Tag Archives: tour

Poverty Point National Monument

Overview

Mound builders historically settled near major rivers, especially the Ohio and Mississippi, because the floodplains provided fertile soil for farming.  However, Poverty Point was settled 3,700 years ago by hunter-gatherers so efficient they did not need agriculture to provide leisure time.  They built a city with a population estimated at 1,500 along Bayou Macon in northeast Louisiana. 

Highlights

72-foot tall Mound A, film, tram tour

Must-Do Activity

A guided tram ride with a State Park ranger is included in your admission fee, which in addition to the film shown in the State Park visitor center is the best way to learn about this site.  The tram tour does not stop to allow visitors to climb Mound A, so you will have to return in your own vehicle.

Best Trail

A stairway leads to the top of Mound A, the most impressive mound at 72-feet tall in the shape of a bird with a 70-foot wide base.  It required approximately 15-million basketloads of soil to complete.  They had no wheelbarrows or domesticated animals for assistance, so each basket was carried by hand to form the largest manmade structure in North America at the time.  No wonder this site was chosen in 2014 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The inhabitants constructed other mounds and built their houses atop concentric rings in a semi-circle D-shape facing towards Bayou Macon.  This pattern is best seen from atop Mound A.

Peak Season

The tram tour operates March through October.

Hours

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

Fees

$4 per adult or America The Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There are private campgrounds nearby or 40 miles away is Chemin-A-Haut State Park.

Explore More – Why will you not find any National Park Service logos at this National Monument?

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument

Overview

Quarrying in this part of the panhandle of Texas dates back 13,000 years to the last Ice Age.  The flint found here was especially good for making spear points and was traded across the continent over the centuries.  However, the harsh climate meant few humans lived here until recently, except between AD1200 and 1450.  Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument is jointly managed with Lake Meredith National Recreation Area by the National Park Service (NPS).

Highlights

Flint knapping demonstrations, 10-minute film, ranger-guided tour of quarries

Must-Do Activity

Outside the NPS visitor center, dedicated park rangers frequently demonstrate the art of knapping points from flint blanks (not from within park boundaries) and other primitive survival skills. 

Best Trail

We recommend you take the free ranger-guided tour (offered twice daily) up to the quarries to get the full experience.  It is a bit of a climb, but is the only way access the sites.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The flint here not only holds a great edge, it is also beautifully colored.  The rangers will be happy to let you take rock samples home from knapping demonstrations (since the flint is not from within park boundaries).

Peak Season

Spring and fall, as it can be very hot in the summer.

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Paved to the National Monument and many good dirt roads surround Lake Meredith National Recreation Area.

Camping

Free primitive camping is available around Lake Meredith where there are many dirt roads to explore, as well as developed campgrounds (fee).

Explore More – What is the origin of the interesting name “Alibates?”

Timpanogos Cave National Monument

Overview

East of Provo, Utah in Uinta National Forest lies tiny Timpanogos Cave National Monument.  Accessing the cave requires a guided tour (fee) and a one-and-a-half mile hike that climbs 1,092 feet, but the destination is completely worth the effort as it has an amazing collection of helictites and other cave formations.

Highlights

Cave tour, Canyon Nature Trail, Alpine Scenic Drive, Timpanogos Peak, camping

Must-Do Activity

The cave tour actually takes you through three caves that were connected by manmade tunnels after the National Park Service (NPS) took over management in 1922.  It is a bit strange to find yourself turning a door handle when inside of a mountain, though. 

Best Trail

Most caves run by the NPS have an elevator, but Timpanogos Cave requires a one-and-a-half mile hike that climbs 1,092 feet, which might not sound too bad until you consider it starts above 5,600 feet in elevation.  The paved trail has many scenic overlooks at which you can stop to catch your breath.  Canyon Nature Trail is a flatter option near the visitor center if you are not hiking up to the caves.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Timpanogos Cave has the best collection of gravity-defying helictite crystals we have ever seen. 

Peak Season

Summer, closed October to May

Hours

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

Fees

There is an entry fee ($6) for Alpine Scenic Drive through American Fork Canyon, which is covered by the America The Beautiful Pass.  Tickets ($8 per person) for cave tours often sell out on weekends, so reservations are recommended (they can be made 30 days in advance).

Road Conditions

Alpine Scenic Drive is paved, but parking is limited at the NPS visitor center.

Camping

There are numerous campgrounds (both developed and primitive) along the 20-mile Alpine Scenic Drive through Uinta National Forest.  They can fill up due to its proximity to Salt Lake City, Utah, but backpacking is free and does not require a permit.

Explore More – How do helictites form in twisted shapes that defy gravity?

Harry S Truman National Historic Site

Overview

Harry S Truman was a farmer, soldier in World War I, judge, U.S. Senator, and Vice President before assuming the duties of Commander-in-Chief after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death in 1945.  He is perhaps best known as the man who made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The 33rd President was known for being a straight shooter; this quote speaks to us today: “You can’t divide the country up into sections… and you can’t encourage people’s prejudices.  You have to appeal to people’s best instincts, not their worst ones.”  Truman won a close reelection vote in 1948.

Highlights

Truman Home tour, film, Truman Farm Home

Must-Do Activity

The National Park Service (NPS) visitor center in downtown Independence offers a film and a few artifacts, as well as first-come, first-served tickets for ranger-guided tours of the Truman Home.  It was there Harry and Bess (his wife) lived from 1919 until his death in 1972.  It served as the summer White House from 1945 to 1953 and was given to the NPS upon Bess’ death in 1982 (the calendar still hanging in the kitchen is original). 

Best Trail

About a 30-minute drive from Independence, take a self-guided cell phone tour around the ten acres surrounding the 1894 Truman Farm Home, which once stood on a 600-acre farm that is now the Kansas City-suburb of Grandview, Missouri.

Instagram-worthy Photo

There is no photography allowed inside the Truman Home, so your best shot will be from out front behind the fence installed by the Secret Service in the 1940s to keep the public off the lawn.

Peak Season

Open year round, but we caught peak fall colors in late October.

Hours

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

Fees

The home tour costs $7 per person (no reservations) or is free with an America The Beautiful pass.

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but street parking is limited near the Truman Home.  It is easy to miss the poorly signed turn for the Truman Farm Home in Grandview.

Camping

None

Explore More – Why is a period not required at the end of Harry S Truman’s middle initial?

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Overview

During the National Park Service (NPS) centennial in 2016, a new, ambitious park was established linking three far-flung sites in the states of Washington, New Mexico, and Tennessee.  The purpose is to tell the story of the “Manhattan Project,” the military code name during World War II for the secret undertaking to create the world’s first atomic weapon. 

Highlights

Bradbury Science Museum (NM), American Museum of Science and Energy (TN), Hanford Reach National Monument (WA)

Must-Do Activity

In 1942, hundreds of eastern Tennessee families were displaced in order to construct Oak Ridge National Laboratory where experimental nuclear reactors produced plutonium and enriched uranium.  More than 75,000 people hurriedly built and operated this brand new industrial complex, which continues to be used as a Department of Energy research facility to this day.  Due to security and safety concerns, visitors can only enter on a 3-hour bus tour that leaves from the American Museum of Science and Energy.  The tour is well worth your time, as it is currently the only way to see Y-12, X-10, and K-25 and learn more about what those code names really mean.

Best Trail

The Hanford Reach is one of the last free-flowing sections of the Columbia River in eastern Washington and is an important site for salmon spawning.  The area is ecologically pristine, mostly untouched by development since it became the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in 1943.  It is home to the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor that produced the plutonium used by Los Alamos National Laboratories for its scientific breakthroughs in 1945.  Since 2000, Hanford Reach National Monument has been managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and much of the area is off limits.  Other than boating on the river, the best place to get a feel for the area is to walk around the Ringold Fish Hatchery.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The free Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos, New Mexico offers tourists a closer look at the original and ongoing research conducted at Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL), including a scale model of the “Fat Man” plutonium bomb built here in 1945.  Nearby, the Los Alamos Historical Museum is located in a cabin on historic Bathtub Row, so named because when the government took over the Ranch School in 1943 these were the only dwellings equipped with that luxury. 

Peak Season

Open year round, but summer is best at the high elevations of Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Hours

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

Fees

$5 per adult for the American Museum of Science and Energy and a 3-hour tour (11:30-2:30, reservations recommended) of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Road Conditions

All roads paved except around Hanford Reach National Monument

Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed in Santa Fe National Forest surrounding Los Alamos and it is not far to the campground in Bandelier National Monument.

Explore More – What was the job of the “Calutron Girls” in Oak Ridge during World War II?