Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park: More Than 12,000 Years of Continuous Human Habitation

Imagine a place that has seen the human history of our continent from almost the very beginning—a place that has had continuous human habitation for 17,000 years. Imagine a place with sites that carry the story of the past and an ecosystem found nowhere else in the world.
This is Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park.

In the middle of Georgia, ancient mounds are the centerpiece of a preserve that protect one of the oldest and most important cultural sites in the Eastern United States. 

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park is also part of the original homeland of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation whose citizens were forcibly removed and forced to walk over 1,000 miles to Oklahoma. Today, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation is the fourth largest tribe in the country with more than 94,000 citizens. Many return to Ocmulgee on pilgrimages or homecomings each year including their current Chief David Hill. 

Ocmulgee is is home to 17,000 years of continuous human history. From 900 to 1100, the original inhabitants of this area maintained a thriving civilization. Mounds were sacred sites built by hand; the Muscogee people hauled at least 10 million baskets full of dirt and clay to build the sacred mounds. The mounds are surrounded by thousands of other cultural sites that remain largely unprotected.

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ocmulgee was designated a national monument by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934 but only 700 acres were protected. In 2019, Ocmulgee was upgraded to National Historic Park status. In 2022, the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative (ONPPI) acquired new land for the park more than doubling its size to 1,700 acres. 

Now, advocates and community leaders are aiming for full-fledged national park status and expanding the park to 70,000 acres. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation has joined all efforts from the beginning of the process to create a park and aims to have an equal voice with all partners in the co-management of the final park. The Muscogee Nation has also purchased more than 100 acres of land adjacent to the current site that may soon become part of the national park.  

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“A lot of healing is happening here,” says Tracie Revis, Muscogee citizen and director of advocacy for the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative. Revis was Chief of Staff for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief Hill in Oklahoma. Last year with Chief Hill’s blessing, she made the difficult decision to move from Oklahoma to middle Georgia to focus all of her efforts on the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve.

“This is an exciting moment for us. At Ocmulgee, it won’t be just the park service talking about artifacts. We get to tell our story.”

The National Park Service is slated to finish its three-year feasibility study soon. Congressional leaders in Georgia have already expressed support for Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve. Clark hopes that Georgia’s Congressional leaders will introduce a bill this spring.

“This is our moment,” says Revis. “There has never been a better time to make this happen.”

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Both Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and National Park Service Director Chuck Sams are Native Americans who have expressed support for protecting Indigenous homelands. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is already deeply committed to the park. Ocmulgee also has widespread support from local leaders and the Macon community. Even nearby Robins Air Force Base supports the park. 

Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve would be unique: it would consist of a patchwork of 70,000 acres along the Ocmulgee River that would be co-managed by multiple agencies and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Other national parks have consulted and included Native Americans as co-managers but never has a park east of the Mississippi been co-created by a Native American nation or tribe. Ocmulgee would be the first park in the East—and one of the only parks in the country—to be co-created and co-managed by Indigenous people.

Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve would include the Bond Swamp, a biological hotspot that is home to endangered species and a rare population of black bears in Middle Georgia. The 70,000-acre mosaic of lands would also protect the Ocmulgee River corridor and some of the best hunting and fishing sites in the South. Its dual designation as a national park and preserve would enable hunting to continue which is typically not allowed in national parks. 

Ocmulgee will ultimately be a hub for hundreds of miles of cultural and recreational trails across Middle Georgia and could eventually connect Ocmulgee with the Altamaha River corridor and public lands along Georgia’s coastal plain providing vital ecological and wildlife connectivity.

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plans for Ocmulgee also include a Muscogee Creek Cultural Center that will be owned and operated by the Muscogee people. It will celebrate the traditions, dances, and songs that Muscogee survivors have kept alive for centuries.

Revis recalls hearing songs at funerals and a song that her grandmother used to sing to her. Those were songs that were sung by her ancestors on the Trail of Tears. More than 15,000 Indigenous people died along the way. But the survivors held on.

“We didn’t cease to exist,” says Revis. “We weren’t erased. We are survivors and this is a new day for us,” says Revis. “We are returning home.” 

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience It for Yourself

Ocmulgee Mounds is already a National Historic Park open to the public. Each September, the park hosts an Ocmulgee Indian Celebration. In 2024, the 32nd annual Ocmulgee Indian Celebration will take place on September 14-15 from 10 am to 5 pm.

The celebration will feature traditional cultural crafts, storytelling, educational programs, live demonstrations, music, and dance. Native American arts and crafts vendors will be selling their crafts and food with be available for purchase.

Worth Pondering…

This is where it originally started. It’s our history; it’s who we are. So the fire that’s in your heart is also the fire that’s here.

—Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill

15 Fascinating Historic Sites in the American Southwest 

The American Southwest blends nature and history in a beautiful way. Coyotes, canyons, and brilliant sun-kissed rock formations mark the region’s desert terrain. It’s also home to hundreds of national parks and monuments including the Grand Canyon. While there are a number of places you will want to see on your trip, be sure to stop and check out these Historic Sites in the Southwest.

The stories of the American Southwest extend well beyond the history of the United States. From the Indigenous peoples who built cliffside castles to the Spanish explorers who established missions and the cowboys of the Wild West—the history of this region is incredibly diverse.

To learn more about what makes the Southwest so captivating, check out 15 of the region’s best historic sites and the fascinating stories behind them.

Montezuma Castle © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Montezuma Castle, Camp Verde, Arizona

Embedded into the side of a sheer limestone cliff, Montezuma Castle dates back to around 1100 BC and was established as a national monument in 1906. The cliffside abode was named incorrectly by settlers who believed it to be of Aztec origin. In reality, the Sinagua peoples who inhabited the Verde Valley of Arizona for thousands of years, built and occupied the castle. Naturally warm in the winter and cool in the summer, the site of the cliff dwellings was chosen due to preexisting caves and nearby water resources; inhabitants used wooden ladders to move throughout the settlement’s five levels.

To see the historic monument, start at the Visitor Center before walking up to the base of Montezuma Castle on a 0.3-mile loop trail. Then, you can drive to Montezuma Well, a naturally occurring sinkhole and the site of more cliff dwellings. The land around the well was home to prehistoric groups of people approximately 1,000 years ago before being settled by Anglo-Americans in the late 19th century.

Check this out to learn more: Apartment House of the Ancients: Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Well © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Four Corners Monument, Teec Nos Pos, Arizona

Located in Navajo Tribal Park, the Four Corners Monument is the only point in the country where four states meet. Marking the point where the Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah state lines coalesce, the historic landmark also marks the boundary between the Navajo Nation and Ute Mountain Tribe Reservation. 

However, the monument’s history goes further back than just statehood. During the Civil War, Congress created several new territories—including Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico—to discourage residents from joining the Confederacy. In 1861, Congress voted for a marker to be placed in the monument’s exact location to demonstrate the southwest corner of the Colorado territory.

Palace of the Governors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Dating to 1610, the Palace of the Governors is the oldest public building in the contiguous U.S. still in continuous use. For nearly three centuries, the building was home to a rotating roster of Spanish, Mexican, and American governors as control over the New Mexico territory shifted and changed. Additionally, the native Pueblo peoples took over the palace during the Pueblo Revolt of the 17th century while the Confederacy occupied it during the Civil War.

Today, the Palace of the Governors is part of the New Mexico History Museum with interpretive galleries displaying its history and a palatial courtyard that connects to the rest of the museum. For visitors to Santa Fe, the palace features a block-long portal where Native American vendors sell their artisan wares and crafts.

