Tag Archives: State Park

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site

Overview

When you park at Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site you are in Montana, but as you walk to the fort you cross into North Dakota, changing time zones from Mountain to Central Time.  Strategically located near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers, the trading post lasted from 1828 to 1867 when it was sold to the U.S. Army who dismantled it to build Fort Buford two miles downstream.  Fort Union primarily traded with Plains Indians for bison hides, since beaver skin top hats were out of fashion by that point.

Highlights

Museum, reconstructed fort, Fort Buford State Historic Site, Missouri-Yellowstone River confluence

Must-Do Activity

The National Park Service (NPS) visitor center is located inside the reconstructed Bourgeois (field agent) House, one of several buildings and palisades rebuilt between 1985 and 1991 using rot-resistant fir instead of the original cottonwood.  After touring Fort Union, drive to Fort Buford State Historic Site where a visitor center (fee) opened at the two rivers’ confluence in August 2003 as part of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial celebration.

Best Trail

The Bodmer Overlook Trail climbs one mile to a point where Swiss painter Karl Bodmer sketched the fort in 1833.  The trailhead is located north of Highway 1804.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The colorful Bourgeois House is where the trading post manager lived.  A four-day fur-trade rendezvous is held annually at the park in June.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None at the NPS site, but there is an entrance fee at Fort Buford State Historic Site.

Road Conditions

Access roads are paved.

Camping

There is a campground at nearby Fort Buford State Historic Site.

Related Sites

Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site (North Dakota)

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site (Washington)

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)

Explore More – What famous ornithologist stayed at the fort in 1843?

River Raisin National Battlefield Park

Overview

River Raisin National Battlefield Park is located in Monroe, Michigan near where the mouth of the river empties into Lake Erie.  During the War of 1812, the U.S. had a plan to invade Canada which fell through after the surrender of Detroit.  Five months later in January 1813, U.S. troops were heading towards Detroit when they made a detour to Frenchtown to drive off a small detachment of Canadians.  Following an initial victory, a few mornings later a British surprise attack captured or killed all but 33 of nearly 1,000 troops.  When Indian allies of the British returned to scalp six (according to the British) or 42 (according to the Americans) injured prisoners the devastating defeat became immortalized in the rallying cry “Remember the Raisin!”

Highlights

Museum, film, River Raisin Heritage Trail

Must-Do Activity

River Raisin National Battlefield Park was not authorized until 2009, so it has a nice new visitor center opened in 2011.  The National Park Service (NPS) has even attempted to make it kid-friendly by creating a stuffed animal of Major Muskrat with multiple costume options available in the gift shop.  It is not often that an NPS site commemorates an American defeat in battle.  In 1813, the U.S. went onto victory at the Battle of Lake Erie and the Battle of Thames in southern Ontario.  For some reason, the Canadians do not have their own National Historic Site dedicated to that one.

Best Trail

The 42-acre park is mostly a lawn with a paved path dotted by interpretive signs.  You can also hook into the River Raisin Heritage Trail, which takes you to Sterling Stare Park on Lake Erie.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A replica of a cannon used at the January battle is on sled runners; pretty unique!

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Sterling State Park offers a 256-site campground on Lake Erie.

Related Sites

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial (Ohio)

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park (Alabama)

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Michigan)

Explore More – Native Americans were left out of the Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812, so when did the U.S. sign the Treaty of Springwells officially ending hostilities?

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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Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park

Overview

This relatively undeveloped section of Maryland’s Eastern Shore might still be recognizable to Harriet Tubman, who was born here as Araminta “Minty” Ross in 1822.  After her own solo escape to Philadelphia using the Underground Railroad network in 1849, she returned thirteen times to conduct approximately 70 people north, as well as to provide detailed instructions that enabled another 70 to find freedom.  During the Civil War, Tubman served as a Union spy and became the first woman to lead an armed U.S. military assault.

Highlights

Museum, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Bucktown Village Store

Must-Do Activity

Harriet Tubman lived a hard life, as described in the exhibits at Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park (museum opened in March 2017), managed in association with the National Park Service.  Pick up a map at the museum, then make as many stops as you wish along the 125-mile long Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, which offers a free downloadable audio guide.  You will definitely be inspired by the story of this brave conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Best Trail

Near the museum at Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, 28,000-acre Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to see ospreys and overwintering birds. The Key Wallace loop trail is 2.7 miles long.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Bucktown Village Store has been restored to its 1800s appearance and is open to visitors.  Harriet Tubman accomplished amazing feats despite suffering seizures throughout her life from a skull fracture suffered at the Bucktown Village Store during her youth (see the photo below for the full story). 

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None, except at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, which is only $3 per vehicle and accepts America the Beautiful passes.

Road Conditions

All major roads are paved on the 125-mile long Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway and the driving route is well-maintained through Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. 

Camping

There are developed campgrounds at the northern end of Assateague Island National Seashore on Maryland’s Atlantic Coast.

Related Sites

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (District of Columbia)

Assateague Island National Seashore (Maryland-Virginia)

First State National Historical Park (Delaware)

Explore More – Before it became a National Historical Park, when was Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument established?

Niobrara National Scenic River

Overview

When most folks think of Nebraska they imagine endless dusty prairie scenes of the Oregon Trail, yet between the wide Platte and Missouri Rivers also runs the 535-mile long Niobrara River.  The Niobrara cuts across the 100th Meridian of Longitude that roughly divides in half the continental U.S.  This special area is home to species representative of the eastern forests, Rocky Mountains, boreal forests, and prairies; consequently it has high biodiversity.

Highlights

Smith Falls State Park, Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, canoeing

Must-Do Activity

The 76-mile section of river designated the Niobrara National Scenic River in 1991 begins within Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge where the first 4.8 miles are closed to the public.  From Cornell Bridge downstream is the most popular portion for canoers, tubers, and people who float downstream in round metal cattle troughs.  The Niobrara River has a few big Class IV rapids, but nothing more than Class II through the first 27 miles.

Best Trail

Pull over in Smith Falls State Park for a short walk to a 63-foot tall waterfall, which is interesting because it pours off a prominent ledge instead of a cut bank.  You can also drive to the state park and walk over the Niobrara River on the Verdigre Bridge, originally built in 1910 and relocated here in 1996.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Do not miss the opportunity to drive the dirt road through Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge to see the bison herd, especially in May when the bison calves are born.

Peak Season

Summer, though water levels drop after June.

Hours

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

Fees

None for the river, but there is a launch fee in Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and entry/camping fees at Smith Falls State Park.

Road Conditions

The dirt roads in Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and Smith Falls State Park are well-maintained and passable to all vehicles.

Camping

Camping options are limited since most of the river banks are privately owned, though Smith Falls State Park offers a campground ($6/person/night) and other campsites are marked on river maps.

Related Sites

Missouri National Recreation River (Nebraska-South Dakota)

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument (Nebraska)

Scotts Bluff National Monument (Nebraska)

Explore More – Named for a town in Nebraska, the Valentine Formation holds what types of fossils?