Just over a year ago, the National Park Service celebrated its 100th birthday. But the story of our national parks began long before Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Act in 1916. It took John Muir’s writings that convinced the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, the Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks, Teddy Roosevelt “the conservation president,” who established five new national parks from 1901-1909 and many other unnamed heroes who have continued their great legacy. Today, the National Park Service includes more than 400 national parks, including 8 in the great state of Mississippi.
Each year the Park Service invites us to enjoy all that our parks have to offer by setting aside 10 times a year when we can visit free of charge. There are still two more entrance-free dates in 2017, September 30, National Public Lands Day and November 11 – 12, Veterans Day Weekend. Why not take advantage of the opportunity to take in the history, heritage and wonder of one of Mississippi’s national parks this fall.
Brice’s Cross Roads National Battlefield Site, Baldwyn, MS
The battle that took place here in June of 1864 may have been a victory for the Confederate army but it had long lasting effects that eventually cost them the war. Explore these sacred grounds, which include a memorial monument, informative markers, a church, a cemetery, and interpretive trails.
Gulf Islands National Seashore, Gulf Breeze, FL to Ocean Springs, MS
A true treasure of the Gulf, the Gulf Islands National Seashore features white sandy beaches, pristine water, historic forts, recreational activities, and more. The Davis Bayou Area, which is accessible by car, includes a nature trail, campground, boat launch and fishing.
Grand Gulf Military Monument Park, Port Gibson, MS
There’s no shortage of things to see and do at this 400-acre park, which features forts, a cemetery, museum, campgrounds, picnic areas, hiking trails, an observation tower and several restored buildings. The auto tour includes a church relocated from the ghost town Rodney, a historic cabin and a submarine that was once used by moonshine runners during prohibition.
Natchez National Historical Park, Natchez, MS
Natchez is rife with historically-significant sites and impressive architecture. The National Park Service deemed it the city with “The Richest History on the Mississippi River.” This historical park is made up of the Melrose Plantation, the William Johnson House, Fort Rosalie and an area known as the preservation district.
Natchez Trace Parkway, Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN
History and natural beauty abound along the Natchez Trace. For thousands of years this 450-mile trail was traveled by migrating animals, Native Americans, traders, missionaries and early settlers. Today, visitors can enjoy a scenic drive or bike ride, do some hiking or horseback riding and explore historic sites along the route.
Tupelo National Battlefield, Tupelo, MS
From July 14 – 15, 1864, more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers battled at this site. The extremely bloody fight and the hundreds of men, who lost their lives that day, are commemorated through the monuments and informative markers.
Shiloh National Military Park, Corinth, MS and Shiloh, TN
Although Shiloh National Military Park is actually located in Tennessee, it includes the Corinth Battlefield, which has 14 historic sites associated with the siege, battle and occupation of Corinth during the Civil War, as well as the Corinth Contraband Camp, once the home of 6,000 ex-slaves.
Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg, MS
This 1,800-acre park commemorates the siege and defense of the city of Vicksburg, once known as the “Key to the South” because of its strategic location on the Mississippi River. The park, which still bears the scars of trenches and fortifications hewn into the landscape by the men who fought and died there, contains 1,340 monuments, markers, tablets, and plaques, as well as exhibits, artifacts, and a museum.
Our national parks are among America’s greatest natural resources. They are a testament to the nation’s commitment to conservation and the preservation of our natural and man-made histories. They are not only “America’s Best Idea,” as chronicled in Ken Burns’ epic series on the history of the national parks, they are our greatest “green” solution, and are deserving of our care, our protection and our celebration!