Plan your next trip to Santa Fe with these resources:

Whiskey Row © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Whiskey Row, Prescott, Arizona

This legendary block in Arizona earned its moniker in the late 19th century when the street consisted of whiskey saloons favored by the local cowboys and miners. After a lit candle burned most of the downtown area in 1900, a group of locals famously rescued the actual bar from the Palace Saloon and began drinking their sorrows away. A year later, a new downtown was erected in a more fire-safe brick and the same bar was installed inside the new Palace Restaurant and Saloon.

Today, visitors can belly up at the historic bar or visit myriad other notable sites located on the city block. Rumored to be haunted by a lady in white, Hotel St. Michael has housed a number of famous guests over the past century including the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Doc Holiday. And while galleries and shops now decorate the historic square, famed establishments like the Jersey Lilly Saloon still embody the historic spirit of Whiskey Row.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

Before it became the site of perhaps the most infamous battle in the Southwest, the Alamo was known as the San Antonio de Valero Mission. In 1724, Spanish colonizers established the church to convert the area’s Native American peoples.

It wasn’t until the 1835 Texas Revolution that the former mission became a war fortress and battle site. Stationed in the Alamo in 1836, Texas revolutionaries fought against Mexico in the Battle of the Alamo, a bloody 13-day squirmish that resulted in the deaths of all the defenders. Although they lost the battle, Texas later won independence from Mexico and would eventually become an American state nine years later.

Today, the Alamo is open and free to visitors although reservations must be made in advance. With guided and self-guided tours available, the Alamo is also part of the San Antonio Missions Trail giving cyclists easy access to the city’s network of historic missions.

If you need ideas, check out:

Besh Ba Gowah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum, Globe, Arizona

One mile southwest of the City of Globe, Arizona, stand the remains of a large pueblo village constructed by the Salado culture who occupied the region between 1225 and 1450.

The pueblo is known today as Besh Ba Gowah, a term originally given by the Apache people to the early mining settlement of Globe. Roughly translated, the term means place of metal

The partially reconstructed pueblo structures along with the adjacent museum provide a fascinating glimpse at the lifestyle of the people who thrived in the ancient Southwest.

Besh-Ba-Gowah had about 400 rooms of these about 250 were ground floor rooms. Precise numbers are impossible due to modern destruction of sections. Entrance to the pueblo was via a long narrow ground level corridor covered by the second level. The corridor opened onto the main plaza. This may have had a defensive purpose.

Check this out to learn more: Exploring a Remarkable Pueblo: Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park

Mesa Verde © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Mesa Verde National Park, Mancos, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park’s cliff dwellings are just one wonder to be found at this national park in Colorado which also includes protected wilderness.

Located in Southwestern Colorado, Mesa Verde, Green Table in Spanish, National Park offers an unparalleled opportunity to see and experience a unique cultural and physical landscape. Including more than 4,000 known archeological sites dating back to A.D. 550, this national treasure protects the cliff dwellings and mesa top sites of pit houses, pueblos, masonry towers, and farming structures of the Ancestral Pueblo peoples who lived here for more than 700 years. This national park gives us a glimpse into the places and stories of America’s diverse cultural heritage.

The cliff dwellings are some of the most notable and best preserved sites in the United States. After living primarily on the mesa top for 600 years, the Ancestral Pueblo peoples began building structure under the overhanging cliffs of Mesa Verde—anything from one-room storage units to villages of over 150 rooms. Decades of excavation and analysis still leave many unanswered questions, but have shown us that the Ancient Pueblans were skillful survivors and artistic craftsmen.

By the way, I have a series of posts on Mesa Verde:

Canyon de Chelly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Chinle, Arizona

For nearly 5,000 years, people have lived in these canyons—longer than anyone has lived uninterrupted anywhere on the Colorado Plateau. In the place called Tsegi, their homes and images tell us their stories. Today, Dine’ families make their homes, raise livestock, and farm the lands in the canyons. A place like no other, the park and Navajo Nation work together to manage the land’s resources.

Canyon de Chelly sustains a living community of Navajo people who are connected to a landscape of great historical and spiritual significance—a landscape composed of places infused with collective memory. NPS works in partnership with the Navajo Nation to manage park resources and sustain the Navajo community.

Explore a 900-year old ancestral Pueblo Great House of over 400 masonry rooms. Look up and see the original timbers holding up the roof. Search for the fingerprints of ancient workers in the mortar. Listen for an echo of ritual drums in the reconstructed Great Kiva.

Here are some helpful resources:

Aztec Ruins © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Aztec Ruins National Monument, Aztec, New Mexico

Aztec Ruins National Monument is the largest Ancestral Pueblo community in the Animas River Valley. In use for over 200 years, the site contains several multi-story buildings called great houses, each with a great kiva—a circular ceremonial chamber—as well as many smaller structures. Excavation of the West Ruin in the 1900s uncovered thousands of well-preserved artifacts that provide a glimpse into the life of Ancestral Pueblo people connecting people of the past with people and traditions of today. 

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Aztec Ruins National Monument

Casa Grande Ruins © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Coolidge, Arizona

Casa Grande Ruins, the nation’s first archeological preserve, protects the Casa Grande and other archeological sites within its boundaries.

For over a thousand years, prehistoric farmers inhabited much of the present-day state of Arizona. When the first Europeans arrived, all that remained of this ancient culture were the ruins of villages, irrigation canals, and various artifacts. Among these ruins is the Casa Grande, or Big House, one of the largest and most mysterious prehistoric structures ever built in North America. See the Casa Grande and hear the story of the ancient ones the Akimel O’otham call the Hohokam, those who are gone.

Check this out to learn more: The Mystique of the Casa Grande Ruins

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Petroglyph National Monument protects one of the largest petroglyph sites and features volcanic rock carved by Native American and Spanish settlers.

Petroglyph National Monument protects a variety of cultural and natural resources including five volcanic cones, hundreds of archeological sites, and an estimated 25,000 images carved by native peoples and early Spanish settlers.

Many of the images are recognizable as animals, people, brands, and crosses; others are more complex. Their meaning, possibly, may have been understood only by the carver. These images are inseparable from the greater cultural landscape, from the spirits of the people who created them, and from all who appreciate them.

If you need ideas, check out: Adventure in Albuquerque: Petroglyph National Monument

12. Coronado Historic Site, Bernalillo, New Mexico

Home to the partially reconstructed ruins of the ancient Pueblos of Kuaua, this historic site dates back to 1300 DC. Inhabited by the ancestral Puebloans, Kuaua was the largest Pueblo complex in the region with roughly 1,200 ground-floor rooms and 10 to 20 large kivas. Each kiva (underground ceremonial room) is painted with layers of intricate murals revealing stories of the Pueblo peoples and representing some of the best examples of pre-Columbian art in the U.S.

Today, the village is known as the Coronado Historic Site named for Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado who discovered the village in 1540 during his search for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. The Puebloans were gracious toward their guests at first although their hospitality eventually faded and Coronado and his troops moved on. History buffs can visit these reconstructed kivas to see the well-preserved murals, as well as walk the site’s interpretive trails, complete with views of the Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande.

Hovenweep © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Hovenweep National Monument, Utah and Colorado

Noted for its solitude and undeveloped, natural character, Hovenweep National Monument was once home to more than 2,500 people in 900 A.D. In 1923, Hovenweep was proclaimed by President Warren G. Harding a unit of the national park system. The name Hovenweep is a Paiute/Ute word meaning deserted valley.

A group of five well-preserved village ruins over a 20-mile radius of mesa tops and canyons, these ancient Pueblo ruins include towers that remind visitors of European castles. Straddling the Utah-Colorado border, the ruins were built about the same time as medieval fortresses.

The largest and most accessible of the six units of ruins is Square Tower where several well-preserved structures are located. The area was home for several prehistoric farming villages. Throughout the ruins, visitors may find castles, towers, check dams (for irrigation), cliff dwellings, pueblos, and houses. Petroglyphs (rock art) can also be found in the area.

