Tag Archives: trail

Fort Smith National Historic Site

Overview

Along a segment of the Arkansas River serving as a border with Oklahoma, Fort Smith is a lovely 35-acre park surrounded by a bustling downtown and busy railroad track.  The first fort at this site was established in 1817 to assist in the Cherokee relocation at the end of the Trail of Tears.  A second fort was built nearby in 1838, occupied by both sides during the Civil War, then closed in 1871 when it became a Federal Court.

Highlights

Museum, restored courtroom, “Hell-on-the-Border” jail, Arkansas River

Must-Do Activity

The exhibits here demonstrate the harsh prison conditions and tell harrowing stories of frontier life that will make you cringe.  Do not miss the “Hell-on-the-Border” jail in the basement and the restored courtroom.  Outside, a reproduction of the gallows and several cannon emplacements provide a counterpoint to the idyllic riverfront setting. 

Best Trail

A half-mile trail crosses the railroad tracks to the banks of the Arkansas River.  The scenic beauty of the shoreline at sunset belies the turbulent history of this place, including its connection with the Trail of Tears, designated a National Historic Trail.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Take a photo in the painstakingly restored courtroom where Judge Isaac C. Parker heard 12,000 criminal cases during his 21 years on the bench in the late 1800s.  He sentenced 160 persons to hang, and 79 executions took place right here at Fort Smith.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

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

Fees

$10 per person or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads are paved and there is free parking on site.

Camping

Two miles north of Barling, Arkansas, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages a campground on the Arkansas River.

Related Sites

Arkansas Post National Memorial (Arkansas)

Fort Scott National Historic Site (Kansas)

Pea Ridge National Military Park (Arkansas)

Explore More – Fort Smith was established in 1817 to assist in the Cherokee relocation at the end of the Trail of Tears, but what American Indian tribe already inhabited this region?

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?

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park

Overview

It was near Daviston, Alabama on March 27, 1814 that a fortified village of Upper Creek (or Red Stick) Indians was attacked by a superior force under the leadership of Major General Andrew Jackson.  Jackson started by firing cannons at the barricade for two hours, then his overanxious Indian allies pressed the issue by crossing the river to fight.  Jackson quickly ordered his men to charge and overtook the stronghold.  This proved to be the final battle of the Creek Indian War of 1813-14, which is considered part of the War of 1812.  In the treaty that followed, the tribe ceded much of the land that became the state of Alabama to the United States.  When Jackson became president in 1828, he signed the Indian Removal Bill and soon both the Upper Creeks and his former Indian allies were forced west on the Trail of Tears.

Highlights

Museum, film, auto tour, nature trail

Must-Do Activity

A short but good film is the best way to start learning about this lesser known yet important battle of the War of 1812 that brought fame to Andrew Jackson.  A diorama in the visitor center illustrates the fortifications used at Horseshoe Bend.   On the three-mile auto tour, only short walks are required from any interpretive pullout.

Best Trail

An alternative to the auto tour is a 2.8-mile nature trail that visits the same interpretive sites.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A tight curve in the Tallapoosa River in eastern Alabama provided the name for Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.  Indian allies of the U.S. started the 1814 battle by swimming then paddling stolen canoes across the river to get behind the fortifications.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There is no camping allowed here, but Wind Creek State Park has a campground 25 miles southwest of the park.

Related Sites

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve (Louisiana)

Fort Smith National Historic Site (Arkansas-Oklahoma)

Russell Cave National Monument (Alabama)

Explore More – Where did a much more famous U.S. victory during the War of 1812 take place under the command of Major General Andrew Jackson?

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?

Point Reyes National Seashore

Overview

North of San Francisco, California, Point Reyes National Seashore is the only park so designated on the Pacific Coast of the U.S.  Be prepared to get wet as this piece of land located on the San Andreas Fault is frequently enveloped by a fog belt year round.  It might not be the best spot to sunbathe on the beach, but this unique seashore is a great place to watch wildlife.

Highlights

Point Reyes Lighthouse, beaches, Arch Rock, Historic Pierce Point Ranch, Tomales Bay

Must-Do Activity

The main attraction is the Point Reyes Lighthouse, where you can try to spot sea lions and gray whales on their winter migration.  It is 300 steps down to the historic lighthouse, then you have to turn around and climb back up.  Nearby Drakes Beach is off limits in the winter months when elephant seals gather there and you can watch (and listen to) them from an overlook.  The park is popular with road and mountain bikers, and well-protected Tomales Bay attracts kayakers.

Best Trail

An extensive trail system with backcountry campsites (including two near the beach) is best accessed from the Bear Valley Visitor Center.  Plus, you can always walk the 11-mile long Point Reyes Beach.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The park has a reintroduced herd of Tule elk near the Historic Pierce Point Ranch on Tomales Point.  If you visit in January, you might find a bull was waiting for his other antler to drop.

Peak Season

Summer, though the weather is pretty much the same year round.

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, except a few short ones that access trailheads.

Camping

There is no campground in Point Reyes National Seashore, but there are backcountry campsites that area available with a permit (reservations available).

Related Sites

Cabrillo National Monument (California)

Golden Gate National Recreation Area (California)

Olympic National Park (Washington)

Explore More – How far did the entire Point Reyes Peninsula permanently shift during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake?