Tag Archives: National Historic Trail

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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Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument

Overview

The house at 144 Constitution Avenue NE in Washington, D.C. has an interesting history.  First constructed by the Sewall family in 1799 near the new U.S. Capitol building, it was burned by British troops during the War of 1812.  After being renovated by Vermont Senator Porter H. Dale in the 1920s, it was purchased by Alva Vanderbilt Belmont as a replacement headquarters for the National Woman’s Party (NWP).  In 1972, it was named the Sewall-Belmont National Historic Site, affiliated with the National Park Service (NPS), who took over full control when it was established as a National Monument in 2016. 

Highlights

Historic artifacts, sculptures, tours

Must-Do Activity

Free tours are given at specific times (see Hours below) by the NPS, but otherwise visitors can read the museum displays on both floors of the house.  The name Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument refers to the aforementioned Alva Vanderbilt Belmont and Alice Paul, a militant suffragette who was arrested during World War I for picketing outside the White House.  The protesters were attacked by men on the street, vilified in the newspapers, and abused in prison where they were force-fed during hunger strikes.  In August 1920, these brave women achieved vindication with the passing of the 19th Amendment allowing all women the right to vote in the U.S.A.

Best Trail

The Sewell House has a placard outside as part of the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail.  In 1814, the British believed there were snipers posted inside the house and burned it down, one of the few private residences destroyed during their march through Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A statue of Joan of Arc greets visitors in the front hallway of the house.  Our tour guide said that the statue is attached to the house’s foundation and is completely immovable. 

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

There is no designated parking lot, so you have to find street parking or take the Metro.

Camping

None

Explore More – In August 1920, which state became the 36th to ratify the 19th Amendment, officially adding it to the U.S. Constitution?

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site

Overview

Bent’s Old Fort on the Arkansas River on the prairie of eastern Colorado has been painstakingly reconstructed to its appearance of 1845.  It was originally built in 1833, long before Fort Larned and Fort Union announced the U.S. military presence on the 1,200-mile-long Santa Fe Trail.  Historical reenactors are happy to talk to visitors about the site and its famous inhabitants and visitors.

Highlights

Reconstructed fort, film, living history

Must-Do Activity

The “old fort” was originally built with the financial backing of the two Bent brothers from St. Louis and a Taos trader named Ceran St. Vrain.  It was a huge success, bringing a period of peace to warring tribes on the Great Plains, particularly after William Bent married a Cheyenne woman.  Things changed once Texas was annexed by the U.S. in 1845 and the military moved in, spurring a move to Bent’s New Fort 38 miles downstream.  

Best Trail

The parking lot is less than a half-mile walk from the fort, yet we found that approaching on foot added to the historic experience, as did speaking with the reenactors roaming inside.  Closer handicap parking is available.  Another trail leads to the banks of the Arkansas River on a 1.75-mile loop.

Instagram-worthy Photo

In 1975, the adobe fort was reconstructed on its original foundation in southeast Colorado based on drawings by Lieutenant James Abert, a topographical engineer stationed here in 1845 and 1846. 

Peak Season

Summer, but watch for afternoon thunderstorms.

Hours

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

Fees

$3 per adult except $5 during June 8-9 Santa Fe Trail Encampment, September 15 Hispanic Heritage Day, October 20 Native American Heritage Day, and the December 7-8 Traditional Holiday Celebration. America the Beautiful pass accepted, too.

Road Conditions

All roads paved, although they can be closed due to spring floods on the Arkansas River.

Camping

There are private campgrounds in nearby La Junta, Colorado and a public one run by the Corps of Engineers at John Martin Reservoir (27 miles east on Highway 50).

Explore More – What combination of factors led William Bent to burn the original fort and build a new one 38 miles down the Arkansas River?

Colonial National Historical Park

Overview

Jamestown and Yorktown, Virginia are linked by the 23-mile Colonial Parkway, which passes through the well-known tourist attraction of Colonial Williamsburg.  After the colony of Fort Raleigh proved a disaster, it was not until 1607 that the first successful English settlement was founded at Jamestown, Virginia.  On October 18, 1781, General Charles Cornwallis surrendered his British troops at Yorktown, effectively ending the Revolutionary War.  Though it was more than two years before a peace settlement was reached and General George Washington was able to march back into New York City, from where he retreated in 1776. 

Highlights

Historic structures, Voorhees Archaearium, glass blowing demonstrations, French ship replica, cannons, historic trails, Yorktown Victory Monument

Must-Do Activity

Remember back in 1777 in the aftermath of the battles of Saratoga when the French said they would help kick the British out of the 13 colonies?  Well, not much happened until nearly four years later when Admiral de Grasse defeated the British fleet at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.  The ships were unable to resupply General Charles Cornwallis’ troops at Yorktown, who then faced a siege by the combined American and French forces.  Inside the National Park Service visitor center at Yorktown is a replica of a French ship that you can walk aboard without getting seasick.  It also has a replica of General George Washington’s battlefield tent.  Outside, cannons abound along the auto tour.

Best Trail

Five miles of trails wind through Old Towne and New Towne in Jamestown, Virginia.  There is an entry fee charged, since most of this section of the park is run by the non-profit organization Preservation Virginia.  This includes admission to the excellent Voorhees Archaearium, a museum built atop the foundation of the historic statehouse.  Do not miss the reproduction glassblowing house.  This area also contains portions of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary War National Historic Trail and Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The original 1607 James Fort was triangular in shape and, of course, had cannons facing the James River.

Peak Season

Summer, though it can be muggy

Hours

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

Fees

Visiting Yorktown is $10 per person or free with the America the Beautiful pass, but entering Jamestown requires a payment of $20 per person or $5 per person with the America the Beautiful pass.  There is a separate entry fee for nearby Jamestowne Settlement living history museum , but it is free to walk the streets of Colonial Williamsburg (more info on our other travel blog).

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There is no camping permitted within the park, but several private campgrounds can be found in the area, as well as numerous hotels since you will probably want to spend more than a day given the park’s proximity to Colonial Williamsburg.

Explore More – When an “ill” General Cornwallis sent his second-in-command to formally surrender his 8,000 troops, General George Washington was insulted and deferred the honor of accepting to whom?

Cowpens National Battlefield

Overview

In 1780, there were 8,000 British troops in South Carolina and Georgia, but none were as feared as the 270 cavalry under Colonel Banastre Tarleton.  Following an attack at Waxhaws where his men inflicted 75% casualties on the retreating Patriots, he became known as “Bloody Ban” and a slaughter of surrendering soldiers was known as giving “Tarleton’s quarter.”  After the major American victory at nearby Kings Mountain, the British were also defeated here on January 17, 1781 as they retreated to Yorktown, Virginia. 

Highlights

Museum, Battlefield Trail, U.S. Memorial Monument, Robert Scruggs house

Must-Do Activity

The fiberoptic map in the National Park Service visitor center provides a good understanding of this 20-minute battle.  Following the Patriot victory at Kings Mountain, Colonel Tarleton was sent to capture a Patriot army under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan.  On January 17, 1781, Morgan used his militiamen to sucker in the aggressive Tarleton, instructing them to fire two shots then retreat towards the lines of trained infantry and cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel William Washington (George’s second cousin).  The British took the bait and lost 80% of their force (110 killed, 229 wounded, and 600 captured), though Tarleton escaped. 

Best Trail

The Battlefield Trail partially follows the historic Green River Road and is 1.25 miles roundtrip from the visitor center.  The auto tour route closes at 4:30 p.m. but after hours parking is available at the trailhead off Highway 11, which also accesses the Battlefield Trail.  It is part of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, which has 87 of its 330 miles publicly accessible, starting in Tennessee.  There is also a 2-mile nature trail near the picnic area.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A 1932 monument marks the beginning of the Battlefield Trail.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Kings Mountain State Park is 30 miles east of the park next to Kings Mountain National Military Park.

Explore More – What locally grown fruit provided the inspiration for the painted water tower in Gaffney, South Carolina?