Here are some helpful resources:

Tuzigoot Ruins © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Tuzigoot National Monument, Arizona

The Southern Sinagua built a ridge-top pueblo at Tuzigoot around 1100 AD and continued to add new rooms until the 1400s. This pueblo housed about 50 people. The Sinagua would often use a large pueblo as a dwelling and community center surrounded by additional smaller dwellings and outbuildings connected to agriculture.

While the region has a mostly arid climate, the marsh and river provide a source of fresh water, wild game, fish, and turtles to the Sinagua. Although summers are hot, a very long growing season allowed for the organized cultivation of crops as a supplement to food taken from the marsh and the river.

Despite the comfortable natural setting, the Sinagua left the pueblo at Tuzigoot for unknown reasons around the year 1450. Possibly the valley became overcrowded and the Southern Sinagua moved to different locations or were absorbed by other tribes. When the Sinagua abandoned Tuzigoot, they left behind many artifacts, some of which are on display in the visitor center.

Today, much of the ruin at Tuzigoot has been reconstructed to provide a safe and stable environment for visitors; however, the main tower is mostly original and is open to the public. The pueblo is accessible as part of a short loop trail. An additional trail leads out to a viewing area overlooking the marsh that was so important to the Sinagua.

Read more: An Ancient Village on the Hill: How Life was Lived at Tuzigoot

Tumacacori © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Tumacácori National Historic Park, Tumacácori, Arizona

Tumacácori sits at a cultural crossroads in the Santa Cruz River valley and is where O’odham, Yaqui, and Apache people mixed with Europeans.

From his arrival in the Pimería Alta in 1687 until he died in 1711, Padre Kino established over twenty missions. The Jesuit missionaries administered them until the time of their expulsion in 1767. From 1768 until after Mexico got her independence in 1821 the missions were operated by the Franciscan missionaries. Some are still in use today while others have fallen into ruin.

Tumacácori National Historical Park in the upper Santa Cruz River Valley of southern Arizona is comprised of the abandoned ruins of three of these ancient Spanish colonial missions. San Jos de Tumacácori and Los Santos Angeles de Guevavi, established in 1691, are the two oldest missions in Arizona. San Cayetano de Calabazas, was established in 1756.

Check this out to learn more: Tumacácori National Historic Park: More Than Just Adobe, Plaster & Wood

Worth Pondering…

Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

—Miriam Beard

Freedom Trail: Walk your Way to 16 Historic Sites

The Freedom Trail is a unique collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution and beyond

The Freedom Trail is a red (mostly brick) path through downtown Boston that leads to 16 significant historic sites. It is a 2.5-mile walk from Boston Common to USS Constitution in Charlestown. Simple ground markers explaining events, graveyards, notable churches, and other buildings and a historic naval frigate are stops along the way.

Most sites are free; Old South Meeting House, Old State House, and Paul Revere House have small admission fees; still others suggest donations. The Freedom Trail is a unit of Boston National Historical Park and is overseen by The Freedom Trail Foundation and the City of Boston’s Freedom Trail Commission.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The trail was originally conceived by local journalist William Schofield who since 1951 had promoted the idea of a pedestrian trail to link together important local landmarks. Mayor John Hynes put Schofield’s idea into action. By 1953, 40,000 people annually were enjoying the sites and history on the Freedom Trail.

In 1974, Boston National Historical Park was established. The National Park Service opened a Visitor Center on State Street where they give free maps of the Freedom Trail and other historic sites as well as sell books about Boston and US history. Today, people walk on the red path of the Freedom Trail to learn about important events that led to independence from Great Britain.

History nerd that I am, I can’t get over how much has happened in such a small area. I love that you can take your time walking it. 

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Traveling on the Freedom Trail shows you how small historical Boston really was. The trail is free, clearly marked and you can walk at your own pace. Be sure to wear your comfy shoes as you’re in for an awesome hike.

There are countless ways to explore the Freedom Trail and its official historic sites. From year-round immersive programs and activities at the 16 historic sites to public and private walking tours led by 18th-century costumed guides, National Park Service’s Park Rangers, and more, to self-guided tours by foot with a map, guide book, or audio guide, there are exciting and comfortable methods for everyone to enjoy the authentic history and sites where fights for American’s freedoms were ignited.

Boston Common

Established in 1634, Boston Common is America’s oldest public park. Puritan colonists purchased the land rights to the Common’s 44 acres from the first European settler of the area, Anglican minister William Blackstone. 

Massachusetts State House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Massachusetts State House

Designed by Charles Bulfinch, the ‘new’ and current State House has served as the seat of Massachusetts government since its opening in 1798. Holding the legislative and executive branches, it sits adjacent to the former site of the historic Hancock mansion. 

Park Street Church

The church was founded in 1809 at the corner of Park and Tremont Streets atop the site of Boston’s town grain storage building or granary. Designed by Peter Banner, the 217 feet steeple of Park Street Church was once the first landmark travelers saw when approaching Boston.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Granary Burying Ground

Established in 1660, some of America’s most notable citizens rest here. Named for the 12,000-bushel grain storage building that was once next door, the historic burying ground has approximately 2,300 markers. 

King’s Chapel and King’s Chapel Burying Ground

Founded in 1686 as Boston’s first Anglican Church, King’s Chapel is home to over 330 years of history. The 1754 granite building still stands on the church’s original site: the corner of Boston’s oldest English burying ground. 

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston Latin School Site/Benjamin Franklin Statue

Boston Latin School, founded on April 23, 1635 is the oldest public school in America. It offered free education to boys—rich or poor—while girls attended private schools at home. Until the completion of the schoolhouse in 1645, classes were held in the home of the first headmaster, Philemon Pormont. A mosaic and a statue of former student Benjamin Franklin currently mark the location of the original schoolhouse.

Ye Olde Union Oyster House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Old Corner Bookstore

Constructed in 1718, the Old Corner Bookstore is downtown Boston’s oldest commercial building and was home to the 19th-century publishing giant Ticknor and Fields, producer of many venerable American titles including Thoreau’s Walden, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Longfellow’s Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, and the Atlantic Monthly including Ward Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic. Saved from demolition in 1960, the building’s leases help subsidize important historic preservation projects in Boston’s neighborhoods.

Old South Meeting House

Experience history where the Boston Tea Party began. This hall rang with words from Puritan sermons, public meetings, and the tea tax debates.

Old State House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Old State House

Through Massacre, Revolution, and fire, the Old State House stands as the oldest surviving public building in Boston. Built in 1713, the building served as the center of civic, political, and business life.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston Massacre Site

On March 5, 1770, after months of tensions due to occupation and taxation, Bostonians and Redcoats clashed in the streets of Boston. What ended with five civilians killed by gunfire, Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, James Caldwell, Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr, led to the rallying of Bostonians against the Crown and the evacuation of troops from Boston. They would not return until 1774. 

Faneuil Hall

Often referred to as “the home of free speech” and the “Cradle of Liberty,” Faneuil Hall hosted America’s first Town Meeting. The Hall’s vital role in revolutionary politics had not been part of its original plans but it became home to an intricate collection of events that shaped the nation’s history. 

Paul Revere statue © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paul Revere House

Built around 1680, the Paul Revere House, owned by the legendary patriot from 1770-1800, is the oldest remaining structure in downtown Boston and also the only official Freedom Trail historic site that is a home.

Paul Revere House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Old North Church

Visit the site that launched the American Revolution! Built in 1723, Boston’s oldest church is best known for the midnight ride of Paul Revere and “One if by land, two if by sea.” 

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground

Located on a hill on which a windmill once stood, the land was given to the town. Copp’s Hill was Boston’s largest colonial burying ground dating from 1659. Named after shoemaker William Copp, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground is the final resting place and burying ground of merchants, artisans, and craftspeople who lived in the North End.

