Tag Archives: National Historical Park

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Overview

Robert Harper started ferrying folks across the Potomac River at this site in 1747.  It had a strategic location at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers where the point of what is now the state of West Virginia meets the border of Maryland and Virginia.  Harpers Ferry is most famous for the 1859 raid led by abolitionist John Brown of Kansas in attempt to seize the federal armory to incite a slave rebellion.  His trial and execution for treason helped foment the Civil War, during which conflict the town changed hands between the two sides an astounding eight times!

Highlights

Historic buildings, museums, Jefferson Rock, Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Must-Do Activity

A portion of the town today is run as a series of museums by the National Park Service (NPS), though other parts remain open for business as restaurants, shops, and inns.  Parking is limited in town, so the NPS runs a shuttle (free with parking fee) two miles from their visitor center.

Best Trail

You can hike into town on the 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail that cuts right through the buildings and over the footbridge across the Potomac River.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Jefferson Rock is located just up the hill from town, named for Thomas Jefferson who visited in 1783.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

$20 to park at NPS visitor center or free with America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

There is limited parking in town so it is easier to take a shuttle from the NPS visitor center.

Camping

There are multiple private campgrounds in the area, as well as Maryland’s Gambrill State Park.

Related Sites

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

Fort Scott National Historic Site (Kansas)

New River Gorge National River (West Virginia)

Explore More – Which famous member of the Corps of Discovery visited the national armory in Harpers Ferry in 1803 before heading to the Pacific Ocean?

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Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park

Overview

The first battle of the Mexican-American War took place on May 9, 1846 north of the Rio Grande near present-day Brownsville, Texas.  General Zachary Taylor and a young Ulysses S. Grant (both future presidents) led U.S. troops during this engagement.  Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park was established in 1991 across 3,400 acres, and in 2011 an additional 38 acres were added in the heart of Brownsville to commemorate the Resaca de la Palma Battlefield.  Plus, a few earthen mounds remain of Fort Texas (later renamed Fort Brown) near a golf course on the campus of the University of Texas at Brownsville.

Highlights

Museum, film, cannons, interpretive trail

Must-Do Activity

The 1846 battle was primarily an artillery conflict, so there are many cannons at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park today showing how close the battle lines were.  This skirmish and a subsequent fight at Resaca de la Palma pushed Mexican troops back across the Rio Grande for the remainder of the two-year long war.  History buffs will also be interested in the Civil War history of this region, including the final battle of the war fought May 12-13, 1865 at Palmito Ranch.  Information about all of these sites can be found at the small yet nice visitor center that opened here in 2003. 

Best Trail

A half-mile paved interpretive trail leads through the battlefield from the visitor center.  While here you can also learn about Harris’s hawks, horned lizards, javelinas, and other remarkable species that live in the area and the surrounding Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

Instagram-worthy Photo

If you make it to this remote southern corner of the United States, make it a point to take a guided tram tour through Resaca de la Palma State Park.  The park is a great place to see bird species found nowhere else in the country, like the great kiskadee (pictured) and rose-throated becard.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

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

Fees

None for the NPS site, but there is an admission fee at Resaca de la Palma State Park.

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There are several private campgrounds around Brownsville, Texas.

Related Sites

Chamizal National Memorial (Texas)

Big Bend National Park (Texas)

Amistad National Recreation Area (Texas)

Explore More – Who was the president that campaigned on the platform of extending the U.S. border to the Pacific Ocean and subsequently annexed Texas in 1845 (fomenting the Mexican-American War)?

Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park

Overview

Roger Williams National Memorial used to be the only National Park Service (NPS) site in Rhode Island, but in 2014 Blackstone River Valley was upgraded from an affiliated National Heritage Corridor to a National Historical Park.  It commemorates the industrial revolution that changed the landscape of America during the 1800s, as well as the immigration of factory workers that changed its face.  Another NPS-affiliated point of interest in the tiny state is Touro Synagogue National Historic Site (admission charged) in Newport.

Highlights

Slater Mill Historic Site, Blackstone River State Park, Statue of Hope Fountain

Must-Do Activity

Formerly known as the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, this NPS unit remains a partnership between government agencies, non-profits, and businesses in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Its centerpiece is the nation’s first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory: Slater Mill Historic Site in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  By 1880, this “hardest working river” was one of the most polluted in the country, but has recovered so that canoeists can float portions of its 46-mile length.

