Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Hawaii

Most Americans, at least most Americans in the forty-nine continental states, don’t realize that the encounter of native Hawaiians with Europeans has been nearly as tragic as the encounter with Native Americans on the continent. Europeans brought their diseases to Hawaii just as they did to North America, and just as in North America, the native population did not have the immunity to resist them. The need to cope with the new diseases led to two tragedies on the Kalaupapa Peninsula on the north shore of the island of Moloka`I: first the removal of indigenous people from the peninsula in 1865 and 1895, and second the forced isolation of sick people there from 1866 until 1969. Hansen’s disease, commonly called leprosy, kills very slowly, but it causes such horrible disfigurement that victims in many cultures were removed from the contact with society, forced into isolation, and stigmatized for life. Leprosy reached Hawaii in the 1830s. By the mid-nineteenth century, the Hawaiian people suffered death and disfigurement at alarming rates. The Kingdom of Hawai`i took action by setting aside land on the Kalaupapa Peninsula for confining leprosy patients, removing the native residents of the peninsula, and requiring police and district justices to arrest any persons suspected of having leprosy. Within the Kalaupapa National Historical Park are the historic Hansen’s disease settlements of Kalaupapa and Kalawao, including the settlement where Father Damien (Joseph De Veuster) worked and died of the disease. The community of Kalaupapa, on the leeward side of Kalaupapa Peninsula, is still home for many surviving Hansen’s disease patients.

Location Information and Directions

Links: Kalaupapa National Historical Park

Baranof Castle State Historic Site, Alaska

Baranof Castle State Historic Site commemorates the ceremony held here on October 18, 1867 that transfered Alaska from Russia to the United States for the sum of $7.2 million. From the early 1800s, Castle Hill was the home of the Russian governors and served as the colonial capitol of Russian-America. After the Russians left, the building was utilized by the U.S. military for a time and then abandoned. The “Castle” burned to the ground in 1894. Recent archaeological investigations and data analysis continue to contribute to our understanding of this era in Alaskan heritage. Although no structures remain, today’s visitors may access the site. Castle Hill is both a State Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark. It is surrounded by a stone enclosure with interpretive plaques and artfully placed Russian cannons. With its superb view of Sitka Sound, it is obvious why the Tlingit and subsequently the Russians chose to occupy this location.

Location Information and Directions

Links: Baranof Castle State Historic Site

Hoover Dam, Nevada

When Hoover Dam was built in the 1930’s, it was the highest dam ever built, the costliest water project ever, and home of the largest power plant in the world. Hoover Dam is 726.4 feet from foundation rock to the roadway on its crest. It weighs more than 6,600,000 tons, and contains three and one-quarter million cubic yards of concrete.Hover Dam The maximum water pressure at the base of the dam is 45,000 pounds per square foot. Lake Mead, created by the waters of the Colorado River behind the dam, is 580 feet deep and 120 miles long. Hoover Dam was built during the Depression by thousands of men working in a dry and harsh country, and it still took less than five years. The project was the initiative of Herbert Hoover during his tenure as Secretary of Commerce in the 1920’s. Construction began under President Hoover. Hoover Dam is a National Historic Landmark and a wonder of the world.

Location Information and Directions

Links: Hoover Dam (BLM Web Site)

Grand Coulee Dam (Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area), Washington

I’m breaking my own rules by including the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, which includes the Grand Coulee Dam, in the Wonders of the World category. We intended that category only for Pyramids, the Gardens of Babylon, and the other famous wonders of the ancient world. But I can’t help myself when it comes to the Grand Coulee Dam. The Grand Coulee Dam is so awesome, so incredible, and just so huge, that the great Woody Guthrie wrote not one, but two songs about it:

“The world holds seven wonders,
As the travelers always tell.
Some gardens and some towers
I guess you know them well.
But now the greatest wonder
Is in Uncle Sam’s fair land
At king Columbia River,
The great Grand Coulee Dam!”

And again:

“Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn
So roll on, Columbia, roll on
On up the river is the Grand Coulee Dam,
The mightiest thing ever built by a man
To run the great factories and water our land
Roll on, Columbia, roll on.”

When I first saw the Grand Coulee Dam, my reaction was that it had to be a work of nature, that no one could possibly have built it. Go there, look up at it from below, look down from on top of it, and you’ll see what I mean. The Grand Coulee Dam is now a relic from a period that is now hard to imagine, when government, of all things, moved earth and water to bring lights and irrigation to thousands. (They also moved the salmon when they authorized construction of The Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Complex.)

Location Information and Directions

Links: Grand Coulee Dam

Cape Blanco Lighthouse, Oregon

The Cape Blanco Lighthouse is distinguished as the state’s oldest continuously operating lighthouse, the highest above sea level, and the westernmost of Oregon’s lighthouses. Completed in 1870, the lighthouse sits atop the precipitous, chalky cliffs of the same name (the Spanish explorer Martin d’Anguilar named this promontory in 1603). The height of the light atop the 59-foot conical tower combined with the cliff height give it a focal plane of 245 feet above mean sea level — its beacon can be seen from 22 miles out to sea. The lighthouse was automated in 1980, and today it is managed by The Bureau of Land Management. Visitors are welcome to tour the lighthouse, grounds, and tower. The visitor center museum has local history exhibits.