USS Constitution © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

USS Constitution 

Launched in Boston in 1797, USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat and earned her nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 when she fought the British frigate HMS Guerriere. 

Bunker Hill Monument

The Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, was the first major battle of the Revolutionary War and predicted the character and outcome of the rest of the war. Located across from the Monument is the Battle of Bunker Hill Museum. Along with dioramas and murals, artifacts from the battle itself on display include a cannonball; a snare drum; a sword; a masonic apron belonging to revolutionary leader Dr. Joseph Warren who perished in the fight; and a trowel used by the Marquis de Lafayette in the groundbreaking.

Worth Pondering…

If you love this country and study history, then you will love Boston.

— Marcus Luttrell

14 Must-See National Historic Landmarks (Must-See + Photos)

From sea to shining sea, I’m sharing America’s best historic landmarks

While there are more than 87,000 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places which is America’s official list of historic properties only about 3 percent of those are National Historic Landmarks. The Alamo, Savannah Historic District, Keeneland Race Track, Historic Williamsburg, Hubbell Trading Post, and more are all National Historic Landmarks.

Each of these Landmarks is an exceptional representation of an important chapter of American history. The town of Telluride joined this preeminent group of America’s most special places in 1961 when it was designated a National Historic Landmark as one of the most important places associated with mining history in the United States. Hall’s Hospital, now the home of the Telluride Historical Museum was built in 1896 and is one of the oldest buildings in Telluride. It is also designated as a National Historic Landmark and is a contributing structure to the Town’s status as a National Historic Landmark District.

From Old Ironsides to the Grand Canyon Depot these 14 landmarks are just some of the must-see sights that help us appreciate America’s beauty and resiliency while reconciling its past and honoring those who lived here before the New World was built. Be sure to stay in a local campground or RV park to get the full local, often historic, experience.

There are over 2,600 National Historic Landmark sites in the United States and the federal government owns fewer than 400 of them. Roughly 85 percent of them are owned by private citizens, organizations, corporations, tribal entities, or state or local governments—or sometimes a combination.

USS Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. USS Alabama

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: January 14, 1986

Location: Mobile, Mobile County, Alabama

Description: Displacing more than 44,500 tons, USS Alabama Battleship measures 680 feet from stem to stern—half as long as the Empire State Building is tall. Armed with nine, 16-inch guns in three turrets and 20, 5-inch, .38-caliber guns in 10 twin mounts, her main batteries could fire shells, as heavy as a small car, accurately for a distance of more than 20 miles.

Her steel side armor was a foot thick above the waterline, tapering to one half inch at the bottom. Her four propellers, each weighing more than 18 tons, could drive her through the seas up to 28 knots (32 mph). Loaded with 7,000 tons of fuel oil, her range was about 15,000 nautical miles. 

Read more: Lucky A: USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park

Hubbell Trading Post © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Hubbell Trading Post

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: December 12, 1960

Location: Ganado, Apache County, Arizona

Description: Hubbell Trading Post is the oldest operating trading post in the Navajo Nation. The Arizona historical site sells basic traveling staples as well as Native American art just as it did during the late 1800s.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Jekyll Island Historic District

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: June 2, 1978

Location: Jekyll Island, Glynn County, Georgia

Description: In 1886, Jekyll Island was purchased to become an exclusive winter retreat known as the Jekyll Island Club. It soon became recognized as “the richest, most inaccessible club in the world.” Club members included such notable figures as J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, William K. Vanderbilt, and Marshall Field. Today, the former Club grounds comprise a 240-acre site with 34 historic structures. The Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark is one of the largest restoration projects in the southeastern United States.

Read more: Celebrating 75 Years of Jekyll Island State Park: 1947-2022

USS Constitution © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Constitution (Frigate)

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: December 19, 1960

Location: Charlestown Navy Yard, Suffolk County, Massachusetts

Description: USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship still afloat. Naval officers and crew still serve aboard her today. 

The wooden-hulled, three-mast USS Constitution was launched from Hartt’s shipyard in Boston’s North End on October 21, 1797. It was designed to be more heavily armed and better constructed than the standard ships of the period.

The greatest glory for USS Constitution came during the War of 1812. It was during this war in the battle against the HMS Guerriere the ship earned the nickname Old Ironsides when the crew of the British ship noticed their canon shots simply bounced off the ship’s strong oak hull they proclaimed: “Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!”

Read more: The Storied History of Old Ironsides

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Keeneland Race Course

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: September 24, 1986

Location: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Description: Since opening in October 1936, Keeneland has been unique in the Thoroughbred industry. Keeneland is the world’s largest and most prominent Thoroughbred auction house and hosts world-class racing twice annually during its boutique spring and fall meetings. Owners, trainers, riders, and fans from all over the world travel to Lexington each year to participate at Keeneland.

Read more: Keeneland: A Special Place

Grand Canyon Depot © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Grand Canyon Depot

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: May 28, 1987

Location: South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Coconino County, Arizona

Constructed in 1909-1910, Grand Canyon Depot is part of the Grand Canyon National Park Historic District and is a National Historic Landmark. Designed by architect Francis W. Wilson of Santa Barbara, California, the log and wood-frame structure is two stories high. Originally, the downstairs was designated for station facilities, and the upstairs was for the station agent’s family.

Just beyond the depot is the El Tovar Hotel built in 1905 by the railroad. The El Tovar is the signature hotel along the rim. The railroad built the depot five years after the hotel and placed it conveniently close for the rail passengers.

Read more: Making a Grand Trip Grander

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. The Alamo

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: December 19, 1960

Location: San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas

Description: In San Antonio, five missions were constructed between 1718 and 1720. Appropriately, the first of these was Mission San Antonio de Valero later to be known as the Alamo. Remember the Alamo! It was the battle cry of Texas freedom fighters during the decisive Battle of San Jacinto led by Sam Houston against Mexico in April 1836. And it was a memorial to the doomed defenders of the Spanish mission turned Texas fort. The Alamo became a bloody battlefield and a hallowed final resting place for those who would never leave these grounds alive.

Read more: Remember the Alamo?

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Williamsburg Historic District

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: October 9, 1960

Location: Williamsburg (City), Virginia

Description: Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living history museum with 301 acres featuring iconic sites, working trades people, historic taverns, and two world-class art museums. The city was founded as the capital of the Virginia Colony in 1699 and it was here that the basic concepts of the United States of America were formed under the leadership of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, and many others.

Read more: Colonial Williamsburg: World’s Largest Living History Museum

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Savannah Historic District

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: November 13, 1966

Location: Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia

Description: Walk down the cobblestone streets of Georgia’s first city, a place filled with southern charm. Steeped in history and architectural treasures, Savannah begs to be explored by trolley and on foot. Much of Savannah’s charm lies in meandering through the Historic District’s lovely shaded squares draped in feathery Spanish moss—all 22 of them.

Tumacacori © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Tumacacori Museum

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: May 28, 1987

Location: Tumacacori, Santa Cruz County, Arizona

Description: The oldest Jesuit mission in Arizona has been preserved in Tumacácori National Historic Park, a picturesque reminder that Southern Arizona was, at one time, the far northern frontier of New Spain. The San Cayetano del Tumacácori Mission was established in 1691 by Spanish Jesuit priest Eusebio Francisco Kino, 29 miles north of Nogales beside the Santa Cruz River. Jesuit, and later Franciscan, priests ministered to the O’odham Indians and Spanish settlers until 1848.

Read more: Tumacácori National Historic Park: More Than Just Adobe, Plaster & Wood

Mount Washington Hotel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Mount Washington Hotel

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: June 24, 1986

Location: Carroll, Coos County, New Hampshire

Description: While the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods is tucked away from the main drag, it’s almost impossible to miss it with Mount Washington hovering over like a halo. Once you walk into the lobby, you’re transported back to 1902 when the hotel first opened. It’s even rumored that the owner’s wife, Carolyn, still lives in the hotel (don’t worry, a friendly tenant), and ghost aficionados jump at the opportunity to book her old quarters in Room 314.

