Willamette Mission State Park, Oregon

Located at the end of the Oregon Trail, this state park memorializes the first Mission established here in 1834 by the Methodist Reverend Jason Lee. The Reverend’s mission was unsuccessful, but the Methodists were a prominent voice in Oregon’s political arena. The park features a monument dedicated to Jason Lee, an operating car ferry landing (still in use since its establishment in 1844 when it floated covered wagons across the Willamette River), and ample recreational opportunities. Of natural interest is an ancient black cottonwood tree (older than 250 years) growing in the park that is alleged to be the largest in the world at 155 feet high.

Willamette Mission State Park is located off Wheatland Road, 8 miles north of Salem.

Rhyolite Historic Area, Nevada

Rhyolite is one of Nevada’s most famous and accessible early 20th century gold-mining boom towns turned ghost town. The crumbling brick fa├žade of the town’s former Cook Bank Building is purported to be the most photographed ghost town building in the west. When gold was discovered here in 1904, people flocked to Rhyolite and its population soon burgeoned to 5,000 – 10,000 people. The thriving boomtown was home to saloons, railroads, newspapers, an opera house, grocery stores, barber shops, a red-light district, and many others. In less than a decade, however, the town began to decline. By 1920 the town was all but abandoned. Today, visitors may wander the ghost town, visit the Rhyolite Bottle House or the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad Depot. While out there, add these other heritage sites to your route: the Lunar Crater Volcanic Field; the ET (Extraterrestrial) Highway, and the Central Nevada Museum in Tonopah.

Rhyolite is located 4 miles southwest of Beatty, Nevada on State Route 374. From the turn-off, travel 3 miles on a gravel road to the recreation area. The site is staffed by Bureau of Land Management personnel. There is no admission fee.

Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, Arizona

Tubac Presidio State Historic Park preserves the remnants of a military fort established by the Spanish in 1752 to control the local Pima and Apache Indians and to serve as a base for further exploration of the Southwest. The old Spanish fort has been excavated by archaeologists from the University of Arizona. An underground display features portions of the original foundation, walls, and plaza floor of the fort uncovered by the archaeologists. A museum at the site exhibits archaeological remains of Arizona’s first European settlement, and displays on the pre-European, Spanish colonial, Mexican Republic, and territorial periods. The park also preserves the historic Old Tubac Schoolhouse (circa 1885) and Otero Social Hall (circa 1914), which are both on the National Register of Historic Places.

The park is located 45 miles south of Tucson off Interstate 19 near the community of Tubac.

Fort Canby State Park, Washington

Fort Canby (now known as Cape Disappointment) ┬ábears the distinction as the state’s first military installation. Constructed in 1852 to guard the mouth of the Columbia River, it was part of the defensive triad that included Fort Columbia and Fort Stevens (located on the Oregon side of the river.) The confluence of the Columbia and the Pacific Ocean was a historically significant destination that attracted Native peoples, European explorers, and the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition. This state park preserves some scattered remnants of the fortification, the oldest functioning lighthouse in the state built in 1856 (Cape Disappointment Lighthouse), and North Head Lighthouse. One of the park’s significant attractions is the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center that is sited on the bluffs overlooking the merging waters of river and ocean. It was near this point on November 7, 1805, that Lewis and Clark first glimpsed the Pacific Ocean.

Fort Canby State Park is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River, two miles southwest of Ilwaco off US Hwy. 101.

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (Skagway Unit), Alaska

The discovery of gold in Canada’s Yukon brought thousands of gold hungry “stampeders” to Skagway and Dyea, Alaska. Skagway, at the head of the White Pass Trail, was the place where thousands of goldseekers poured ashore and went up the trail into Canada. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park features 15 restored buildings within the Skagway Historic District and administers the Chilkoot Trail and White Pass Trail units. Included in the park is a portion of the Dyea Townsite at the foot of the Chilkoot Trail. The park’s visitor center is in Skagway. The southernmost post of the park that commemorates the stampeders’ route is in Seattle at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.

Skagway, Alaska is located 80 miles by air north of Juneau at the northern end of Alaska’s Inside Passage. Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, is 110 miles by road north of Skagway. TRANSPORTATION: To Park: Access to Skagway is by small airplane, Alaska Marine Highway ferry vessels, cruise ships, train/bus (summer only), and vehicle on the Klondike Highway. In Park: Local tour and taxi operators offer transportation within the Skagway Historic District and to the Chilkoot trailhead in Dyea; bicycle; rental and personal vehicle.

Harkin Store, Minnesota

This 19th century general store is a virtual time capsule. After the railroad passed by the town in 1873, trade diminished, and the store was abandoned with most of its inventory in situ. Today, the Brown County Historical Society maintains the store and staffs it with costumed interpreters. Couple a trip to the Harkin Store with your visit to nearby New Ulm, a picturesque town settled in the mid-1850s and located along the Minnesota River. The town’s significant role in the 1862 Dakota Conflict is examined in detail at the Brown County Historical Museum. Many of the buildings in New Ulm reflect the town’s Germanic heritage, including the August Schell Brewing Company and the Hermann Monument.

Harkin Store is located at 2 North Broadway on County Hwy. 21, eight miles northwest of New Ulm.