Best Trail

Blackstone River State Park has a free museum (inside the Kelly House) and a section of the canal that followed the river.  There are 3.5 miles of the 14-mile (of a planned 48) paved bikeway along the canal towpath within this Rhode Island park.  Another section of trail lies within Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park near River Bend Farm in Massachusetts.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Statue of Hope Fountain was dedicated on November 12, 1904 in the town of Hopedale, Massachusetts.  It was carved from Carrara marble by Waldo Story and was once considered the “finest drinking fountain in the United States.” We found it a little creepy looking.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None for Blackstone River State Park, but Slater Mill Museum charges $12 per person.

Road Conditions

All major roads paved

Camping

Rhode Island State Parks manages several campgrounds, including George Washington State Campground in Chepachet.

Related Sites

Roger Williams National Memorial (Rhode Island)

New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Lowell National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Explore More – When did English immigrant Samuel Slater take over a failed mill to start the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory in America?

Morristown National Historical Park

Overview

Not as famous as Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania, Morristown was the winter camp for the Continental Army during the winter of 1776-77, following the successful Christmas surprise attack on Trenton, New Jersey.  General George Washington again chose this site for his 10,000 troops during the winter of 1779-80, considered by historians as the harshest weather of the 18th century.  Morristown was established as the nation’s first National Historical Park in 1933.

Highlights

Ford Mansion, films, Wick House, replica huts at Jockey Ridge

Must-Do Activity

In the town of Morristown, the Georgian-style Ford Mansion served as George and Martha Washington’s home during the winter of 1779-80.  Tours inside the house start at the museum behind it, which also has exhibits and a film.  Down the road, there are no remains of the earthworks built in 1777 at Fort Nonsense, but interpretive panels at the site explain its strategic position and how it later got its name. 

Best Trail

A short trail leads from a parking area up a small hill to replicas of soldiers’ huts at Jockey Ridge.  There are a total of 27 miles of trails in this section of the park that are also open to horseback riding and cross-country skiing.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Wick House at Jockey Hollow has been restored to its 1750 appearance.  It served as the quarters for Major General Arthur St. Clair during the winter of 1779-80.  Costumed interpreters are sometimes on hand to take visitors inside the farmhouse.

Peak Season

Summer, though winter is more authentic to the American Revolution.

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved and parking is free

Camping

Allamachy Mountain State Park is about 20 miles northwest of Morristown, New Jersey.

Related Sites

Valley Forge National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)

Gateway National Recreation Area (New York-New Jersey)

Thomas Edison National Historical Park (New Jersey)

Explore More – Morristown National Historical Park is part of which National Heritage Area and located along which National Historic Trail?

Boston National Historical Park

Overview

Boston National Historical Park is famous for the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail that leads through historic downtown Boston, Massachusetts.  Tourists should not try to drive into the city because parking is difficult and the public transportation system is so good.  We recommend that you hire a guide or bring along your own information because almost nothing along the route has outdoor interpretive signs.

Highlights

Faneuil Hall, Charlestown Navy Yard, Bunker Hill Memorial, burying grounds, Boston Common

Must-Do Activity

One of our favorite misnomers in American history is that the Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place on Breed’s Hill north of Boston.  This first major skirmish took place shortly after the Revolutionary War kicked off in Lexington, Massachusetts in 1775 and is well-known for the Patriot commander that told his men not to “fire ’til you see the whites of their eyes.”  The 221-foot obelisk built to memorialize this fight (which the Patriots lost) was started in 1825 but not completed until 1843.  The National Park Service does not charge to climb the 294 stairs to its peak for great views of the area. 

Best Trail

The famous 2.5-mile long Freedom Trail through downtown Boston, Massachusetts is a walking path marked by a line painted on the sidewalk.  Of the many historic places you will pass along the route, some of the free ones include the site of the 1770 Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall known as the “Cradle of Liberty” (and now a National Park Service visitor center), the site of the first public school in America established in 1635, several burying grounds, and the Old Corner Bookstore that has been turned into a restaurant.  You can also pay to enter the Old State House and Paul Revere House, among other sites.

Instagram-worthy Photo

If you keep walking the Freedom Trail north you cross the Charlestown Bridge to the Charlestown Navy Yard where you can walk aboard the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, and learn about it from active-duty U.S. Navy servicemen and women.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None, except at specific buildings like the Old State House and Paul Revere House.

Road Conditions

Roads are paved, but traffic is bad and parking is expensive.  It is best to use public transportation to get into the city and then walk.

Camping

There are camping opportunities (reservations required) in Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, which are accessible by ferry from the city.

Related Sites

Minute Man National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Boston African American National Historic Site (Massachusetts)

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area (Massachusetts)

Explore More – The live oak wood used to build the USS Constitution came from what island, now managed by the National Park Service?