Read more: The Uniqueness of the White Mountains

Palace of the Governors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Palace of the Governors

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: October 9, 1960

Location: Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, New Mexico

Description: Downtown Santa Fe’s Palace of the Governors on the plaza is one of the most iconic sites in the city. The oldest continuously inhabited building in the United States, it’s perhaps best known for the Native American market beneath its portal. But inside is a historic gem as well—the New Mexico History Museum which covers centuries of life in Santa Fe and hosts exhibitions related to the tri-culture of the Native Americans, Spanish, and Anglo peoples and cultures of New Mexico.

Read more: Santa Fe Never Goes Out of Style

The Strand © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Strand Historic District

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: May 11, 1976

Location: Galveston, Galveston County, Texas

Description: Galveston’s Historic Strand District, or The Strand, is the heart of the island and a great place to shop, dine, and be entertained. Fronting Galveston Bay, The Strand is a National Historic Landmark that harkens back to Galveston’s heyday in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many of the buildings here are more than a century old, stunning in their detail and craftsmanship. Storefronts here are a mix of antique shops, art galleries, souvenir shops, and more. The Strand serves as the commercial center of downtown Galveston. Places of interest include the Ocean Star Offshore Energy Center and Museum, Pier 21 Theater, the Texas Seaport Museum, and the tall ship Elissa.

Read more: I Still Dream of Galveston

Yuma Crossing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Yuma Crossing and Associated Sites

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: November 13, 1966

Location: Yuma, Yuma County, Arizona and Winterhaven, Imperial County, California

Description: The Colorado River State Historic Park (formerly Yuma Crossing State Historic Park) sits on the bank of the Colorado where river captains once sailed from the Gulf of California to unload supplies then kick up their heels in the bustling port of Yuma.

The park is located on a portion of the grounds of the old U.S. Army Quartermaster Depot established in 1864. This site is significant in the history of the Arizona Territory. The purpose of the Park is to protect its historic structures and interpret the diverse history of the site.

Many of the original structures from that time are still standing. 

Read more: The Yuma Crossing

Worth Pondering…

Most people’s historical perspective begins with the day of their birth.

—Rush Limbaugh

Best in Travel 2023: 30 Places to Inspire the RV Traveler

30 destinations that are sorted by five of the best types of experiences you can have there: eating, journeys, connecting, learning, and unwinding

My Best in Travel 2023 provides a diverse range of destinations to sate any RV traveler’s sense of wanderlust. From Amish Country to St. Marys, my list includes 30 destinations across the United States and Canada and each location comes with a curated guide and itinerary.

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For RVers considering where to travel in 2023 ask yourself one important question: What are the things that your heart will not rest until you see and experience them?

There’s a sense of looking deep into yourself to understand the things that you really want to see—that you know will restore you, that will give you a greater sense of connection and appreciation to the life that you live every day—that you can take something from that experience back with you that gives you a sense of calm to our fast-paced world.

Texas BBQ in Lockhart © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What moves you? Itineraries that will get you doing the things you love.

To help whittle down the infinite litany of experiences in the world, my Best in RV Travel 2023 has sorted its top 30 destinations by five types of experiences that would be most meaningful for travelers: eating, journeys, unwinding, connecting, and learning.

Eat

This category is for the foodies. It features destinations that offer a wide range of activities centered on culinary exploration. 

Dining in Las Cruces © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the destinations is Las Cruces, New Mexico where travelers can experience everything chile. Nestled under the sharp landscape of the Organ Mountains to the east, the Mesilla Valley is situated along the banks of the Rio Grande River where some of the nation’s spiciest and scrumptious chilis are grown a few miles north of Las Cruces in the town of Hatch which calls itself the Chile Capital of the World.

St. Marys, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Journey

Travelers can experience intrepid journeys—be they by car, recreational vehicle, or hiking trails—by visiting the locations on this list.

For example, historic St. Marys, Georgia offers culture, heritage, and outdoor activities that will ensure a relaxing visit. Imagine meandering through the park-style setting of the St. Marys History Walk’s 600-foot looping trail. Learn about the old shipbuilding industry and arrange a ferry ride to Cumberland Island. Even during the shortest of stays, you will assuredly get a taste of the coastal, small-town lifestyles.

Amish Country Heritage Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Unwind

These destinations are where you will relax and rebalance.

Travelers can help find their center in Northwest Indiana and live life in the slow lane. Taking a leisurely road trip through small towns along the Amish Country Heritage Trail feels a bit like time travel. Horse-drawn carriages move slowly along country roads and what those roads lack in conveniences like gas stations or fast food they more than provide serene views.

Greenville, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Connect

Immerse yourself in the local culture and community by checking out the destinations in the Connect category.

One of those destinations is Greenville, South Carolina, a community that has grown but still retains its small town feel.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Learn

If visiting museums, historical landmarks, and ancient sites is how you most enjoy experiencing new places then these destinations may be just for you.

Santa Fe is known as the City Different; within one visit, you will know why. Santa Fe embodies a rich history melding Hispanic, Anglo, and Native American cultures whose influences are apparent in everything from the architecture, the food, and the art.

Worth Pondering…

Got a dream, a long-held wish of traveling to a special place you hope to see—someday? If so, you’re like many of us, waiting for mañana; for tomorrow or next month or next year—always waiting for the right time. Question is, will there ever be a time that’s right?

Colonial Williamsburg: World’s Largest Living History Museum

Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living history museum with 301 acres featuring iconic sites, working trades people, historic taverns, and two world-class art museums

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation operates the world’s largest living history museum in Williamsburg, Virginia—the restored 18th-century capital of Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous settlement in the New World.

Meet a Nation Builder like George Washington or Edith Cumbo and admire the craftsmanship of some of the best artisans in the world. Connect with your family over a horse-drawn carriage ride, world-class dining, and a Haunted Williamsburg ghost tour.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History of Williamsburg

The city was founded as the capital of the Virginia Colony in 1699 and it was here that the basic concepts of the United States of America were formed under the leadership of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, and many others.

Named Williamsburg in honor of England’s reigning monarch at the time, King William III, the colonial mecca also became a center of learning. The College of William and Mary founded in 1693 counts political leaders such as Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler as graduates.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During its time as the capital of Virginia, Williamsburg flourished as the hub of religious, economic, and social life in the state. A palatial Governor’s Palace was built as were markets, taverns, a theatre, a church (those living in the New World were required by law to worship in the Church of England), and countless homes. Market Square was the site of celebrations, festivals, fairs, contests, and even puppet shows; tradesmen, such as wig makers, tailors, blacksmiths, and cabinetmakers, practiced their craft along Duke of Gloucester Street. Restaurants and taverns offered onion soup, ham, carrot and chicken dishes, pudding, and pie.

Related article: Historic Triangle: 400 Years & Counting

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to see and do in Colonial Williamsburg

Here is an overview of the essentials for a visit to Williamsburg.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Governor’s Palace: Experience the grandeur of royal authority in Virginia just before its collapse in the Revolution. The Governor’s Palace, home to seven royal governors and the first two elected governors in Virginia was built to impress visitors with a display of authority and wealth. Tours every 7-15 minutes

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Raleigh Tavern: The Raleigh Tavern served as a critical stage for Virginia’s political ambitions amid intensifying debate about liberty, ultimately leading to our nation’s independence. Learn about different perspectives on the extraordinary events that took place here on tours offered every 20 minutes.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wetherburn’s Tavern: Merriment and conviviality were specialties of the house at Wetherburn’s Tavern. Get a glimpse into the private lives of Henry Wetherburn, his family, and his slaves who made the tavern one of the most successful of the 1750s. The tavern and the dairy out back are both original buildings.