Alamance Battleground, North Carolina

Alamance Battleground preserves the site of an 1771 battle between armed farmers from the North carolina backcountry, called “Regulators,” and the colonial militia led by royal governor William Tryon. The Regulators had a number of grievances against the colonial government. These grievances were not yet, as they would be in a few years, with the form of the government itself, but rather with official abuses such as excessive taxes, dishonest sheriffs, imposition of illegal fees, and even the scarcity of money with which to pay the taxes and fees they owed. The association of “Regulators” was formed in the backcountry in 1768 to address the farmers’ grievances to officials in the eastern part of the colony. When their appeals to the government failed, the Regulators refused to pay taxes and fees, resisted administration of the law, and disrupted court proceedings. Governor Tryon mustered the militia, and marched against the Regulators in the spring of 1771. On May 16, the militia confronted about 2,000 Regulators on the banks of Alamance Creek in the heart of the backcountry. The relatively undisciplined Regulators were completely unable to hold their own against the colonial militia (who were about to prove in a few years that they could not stand in the field against real professional soldiers). The militia lost nine killed and sixty-one wounded; Regulator losses were much greater. Tryon executed seven of the fifteen prisoners he took. Many Regulators moved on to other frontier areas beyond North Carolina. Those who stayed were offered pardons by the governor in exchange for pledging an oath of allegiance to the royal government. Alamance Battleground is preserved today with a granite monument that was erected as a memorial in 1880. The park grounds also contain the Allen House, a log dwelling characteristic of the frontier, built by backcountry farmer John Allen around 1780 for his family. The house was moved to Alamance Battleground and restored after John Allen’s descendants donated it to the state of North Carolina in 1967.

Alamance Battleground is located in Burlington, North Carolina 27215. Burlington is in central North Carolina, off Interstate 40/85 between Durham and Greensboro. From Interstate 40/85 in Burlington take N.C. 62 south (exit 143). Follow the directional signs on N.C. 62 for approximately six miles. The site entrance is located on the right.

James K. Polk Memorial State Historic Site, North Carolina

James K. Polk was one of the most successful American presidents, at least in his own terms. He set out so complete the annexation of Texas, acquire California from Mexico, settle the boundary of the Oregon Territory, and lower the tariff. He accomplished these things, and went home at the end of one term to Tennessee. Unfortunately, his acquisition of the southwestern territories from Mexico ignited the last stage of the long dispute over the expansion of slavery, and resulted in Civil War just eleven years after Polk left office. Polk himself died less than four months after leaving office. This site is located on land once owned by Polk’s parents. The memorial commemorates significant events in the Polk administration: the Mexican War, settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute, and the annexation of California. Reconstructions of typical homestead buildings-a log house, separate kitchen, and barn-are authentically furnished. The Visitor Center features a film on Polk’s life and civic contributions.

The James K. Polk Memorial is located in near Charlotte, North Carolina. From Interstate 77 south of Charlotte take Interstate 485 east (Exit 2). At the Pineville exit take U.S. 521 south through the town of Pineville for about one and one-half miles. The Polk Memorial is on the left.

Blue Licks Battlefield State Park, Kentucky

I first read the story of the Battle of Blue Licks as a kid growing up in nearby southern Ohio. It struck me then, and it strikes me now, as one of the sadder stories of its kind from the frontier period. The salt springs at the site had attracted animals for millennia and formed a center of Indian life. Early settler frequented the place to obtain badly needed salt supplies. Indians captured Daniel Boone here while he was making salt for his settlement. (He later made a daring and famous escape.) But the sad part of the story came in 1782. Blue Licks is most renowned as the site of the last battle of the Revolutionary War in Kentucky. In 1782, Kentucky militia pursued a raiding party of Indians and British soldiers to the vicinity of Blue Licks. Ignoring the warnings of Daniel Boone and others, the militia commander ordered an attack right into a perfect ambush spot. The merits of the location had not escaped the Indians and British, and the Kentuckians suffered great losses, including Boone’s son, Israel. During the nineteenth century, the mineral springs made Blue Licks a popular health resort. Today the park has recreational facilities, a lodge, nature trails, and a museum of frontier and Native American life.

The park is located 48 miles northeast of Lexington on US 68.

Fort Fetterman State Historic Site, Wyoming

Fort Fetterman was established in 1867 as a defensive post by the U.S. military. It was one of four forts established along the Bozeman Trail to protect the westward-bound travelers. The other three, Forts Reno, Kearny and Smith, were deactivated in 1868, leaving Fort Fetterman as the lone bastion along the trail. Named in memory of Captain Willliam J. Fetterman, killed in a battle with Indians near Fort Kearny in 1866, the fort was in service for 15 years before deactivation. Fort Fetterman’s significance peaked during the middle 1870s when it served as the base of operations for several military campaigns against the Indians. When hostilities in the region ceased, the fort’s importance declined, and it was abandoned in 1882. Today the fort is a state historic site open to the public. Two of the restored, original buildings, an officer’s quarters and an ordnance warehouse, house exhibits highlighting the fort’s history and that of the region. Visitors are encouraged to walk the interpretive trail through the site. Historic guided tours are available upon request, and the park hosts the annual Fort Fetterman Days, a living history event.

Fort Fetterman State Historic Site is located approximately 7 miles north of Douglas, Wyoming on Highway 93, take Exit 140 off I-25.