Tag Archives: National Historical Park

Natchez National Historical Park

Overview

Authorized in 1988, Natchez National Historical Park occupies 82 acres in the riverside town of Natchez, Mississippi.  The town started as Fort Rosalie, a French trading post built on the Mississippi River in the early 1700s, now the site of the Visitor Reception Center.  National Park Service (NPS) rangers or volunteers are always on location at the William Johnson House and Melrose Estate.  Although it is not part of the NPS unit, we also recommend a stop at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians State Historic Site for its free museum, film, historic mounds, and air conditioning (which is important in the humid summer).

Highlights

Melrose Estate, William Johnson House, Fort Rosalie

Must-Do Activity

The museum in the William Johnson House tells the story of a slave freed at age 11 by his owner, also named William Johnson and presumed to be his father.  The boy apprenticed to a barber, eventually becoming a successful businessman and slave owner himself.  A diary he kept for 16 years provides insight into antebellum Natchez, including the May 7, 1840 tornado that destroyed downtown, which had about 5,000 inhabitants at the time.  Inside the NPS museum you will learn the strange story of William Johnson’s murder in 1851 that ended in three mistrials.

Best Trail

Naturally, Natchez is one terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway, which also preserves its share of history starting at the Elizabeth Female Academy Site (Milepost 5.1) just outside town.  There are a few portions of the Old Trace that you can still follow along on the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Melrose Estate recalls the antebellum period when slaves grew cotton in the rich soil of the Mississippi River floodplains.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

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

The NPS museum at the William Johnson House is closed daily for lunch.

Fees

None for Fort Rosalie, William Johnson House, and Melrose Estate grounds, but $10 per person for mansion interior tours (no discount for America the Beautiful pass)

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Rocky Springs is the furthest south campground managed by the NPS on the Natchez Trace Parkway (Milepost 54.8) and it has no fees for camping.

Related Sites

Vicksburg National Military Park (Mississippi)

Cane River Creole National Historical Park (Louisiana)

Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail (Mississippi-Alabama-Tennessee)

Explore More – In 1839 a fire burned through Natchez destroying the William Johnson House, but the family was living in the country at the time to avoid an epidemic of what disease?

Keweenaw National Historical Park

Overview

The Keweenaw Peninsula juts north into Lake Superior from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and is home to the richest copper ore (97% pure) on the planet.  American Indian artifacts made from this region’s copper have been found at several other National Park Service (NPS) sites, such as Georgia’s Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park and Ohio’s Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.  In the 1840s, immigrants representing 38 ethnic groups flooded this area to work as miners.  More recently, the NPS led a project to recreate historic buildings and archaeological sites within the digital world of Minecraft (click here for an article).

Highlights

Adventure Mine Tours, Quincy Mine, Delaware Copper Mine, downtown Calumet, Laurinium Mansion

Must-Do Activity

The NPS does not have much of a presence in this park, but rather relies on its partners to preserve the heritage sites.  We highly recommend the Miner’s Tour guided by the Adventure Mining Company in Greenland, Michigan.  In addition to getting a great history lesson, we rappelled down an 80-foot deep mine shaft and walked across a swinging bridge without handrails.  They also offer a less intense tour for all ages.

Best Trail

We walked the streets of Calumet, Michigan while doing our laundry across the street from the historic Calumet Theatre.  The NPS visitor center was closed, but we still got to see the Copper Country Firefighters History Museum and the Keweenaw Heritage Center inside St. Anne’s Church.  We also recommend a stop at the quirky vintage consignment store in the three-story Vertin Building built in 1885.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Quincy Mine is the most tourist-friendly part of Keweenaw National Historical Park offering a museum, tram ride, and underground mine tours.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

No NPS fees, but each heritage site charges its own admission with one of the cheapest being the $1 donation per person requested at the Copper Range Historical Museum in South Range, Michigan.

Road Conditions

Most roads are paved, with the exception of the short gravel road to the Adventure Mining Company.

Camping

Fort Wilkins and McLain State Parks both have campgrounds and dispersed campsites can be found in parts of Ottawa National Forest.  Backpacking is popular in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

Related Sites

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan)

Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)

Effigy Mounds National Monument (Iowa)

Explore More – How deep was the shaft dug at Quincy Mine before it was closed in 1945 and allowed to fill with water?

Reconstruction Era National Historical Park

Overview

Like Freedom Riders National Monument in Alabama, President Obama established Reconstruction Era National Monument in 2017.  The park is located about an hour south of Charleston, South Carolina and is still under development, but they already have a Junior Ranger program.  The Reconstruction Era took place following the Civil War when the U.S. military helped freed African-American slaves integrate into southern society.  It was a complicated and mostly failed social experiment with long-lasting repercussions within American culture.

Highlights

Old Beaufort Firehouse, Robert Smalls Memorial, Camp Saxton, Penn Center, Brick Baptist Church

Must-Do Activity

We recommend the ranger-guided tour of Camp Saxton that leaves from the National Park Service (NPS) operated Porter’s Chapel, next to the skate park in Port Royal, South Carolina.  Following the loss of Fort Sumter, the Union Army occupied this area by late-1861, eventually training former slaves to serve as soldiers.  There is nothing left to see of the camp, but there are tabby walls from old Fort Frederick.  After a short walk, the park ranger will help you imagine what the scene would have looked like when the black soldiers were officially freed on Emancipation Day, January 1, 1863.

Best Trail

You can walk around the historic Penn Center (guided tours offered) where the NPS maintains a visitor center in Darrah Hall, a donated part of this National Historic Landmark that has a long history of African-American education. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Old Sheldon Church Ruins are not technically part of the park, but they are located just down the road from the Penn Center.  The Parrish Church of St. Helena outside Beaufort is also very photogenic.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All major access roads are paved, although parking can be scarce around Port Royal during the farmers’ market.

Camping

Hunting Island and Edisto Beach State Parks both take camping reservations, so book early.  There are also campgrounds and backcountry campsites north of Charleston, South Carolina in Francis Marion National Forest.

Related Sites

Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park (South Carolina)

Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument (Kentucky)

Fort Monroe National Monument (Virginia)

Explore More – How did future U.S. Congressman Robert Smalls escape slavery during the Civil War?

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

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?