Related article: 8 U.S. Towns Stuck in Time

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Everard House: Visit the home of Thomas Everard, a wealthy planter and civic leader. One of the oldest houses in Williamsburg, the Everard House is furnished with 18th-century antiques and was meticulously restored to its early appearance.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse: Step back into the time of the Stamp Act and learn about the fashionable world of the coffeehouse where Williamsburg’s citizens and visitors met to share news, transact business, and debate politics. Meet people of the past and converse over coffee, tea, or velvety chocolate prepared in the 18th-century style. Tours offered every 15-20 minutes.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Anderson Blacksmith Shop: The Revolutionary War wasn’t won through battles alone. Virginia desperately needed a new armory to keep pace with the might of British industry. Watch blacksmiths take red-hot iron from the fires of their forges and hammer it into a variety of tools, hardware, and weapons.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brickyard: Discover the process of making bricks that will be used in building projects around town. During the summer, brickmakers mold and dry thousands of bricks. In the autumn, the bricks are baked in a giant wood-fired oven. Keep an eye out, too, for masons using these bricks in all sorts of projects around town.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Foundry: The Geddy family included gunsmiths, cutlers, founders, and silversmiths. On the site of their home and shop, watch founders cast and finish buckles, knobs, bells, spoons, and other objects in bronze, brass, pewter, and silver.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Guardhouse: The Magazine stands as a symbol of the Crown’s commitment to the common defense and the expansion of its empire. Visit the Guardhouse and discover how this military storehouse and Virginia’s diverse peoples shaped an empire and defined a new nation.

Related article: 10 Towns Older Than America

Gunsmith Shop: See how gunsmiths made rifles, pistols, and fowling pieces using the tools and techniques of their 18th-century predecessors and uniting many skills from forging iron to working wood.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Presbyterian Meetinghouse: In a time when only the Anglican Church was Virginia’s official religion, what did everyone else do on Sunday? Although Catholics and other non-Protestants were denied religious freedom, the government allowed many dissenting Protestants to worship in meetinghouses like this one.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Public Gaol: Thieves, runaway slaves, debtors, and political prisoners once paced the cells of the Public Gaol as they waited to be tried—or hanged. Perhaps its most notorious inmates were several pirates who had served under Blackbeard and were captured with him in 1718. Self-guided exploration of the cells where prisoners were held as they awaited trial and punishment.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arboretum & Gardens: More than 30 maintained gardens dot the 301-acre living history museum. The collection features 25-period species of oak trees. The Arboretum is home to 20 Virginia state champion trees and two national champion trees—the jujube and the Paper Mulberry.

America’s Historic Triangle

A visit to Colonial Williamsburg isn’t complete without visiting all the historic sites the area is known for. Must-sees include the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown and Yorktown Battlefield (where the American Revolution was won), and Jamestown Settlement (where America’s first permanent English colony came to life).

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Details

Colonial Williamsburg is open 365 days a year. Most Historic Trades and Sites are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After hours, check out Evening Programs which run well into the evening. The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Restaurant and store hours vary.

Admission tickets are required to enter buildings and experience programming in the Historic Area. With your ticket, enjoy interpreter-guided tours of the most iconic sites including the Capitol, Governor’s Palace, and Courthouse. Tradespeople work and share their craft in workspaces, gardens, yards, and at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your admission ticket also grants you access to multiple programs throughout the day on the Charlton and Play House stages as well as the newly expanded and updated Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg including stage programs and performances twice a day in the Hennage Auditorium. You’ll also be able to take advantage of a complimentary shuttle service and get seasonal discounts on carriage rides. Check the events calendar and seasonal activities pages to see what’s open and happening during your visit.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colonial Williamsburg offers several admission options and special offers to customize your visit. Tickets and passes currently available include:

  • Single-day ticket ($46.99)
  • Multiday ticket ($56.99)
  • Annual pass ($74.99)
  • Art museums single-day ticket ($14.99)
  • America’s Historic Triangle ticket ($109.90)

Worth Pondering…

The truth is, I love history and studied it in college with a particular focus on early American history. My love is so deep, in fact, I went to school at The College of William & Mary in Colonial Williamsburg.

—Alexandra Bracken

Discover more on a Texas-sized Outdoor Adventure

The diverse regions and terrain of Texas are nature made for sampling a wide variety of outdoor experiences

Outdoor recreation options in Texas are as big and wide as the state, thanks to a mind-boggling mix of landscapes. There are desert, rugged mountains, and wind-sculpted sand dunes in the far west; beaches, marshes, piney woods, and swamps in the east; and prairies, plains, plateaus, and rolling hills in between. Texas also has at least 3,000 caves and sinkholes, some of which, such as the Caverns of Sonora west of San Antonio, are open for tours.

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Add abundant sunshine and temperate weather conditions into the equation and Texas is a year-round destination for outdoor adventure. So, whether you want to embrace your inner cowboy at Bandara, the “Cowboy Capital of the World”, or try something new like camping in the sand dunes, Texas has you covered. Here’s a quick look at some of my favorite Texas destinations where you can explore and relax outdoors.

Scenic State Parks

The 95 Texas State Parks protect invaluable natural resources and offer an array of outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, horseback riding, and no-license fishing. Most parks charge a nominal entrance fee, well worth the price for access to the state’s natural wonders.

Palmetto State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Imagine a Texas swamp fed by warm mineral springs and occasional river flooding that provides a home to unique plant and animal life seldom seen almost anywhere else in Texas. This little piece of the tropics lies just an hour from Austin and San Antonio. With multiple sources of water including the San Marcos River, Palmetto State Park is a haven for a wide variety of animals and plants. Look for dwarf palmettos, the park’s namesake, growing under the trees.

Goose Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bounded by the waters of St. Charles, Copano, and Aransas bays, 314-acre Goose Island State Park is a coastal delight. Visitors engage in a variety of activities including camping, birding, fishing, boating, water sports, picnicking, hiking, photography, geocaching, and wildlife observation. A leisurely 1-mile hiking trail is available. Goose Island State Park is also known for the Big Tree—an enormous 1,000-year-old coastal live oak that has survived prairie fires, Civil War battles, and hurricanes.

The Big Tree © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Goliad State Park is a chance for a history lesson if you choose. The main attraction here is the Spanish colonial-era mission which dates back to the 1700s. But Goliad is also a hot spot for camping, kayaking, canoes, and river activities.

Goliad State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Round as a giant Easter egg, Enchanted Rock sits half-buried in the hills north of Fredericksburg. It’s a half-mile hike to the top but an unforgettable experience. The massive pink granite dome rises 425 feet above the base elevation of the park. Its high point is 1,825 feet above sea level and the entire dome covers 640 acres. Climbing the Rock is like climbing the stairs of a 30- to a 40-story building.

Listen to Onion Creek flowing over limestone ledges and splashing into pools. Follow trails winding through the Hill Country woods. Explore the remains of an early Texas homestead and a very old rock shelter. All of this lies within Austin’s city limits at McKinney Falls State Park. You can camp, hike, mountain or road bike, geocache, go bouldering, and picnic. You can also fish and swim in Onion Creek. Onion Creek can flood after rainfall.

McKinney Falls State Falls © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Urban Green Spaces

Nature is woven into the fabric of Texas’ biggest cities. Land conservation, public-private partnerships, and eco-friendly urban planning have created easy-access green spaces inside the city limits of places like Houston, San Antonio, and Austin.

Lady Johnson Bird Park neat Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A 12-acre park in the heart of downtown Houston, Discovery Green has a lake, water gardens, tree-shaded walks, grassy areas, and 100-year-old oak trees. Try out the new jogging trail that surrounds the park or splash around The Model Boat Pond.