Location Information and Directions

Links: Cape Blanco Lighthouse

Three Island Crossing State Park, Idaho

Three Island Crossing State Park preserves one of the most famous river crossings on the Oregon Trail. The trail crossed through 500 miles of the territory that became the state of Idaho. It entered what is now Idaho at the southeast corner of the state. At present-day Fort Hall (between Idaho Falls and Pocatello), it joined the Snake River, and followed the south bank of the river until it reached the Three Island Crossing near present-day Glenns Ferry. At the crossing, the emigrants faced a difficult choice. They could risk the dangerous crossing, and find a shorter route, more potable water, and better feed for the stock on the north side of the river. Or they could avoid the danger of the crossing, and endure a dry, rocky route along the south bank of the river. About half of the emigrants attempted the crossing, and many casualties are recounted in emigrant diaries. The Three Island ford was used by pioneer travelers until 1869, when a ferry was constructed about two miles upstream. Three Island Crossing looks much as it did 150 years ago. The new Oregon Trail History and Education Center at the park offers self-guided tours of the Snake River crossing, aas well as exhibits and artifacts from the Oregon Trail era.

Location Information and Directions


Lemhi Pass National Historic Landmark, Montana

Lemhi Pass is located along the Continental Divide, at 7,323 feet above sea level. It was here in 1805 that Lewis and Clark passed out of the boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase Territory. They also got their first glimpse of the headwaters of the Columbia River, that would carry them to the Pacific Ocean. Today, the Lemhi Pass area remains much as it did when Lewis and Clark were in the area. Development has been kept to a minimum, and as a result, plant and animal life are abundant. Signs and markers interpret the activities of Lewis and Clark during the summer months.

Location Map and Directions.


Trail End State Historic Site, Wyoming

In 1879, a 21-year old Texas cowpuncher drove a herd of longhorns to Wyoming. Within a few years, John B. Kendrick (that cowpuncher turned cattle baron) had amassed a fortune in the Wyoming cattle boom of the 1880s, and commissioned Montana architect Glenn Charles McAlister to design a home for his family. Completed in 1913, the 18-room Flemish Revival mansion was built in the center of Sheridan. The home included some early 20th century state-of-the-art technologies: a central vacuum system, electricity, and plumbing. Kendrick named his elegant new home “Trail End,” even though he was about to embark on a new trail, this time as a civic-minded politician. In 1910, John B. Kendrick was elected to the state senate, was elected Governor in 1914, and in 1917 began a distinguished career in the U.S. Senate. Today, Trail End is maintained as a museum/home that depicts the early 20th century era of the well-heeled Kendrick family. Self-guided tours include the mansion, carriage house, and the extensive gardens and grounds. Trail End is also a repository for archive and photograph collections specific to local and regional history. This architecturally significant home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

Location Information and Directions

Links: Trail End State Historic Site

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, Nebraska

After Lewis and Clark held council with members of the Otoe and Missouri Nations, high on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, Clark noted that the site was “well calculated for a tradeing establishment”. Based upon this recommendation, Fort Atkinson, the first military post west of the Mississippi, was constructed by the Yellowstone Expedition in 1819. The fort was originally named Camp Council Bluff, as it was built adjacent to the site of Lewis and Clark’s council. The name was eventually changed to Fort Atkinson, in honor of Colonel Henry Atkinson, commander of the Yellowstone Expedition. Fort Atkinson was in use from 1820 to 1827, and housed a garrison of 1,000 men. The garrison protected the western fur trade as well as overland traffic along the Platte River Valley. Fort Atkinson was the starting point for many of the early expeditions to the southwest and such settlements of Taos and Santa Fe. Fort Atkinson was abandoned in 1827 as southern trails grew in importance. After abandonment, Fort Atkinson succumbed to the need for farmland, and was destroyed. Local preservationists came to the aid of the fort in 1963 when the land was purchased and a restoration drive began. Today, after many donations, Fort Atkinson has been reconstructed, including the stone blockhouse and north, south and west walls which include the barracks. Bastions at the northwest and southeast corners have also been reconstructed.

Location information and directions.

Links: Fort Atkinson

Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial, South Dakota

The prairie town of De Smet, South Dakota is better known as “The Little Town on the Prairie,” the setting for the famous novels by Laura Ingalls Wilder, including “By the Shores of Silver Lake,” “The Long Winter,” and “These Happy Golden Years.” The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial preserves two homes in which Laura Ingalls and her family lived in the late nineteenth century. They spent the winter of 1879, their first winter on the Dakota prairies, in the Surveyors’ House (the house described in “By the Shores of Silver Lake”). Charles Ingalls built a larger home for the family in 1887. After the death of Laura Ingalls Wilder in 1957, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society was founded in DeSmet to preserve the family’s former homes. Both the Surveyors’ House, which is now the oldest building in De Smet, and the Ingalls Home have been restored for touring. The Ingalls Home in particular displays many artifacts and original belongings of the Ingalls and Wilder families.

Location Information and Directions

Links: Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial