyoming.  Guided tours are included with your admission fee, although there is enough to read and watch in the extensive museums to keep you busy all day long.

Best Trail

There is no trail, but you will get your daily steps if you tour the entire facility.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The turntable is surrounded on one half by the glass-fronted NPS visitor center and history museum, which makes for some cool photographs.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved and ample parking is available.

Camping

See our blog post on Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area for a list of State Parks and State Forests with campgrounds in the area.

Related Sites

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (New York-Pennsylvania)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)

Explore More – What year was the park’s oldest locomotive built for the Chicago Union Transfer Railroad Company?

Top National Park Service Site in Each State

We kicked off our travel blog by highlighting our favorite National Park Service site in each of the 50 states.

Alabama

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

Alaska

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Arizona

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Arkansas

Buffalo National River

California

Lava Beds National Monument

Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Connecticut

Weir Farm National Historic Site

Delaware

First State National Historical Park

Florida

Dry Tortugas National Park

Georgia

Andersonville National Historic Site

Hawaii

Kalaupapa National Historical Park

Idaho

City of Rocks National Reserve

Illinois

Pullman National Monument

Indiana

Indiana Dunes National Park

Iowa

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Kansas

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park

Louisiana

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve

Maine

Appalachian National Scenic Trail 

Maryland

Catoctin Mountain Park

Massachusetts

Lowell National Historical Park

Michigan

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Minnesota

Grand Portage National Monument

Mississippi

Vicksburg National Military Park

Missouri

Ozark National Scenic Riverways

Montana

Big Hole National Battlefield

Nebraska

Scotts Bluff National Monument

Nevada

Great Basin National Park

New Hampshire

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

New Jersey

Thomas Edison National Historical Park

New Mexico

Bandelier National Monument

New York

Fort Stanwix National Monument

North Carolina

Cape Lookout National Seashore

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Ohio

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

Oklahoma

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Oregon

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument 

Pennsylvania

Fort Necessity National Battlefield

Rhode Island

Roger Williams National Memorial

South Carolina

Congaree National Park

South Dakota

Jewel Cave National Monument

Tennessee

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Texas

Big Bend National Park

Utah

Capitol Reef National Park

Vermont

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park 

Virginia

Fort Monroe National Monument

Washington

Lake Chelan National Recreation Area

West Virginia

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

Wisconsin

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

…and finally our home state…

Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park

 

Honorable Mention

District of Columbia

Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site

Fort Davis National Historic Site

Overview

The base of the Davis Mountains is the wonderfully scenic setting for Fort Davis National Historic Site, originally active from 1854 to 1891.  It was manned by U.S. troops except after Texas seceded during the Civil War, which is ironic given that it was named for Jefferson Davis.  Confederate forces obviously saw this as enough reason to occupy the remote frontier fort for a year.  The park preserves its 1867 layout, when the fort was rebuilt following five years of abandonment.

Highlights

Museum, film, historic buildings, Davis Mountains State Park

Must-Do Activity

After the Civil War, Fort Davis became famous for posting African-American “Buffalo Soldiers.”  Maybe this is why they chose to cast 7-foot-2-inch tall Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the cowboy hat-wearing narrator of the park’s introductory film.  That in-and-of-itself is worth the price of admission.  The dry Chihuahuan Desert air has preserved the 21 remaining buildings well.  Throughout the day, bugle calls on the loudspeaker will hearken you back to frontier days. 

Best Trail

A self-guided trail leads around the 523-acre property and enters six buildings: the commanding officer’s quarters, lieutenants’ quarters, barracks, commissary, hospital, and officers’ servants’ quarters.  There are other trails here and in neighboring Davis Mountains State Park, but be aware that the fort sits at 4,900 feet of elevation.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The morning we visited, mule deer were feeding on the lawn in front of the restored buildings.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

$10 per person or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Access roads paved

Camping

If you enjoy spending time at this beautiful spot, consider camping in adjacent Davis Mountains State Park, which offers good stargazing.

Related Sites

Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

Big Bend National Park (Texas)

Explore More – Who was the first black graduate of West Point military academy briefly stationed here (before a controversial court-martial later overturned in 1976)?

Fort Larned National Historic Site

Overview

This Santa Fe Trail fort was only active from 1860 to 1878, but after becoming private property it continued to function as a working ranch which explains why it is in such good shape today.  Costumed re-enactors are really what make this National Park Service (NPS) site special, though, from the blacksmith to the schoolteacher to the commissar to the officers’ wives.  They love to share stories of this extraordinary place.  Surrounded by open fields, it is easy to feel like you are 150 years in the past while touring the grounds.

Highlights

Museum, film, commissary, officers’ quarters, barracks, reconstructed blockhouse

Must-Do Activity

As we walked across the bridge over the Pawnee River towards Fort Larned on a foggy Memorial Day morning, we watched a horse-drawn carriage heading that way, too.  Much to our surprise, the driver (a volunteer) stopped to ask if we would like to hop in for a ride.  Passing through the fog, it was like being carried back in time.  To learn more history, head to the Santa Fe Trail Center in the town of Larned, Kansas.

Best Trail

The parking area is a short walk from the fort, then a self-guided trail (brochure available at the NPS visitor center) leads to stops around the 718-acre site.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Two soldier re-enactors looked ghostly in the glass while watching the blacksmith work his magic.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The access road to the main site is paved, but to visit the Santa Fe Trail Ruts Area requires driving an unpaved county road.

Camping

There is a private campground in Larned, Kansas, plus Kansas has a good State Parks system.

Related Sites

Fort Scott National Historic Site (Kansas)

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site (Colorado)

Fort Union National Monument (New Mexico)

Explore More – For whom is Fort Larned named?

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site

Overview

Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. (1822-1903) is considered the founder of American landscape architecture.  His most famous designs include New York City’s Central Park and the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, but he also created the protective ramada for Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in Arizona.  This seven-acre site outside Boston, Massachusetts was authorized in 1979 to preserve his house and the Olmsted Archives for future researchers.

Highlights

Museum, film, office tour, Olmsted Archives

Must-Do Activity

In 1883, Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. moved to Brookline, Massachusetts to establish the world’s first landscape design office.  Self-guided exhibits and a short film inside his home (called Fairsted) are a good place to start before a ranger-guided tour of his office space full of historical artifacts and documents.  Occasionally, rangers lead tours of some of Olmsted’s parks in “The Emerald Necklace” of Boston.

Best Trail

There is a short path on the property and you can also walk to nearby Brookline Reservoir.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Relax on the veranda of Fairsted before or after your tour, which is especially nice when it is raining like during our visit.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, but the parking lot is small and street parking in the surrounding neighborhood may be necessary.  It is a bit of a walk from the Brookline Hills Subway Station.

Camping

Wompatuck State Park south of Boston has the nearest large campground, but camping is also allowed in parts of Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.

Related Sites

Boston National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Adams National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site (Massachusetts)

Explore More –Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1865 report was influential in the protection of which “crown jewel” of the National Park Service System?