In San Antonio, Emilie and Albert Friedrich Wilderness Park feature 600 acres of undeveloped Hill Country terrain with over 10 miles of paved and unpaved trails. Try the park’s rugged Vista Loop for clear-day vistas of the downtown skyline.

Lady Bird Wildlife Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Austin regularly ranks among the greenest urban areas in the U.S. The city, which manages more than 300 parks, is also home to McKinney Falls State Park, a limestone-and-waterfall wonderland. 284-acre Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is the state botanic garden and arboretum of Texas. The center is home to the most diverse collection of native plants in the state with more than 800 species represented from many of the major eco-regions of Texas.

Connecting many of Austin’s green spaces is a network of natural greenways including South Austin’s Barton Creek Greenbelt. The roughly eight-mile-long greenbelt is a popular jumping-off point for outdoor adventures like bouldering, biking, hiking, rock climbing, and soaking in an old-fashioned Texas swimming hole.

Blanco State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas-style Bike Trails

Biking in Texas is whatever you want it to be. The state’s wildly diverse topography means there are plenty of options for leisurely pedaling, adrenaline-pumping mountain biking, and everything in between. For a uniquely Texan experience, tackle the mountain biking trails at Flat Rock Ranch, a Hill Country cattle ranch-mountain biking venue 5 miles northeast of Comfort (50 miles northwest of San Antonio). Ease into the action on the meandering Green Loop before tackling challenging uphill climbs, steep descents, and big-thrill enduro runs (a type of mountain bike racing where only the downhill is timed).

Franklin Mountains State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas State Parks offer an unparalleled world of fun for bicyclists of all stripes. From the massive Franklin Mountains in El Paso to the wildlife-rich Copper Breaks, the scenery and terrain in Texas’ State Parks offer something for everyone —whether you’re a self-proclaimed “mountain bike maniac” or simply looking for a way to enjoy the great outdoors. The parks offer many opportunities to choose from—including road rides near some parks, rails-to-trails conversions where you can travel for miles along former railroad beds, and off-road experiences.

Driving Park Road 1C between Bastrop and Buescher state parks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bicycling in the Hill Country is a Lone Star treat. This challenging-yet-scenic ride through the shady Lost Pines of Central Texas is featured as part of the MS 150 benefit (first Saturday in May), a fundraising ride sponsored by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society that runs from Houston to Austin. The 12.5-mile stretch of Park Road 1C between these Bastrop and Buescher state parks offers a taste of what road riding has to offer and serious roadies can be combined with other area rides for longer routes. The road is open to vehicle traffic.

Fulton Mansion State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

State Historic Sites

Hike, pedal, or paddle through Texas history at a state historic site. Rising above the Aransas Bay and surrounded by stately live oaks, Fulton Mansion State Historic Site is located in Rockport-Fulton. The house must have appeared incredible in 1877 as it does today with its mansard roof and ornate trim. Interior gaslighting, flush-toilets and other refinements were progressive and luxurious elements for this period of Texas history.

Ruins of the Kreische brewery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1849, German immigrant Heinrich Ludwig Kreische purchased 172 acres of land including the Dawson/Mier tomb, now known as Monument Hill. In the 1860s, he utilized the spring water from the ravine below his house and started one of the first commercial breweries in Texas. Walk the ruins of this once bustling brewery and envision how Fayette County citizens would enjoy a pint of Kreische’s Bluff Beer.

National Museum of the Pacific War © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The National Museum of the Pacific War is the only institution in the continental U.S. dedicated to telling the story of the Pacific Theater in World War II. The six-acre campus in the heart of Fredericksburg includes exhibits and memorial areas. Artifacts from the war, both large and small, shape the exhibits which feature ships and planes, weapons, helmets, and uniforms of those who served.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.

Going far ahead of the road I have begun.

So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;

it has inner light, even from a distance.

—signage at Lady Bird Wildflower Center

History Comes Alive At Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson State Historic Site

History comes alive at Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson State Historic Site where Creek Indians, French Marines, and American Soldiers all left their marks

Good morning on the last day of May. Or is it June? Are we in 2022 yet? What is time? Honestly, the only thing we know is that it’s Saturday. Have a great weekend everyone—thanks as always for reading. 

Located just south of Wetumpka on a forested bluff where the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers meet to form the headwaters of the Alabama River, we enjoyed 165 acres of living history and natural beauty. The park showcases recreated Creek Indian houses, a 1751 French fort, the partially restored 1814 American Fort Jackson, a nature trail, and a campground. This historic site is operated by the Alabama Historical Commission.

Graves House Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After paying our $2/person admission fee, our first stop was the early 19th-century Graves House Visitor Center. Restored to its original appearance, the building now houses a small gift shop and museum.

Creek Indian houses represent two primary types of domestic structures used in the historic period. The fully enclosed buildings are winter houses and the open structure is for summer use. Until 1763, the lands within the park boundaries were home to the Alabama. This tribe was a member of the Creek Confederacy and eventually left with the French at the end of the Seven Years War (French and Indian War). The state of Alabama was named after this tribe.

Creek Indian homes © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1717, when this region was part of French Louisiana, the French built a fort near the strategically vital junction where the Tallapoosa and Coosa Rivers form the Alabama River. The fort was primarily a trading post where Indians exchanged fur pelts for guns and household items. There were no battles at the post as French diplomacy forged allies with the natives. The surrounding Indians wanted peace so they could trade with both the French and British.

Creek Indian homes © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We wandered Fort Toulouse, a re-creation of the last or 3rd French fort built between 1749 and 1751. A National Historic Landmark, the outside walls are constructed of split timbers that were not strong enough to stop a cannon shot but were ample protection against musket fire. Fences enclose the sides and rear of the building. On the inside, posts sunk into the ground were joined with mortise and tenon joints. There were two barracks in the fort each had four rooms for use by the troops. Along the southern wall is an igloo-shaped bread oven.

Fort Toulouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The French lost the French and Indian War and the fort in 1763. The site was abandoned by the French and the lands reverted to native occupation. Few vestiges of the French post were visible when a new large earthen fort was erected in 1814 and named by General Thomas Pinckney for his subordinate General Andrew Jackson.

Fort Toulouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following the French abandonment of Fort Toulouse in 1763 at the end of the French and Indian War, the river valley was peaceful as first the British and then the American nations claimed the region but few white men came to the area. Relations between the white settlers and Native peoples deteriorated in the first decade of the Nineteenth Century. The U. S. and Great Britain were at odds and by late 1813 the Creek War and the War of 1812 were underway. 

Fort Toulouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Jackson had a moat that was seven feet deep and dirt walls ranging in height from 7 ½ feet to 9 feet high. When finished the fort contained barracks space to house 200 soldiers. A garrison was kept here as the focus of these armies changed to the war with the British and activities occurring on the Gulf Coast. During this time thousands of troops passed through the site on their way south.

Fort Jackson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In August of 1814, the Treaty of Fort Jackson was signed officially ending the Creek War. The Creeks agreed to give the U. S. more than twenty million acres as reparations for the war. This land was the majority of what became the State of Alabama.

Fort Jackson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The one-mile-long William Bartram Nature Trail winds along the ridgeline and river bottoms at the southern end of the park. Of particular note along its path is a marker dedicated to Sergeant Jean Louis Fontenot who served at Fort Toulouse from 1735 to 1754. Next, we saw a cemetery just off the trail. Only one marker remains. There is also a marker dedicated to William Bartram, the famous naturalist who passed through this area in 1775, further down the trail. The nature trail offers wonderful bird-watching opportunities. During the spring and fall, migrants are present thought out the site. 

Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson State Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A 39 site RV campground overlooks the Coosa River. Each site includes an electric and water hook-up, a grill, and a concrete picnic table. There is a centrally located shower and bathhouse, plus a refuse facility at the campground entrance. Current RV Rates are $20.00/night; $18.00/night for seniors age 65+ and active or retired military with ID.

