Tag Archives: Native American

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

Overview

This park protects four historic Spanish missions around San Antonio, Texas, but does not include the famous Alamo (managed by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas).  Construction began in 1718 and by 1824 secularization was complete and land was distributed among the converted natives.  In 2015, these five missions along the San Antonio River were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Highlights

1720 Mission San José, 1755 Mission Concepción, 1731 Mission Espada, 1731 Mission San Juan Capistrano

Must-Do Activity

At the farthest south of the four missions (San Francisco de la Espada) there is also an interesting acequia system that includes an aqueduct, ditches, and a dam built in 1745, all of which are still used for irrigation purposes.  Mission San Juan Capistrano is covered in white stucco the way they all would have been historically.  Mission Concepción is the farthest north of the four missions and we thought it had the prettiest interior.

Best Trail

San Antonio’s famous River Walk Trail continues from the downtown area all the way south to Mission Espada, not to be confused with the signed Mission Trail driving route.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The beautifully preserved San José y San Miguel de Aguayo Mission dates back to 1720.  Today this large village complex is a popular location for wedding and graduation photos. 

Peak Season

Spring

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved with designated NPS parking lots.

Camping

None

Explore More – What is the historic mission name for the Alamo?

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

Overview

This interesting National Monument protects three separate Spanish missions that date to the 1600s, though its main visitor center in Mountainair, New Mexico is not next to any of them.  Their location near salt flats led to the name Salinas and contributed to the pueblos’ abandonment when a major drought struck in the 1670s.

Highlights

Gran Quivira, Quarai, Abó, film at main visitor center

Must-Do Activity

Gran Quivira has the remains of two churches (the second unfinished at the time of abandonment) and the most significantly excavated pueblo ruins (with kivas) of the three sites.

Best Trail

Each of the three pueblos has a paved walkway that leads through its ruins that leaves from the parking lot and past its contact station staffed by a National Park Service employee. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

The church at Quarai is the most complete of the three sites and its red walls photograph well at sunset.

Peak Season

Spring and Fall

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Manzano Mountains State Park has a seasonal campground 15 miles north of Mountainair, New Mexico.

Explore More – Other than the major drought in the 1670s, what other factors contributed to the abandonment of these pueblos?

Devils Tower National Monument

Overview

Devils Tower was named the United States’ first National Monument by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906.  Legend has it that its deep stripes were made by the tearing claws of a giant bear attempting to climb after seven girls who were saved when the rock grew from three feet high to its current 867 feet.  You can see the girls today as the constellation Pleiades.  The bear came to rest in Bear Butte State Park in South Dakota.

Highlights

Tower Trail, Joyner Ridge Trail, Prairie Dog Town

Must-Do Activity

Devils Tower is a distinctive 50-million-year-old volcanic plug, whose steep sides have been an irresistible challenge to rock climbers for years.  Watch for them as you complete the 1.3-mile loop trail around the entire tower, as it looks different from every angle.  Also look for the colorful prayer cloths left by Native Americans, many of whom would prefer this sacred site be renamed Bear Lodge National Monument.

Best Trail

Joyner Ridge Trail provides a unique view of the tower and forms a 1.5-mile loop or connects to the longer Red Beds Trail that circumnavigates it.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Visit in late September for fall foliage: golden quaking aspens and red chokecherry bushes.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

$25 per vehicle or America The Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Long vehicles must park just below the visitor center and hike a short ways up.  The short West Road to Joyner Ridge Trailhead is a good dirt road.

Camping

On the prairie below Devils Tower, a 50-site campground is located within a grove of cottonwood trees, with running water available May through October.  A private campground with RV hookups is located near the park entrance.

Explore More – How is park connected with the classic 1978 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind?

Sitka National Historical Park

Overview

Sitka National Historical Park offers a good introduction to the Russian and native influences on this region, as well as a forested trail past beautifully carved totem poles.  Created in 1910, it was the first National Park Service (NPS) site in Alaska, nearly 50 years before statehood.

Highlights

1843 Russian Bishop’s House, Russian Orthodox cathedral, totem poles

Must-Do Activity

Two miles of trails wind through the spruce forest passing more than a dozen totem poles and the site of Kiks.ádi Fort where the 1804 battle took place between Russian fur traders and the native Tlingit community.  To further experience the Tlingit culture, attend a traditional dance at Shee’tka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Community House. 

Best Trail

The adventurous can summit 3,354 foot Mount Verstovia for unsurpassed views of the harbor and the mountainous heart of Baranof Island.  This steep route takes all day, starting with numerous switchbacks before the trail disappears and scrambling over rocks to the top.  Also scenic, Indian River Trail is a flatter alternative.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Jagged peaks and tiny forested islands make Sitka the most beautiful spot in Southeast Alaska.  Bald eagles abound in trees around the town’s quiet boat docks, while the volcanic cone of Mount Edgecumbe sits zen-like off to the west. 

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

There are no roads to Sitka, so you have to take an airplane, cruise ship, or ferry.  The main road on Baranof Island is paved and it is less than a mile walk to access the NPS visitor center from downtown.

Camping

Campsites are available at Blue Lake down a dirt road east of town in Tongass National Forest or at Old Sitka State Historic Park near the ferry terminal.

Explore More – When did the official transfer of Alaska from Russia to the U.S.A. take place on Castle Hill in Sitka (then known as New Archangel)?

Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site

Overview

The Mandan and Hidatsa lived and farmed side-by-side near the banks of the Missouri River for centuries before Euro-Americans arrived in search of furs, bringing smallpox and other diseases.  The Corps of Discovery led by Lewis and Clark over-wintered here in 1804-05.  Eventually the Mandan and Hidatsa were forced to abandon their villages, later joining the Arikara to form the Three Affiliated Tribes. 

Highlights

Reconstructed earthlodge, museum, riverside village sites

Must-Do Activity

Many artifacts recovered on site are displayed inside the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center, some suggesting inhabitation by Paleo-Indians as far back as 11,000 years ago.  You can even try out a hoe made from a bison scapula.

Best Trail

From the visitor center a trail leads to the Milk River, a tributary to the much larger (and more flood prone) Missouri River.  Each lump on the grass that you pass was once an earthlodge, which is easier to see in the overhead photograph on the interpretive sign.  You can drive to two other trailheads that provide access to the Missouri River and the site of Big Hidatsa Village.

Instagram-worthy Photo

There is not much evidence left of the hundreds of earthlodges that once stood in these three villages, but there is one reconstruction that visitors can enter to exemplify the spacious dwellings.  An earthlodge actually required a large amount of wood to provide structure.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Sakakawea State Park is 15 miles north of this site.

Explore More – What famous traveling companions did Lewis and Clark first meet here in 1804?