Worth Pondering…

Traveling is almost like talking with men of other centuries.

—René Descartes

Hopewell Furnace: Early American Iron Plantation

History is everywhere at Hopewell Furnace. It’s one of the “iron plantations” that began America’s transformation into an industrial giant.

In the woods of southeastern Pennsylvania, a community of men, women, and children worked to supply iron for the growing nation during the 18th and 19th centuries. They created a village called Hopewell that was built around an iron-making furnace.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is the best-preserved iron plantation in North America. Hopewell Furnace consists of a mansion (the big house), spring and smokehouses, a blacksmith shop, an office store, a charcoal house, and a schoolhouse.

From 1771 to 1883, Hopewell Furnace manufactured iron goods to fill the demands of growing eastern cities like Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore. While the most profitable items were stoves, the furnace cast many other objects such as kettles, machinery, grates, and cannon shot, and shells for patriot forces during the Revolutionary War.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As technology progressed, the furnace eventually became outdated. In 1883, it closed, and the furnace workers and their families left to make their living elsewhere. They left behind their homes, work buildings, tools, and other evidence of the iron-making community that once thrived.

Today the remains of Hopewell Furnace represent an important time in America’s maturation as a nation. The production of iron in hundreds of small furnaces like Hopewell provided the key ingredient in America’s industrial revolution, enabling the United States to become an economic and technological leader worldwide.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located on top of a hill the modern Visitor Center overlooks the colonial and early-1800s iron plantation that used slave and free labor. The 15-minute introductory film focuses on many topics including how Ironmaster Mark Bird (a colonel and quartermaster in the Continental Army) supported Washington’s forces with cannon, shot, shell, and even flour. The furnace produced 115 big guns for the Continental Navy. Other items once produced at the site included plowshares, pots, stoves, and scale weights.

Hopewell Furnace consists of 14 restored structures in the core historic area, 52 features on the National Register of Historic Places, and a total of 848 mostly wooded acres. The park’s museum contains nearly 300,000 artifacts and archival items related to the site’s history.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The impressive blast furnace and 30-foot water wheel, ironmaster’s mansion, workers’ quarters, a living farm, charcoal maker’s hut (otherwise known as a collier’s hut), and other structures illustrate the historic infrastructure typical of the charcoal-iron making process. What today’s visitors will not find is the noise, heat, and pollution that were ever-present in the community during the heyday of iron production.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition, there are plenty of apple trees ready to pick when in season and guests can also partake in apple butter making and cider pressing demonstrations. During the annual Sheep Shearing Day—held on Mother’s Day—visitors can learn about 19th-century shearing techniques and meet newly born lambs.

Hopewell Furnace lies at the center of 848-acre French Creek State Park and consists of 14 restored structures as well as the paths, fields, and meadows of the one-time working village. The buildings include a blast furnace, the ironmaster’s mansion, and auxiliary structures.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the site is an interesting visit for the hikers, backpackers, and campers who are spending time at French Creek State Park. Bird-watchers and nature photographers as well as history buffs enjoy the tours and picnics are encouraged.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are no entrance fees for persons or vehicles the entering park. The park is open year-round Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. During summer, the park is open 7 days per week 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. On days the park is closed, its historic buildings, parking lots, and visitor center (including restrooms) are unavailable for use but its hiking trails (which interconnect with those of neighboring French Creek State Park) remain open.

Except for the park’s visitor center and historic buildings, visiting Hopewell Furnace is largely an outdoor experience. Touring the site includes walking historic roadways and footpaths while exposed to outdoor conditions. Comfortable seasonal clothing and walking shoes are recommended.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Did You Know?

Cold blast charcoal-fired iron furnaces like Hopewell Furnace were in operation in Pennsylvania as early as 1720. Between 1832 and 1840, 32 such furnaces were built in the state. The U.S. census of 1840 recorded 212 charcoal-fired furnaces operating in Pennsylvania that year.

Worth Pondering…

Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of every day, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.

—Freya Stark

7 of the Most Visited National Historic Sites (NHS) in America

America is home to nearly 90 National Historic Sites stemming from the Historic Sites Act of 1935

From an Iron Plantation to presidential homes and an Old West trading post to a Cold War missile site, national historical sites offer visitors a new experience and a history lesson all in one. At historic sites across America, RVers and other travelers can enter into a different time, worldview, and social status with nothing more than a national park pass.

Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Historic Site (NHS) is a designation for an officially recognized area of national historic significance in the United States. An NHS usually contains a single historical feature directly associated with its subject. A related but separate designation, the National Historical Park (NHP) is an area that generally extends beyond single properties or buildings and its resources include a mix of historic and later structures and sometimes significant natural features.

There are currently 89 NHSs and 58 NHPs. Most NHPs and NHSs are managed by the National Park Service (NPS). Some federally designated sites are owned by local authorities or privately owned but are authorized to request assistance from the NPS as affiliated areas.

Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All historic areas including NHPs and NHSs in the NPS are automatically listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). There are also about 90,000 NRHP sites, the large majority of which are neither owned nor managed by the NPS. Of these, about 2,500 have been designated at the highest status as National Historic Landmark (NHL) sites.

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Using data from the National Park Service’s Annual Park Ranking Report for Recreational Visits, I’ve identified seven of the most popular National Historic Sites (NHS) around the United States. The historical sites are ranked based on the number of recreational visits each saw during 2020 and 2019.

How many of these most popular sites have you visited or planned to visit? From an important military outpost to a Gilded Age estate, something on this wide-ranging list is sure to spark some educational inspiration, a memory, or an upcoming road trip. Read on to see seven of the most popular historic sites in the country.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, New York

Recreational visits in 2020: 9,575

Recreational visits in 2019: 47,630

Celebrate the life of an early feminist icon, Eleanor Roosevelt, at her historical site in New York. Visitors can learn about the first lady’s advocacy for local farmers and artisans as well as tour the grounds where the Roosevelts would escape the bustle of the city.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, Pennsylvania

Recreational visits in 2020: 34,288

Recreational visits in 2019: 49,861

Known as an “iron plantation,” the Hopewell Furnace NHS illustrates how mining and producing iron ore spurred the United States to economic prosperity. Visitors to this Pennsylvania site can see demonstrations and hike the surrounding area which was originally farmland.

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Arizona

Recreational visits in 2020: 11,407

Recreational visits in 2019: 50,285

Hubbell Trading Post is the oldest operating trading post in the Navajo Nation. The Arizona historical site sells basic traveling staples as well as Native American art just as it did during the late 1800s.

Fort Davis National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Davis National Historic Site, Texas

Recreational visits in 2020: 35,920

Recreational visits in 2019: 51,995

Fort Davis was an important military post from the 1850s to the early 1900s for protecting the San Antonio-El Paso road. The fort launched military missions against Native Americans as European settlers traveled throughout the Southwest. Today, visitors can see re-enactments and tour the site at night by lantern.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, South Dakota

Recreational visits in 2020: 98,908

Recreational visits in 2019: 125,776

Commemorating the Cold War, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site offers visitors a history of the U.S. nuclear missile program and their hidden location in the Great Plains. The site details U.S. foreign policy and its push for nuclear disarmament.

Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, New York

Recreational visits in 2020: 40.091

Recreational visits in 2019: 147,109

See the place where Franklin D. Roosevelt was born and buried in Hyde Park at the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site. The home is also the location of the first presidential library.

Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, New York

Recreational visits in 2020: 217,231

Recreational visits in 2019: 326,822

The Vanderbilt Mansion is a symbol of a country in the grip of change after the Civil War. Visitors to the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site will learn about the architecture and landscaping of the grounds as well as the influence of the Vanderbilt family.

Worth Pondering…

History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.

—David McCullogh