10 Great Things To Do At Harry S Truman National Historic Site

This post is courtesy of Harry S Truman Historic Site. You can also find them on Facebook and on twitter @HarrySTrumanNPS

Harry S Truman summed it up best when he was asked at a press conference whether he planned to return to Independence after he left the White House. He responded bluntly, “Certainly! That’s my home.” Today, visitors to Harry S Truman National Historic Site experience the home and surroundings the 33rd President knew when he was a young man who had modest ambitions in politics, as well as the final years as a former president.

Harry Truman house

Though not on the grand scale of a Monticello, Mount Vernon, or Hyde Park, the rambling 19th Century Victorian at 219 N. Delaware, Truman’s home before and after his presidency, has become an iconic spot and a popular tourist destination. Overall, five properties relating to Truman are preserved by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, and each reflect the practical, middle-America lifestyle that was interwoven into Truman and his family.

Below are the top ten things visitors should see and do while visiting Harry S Truman National Historic Site:

Take a ranger-guided tour through the Truman Home: The Truman Home offers a glimpse of the personal life of the 33rd President of the United States. Beautiful in its uncluttered commonness, the Truman Home showcases the simple life Truman and his wife Bess enjoyed in Independence before and after his presidency. Preserved following the passing of Bess in 1982, the home and collection contains over 50,000 objects relating to the Trumans, including Harry’s 1972 Chrysler still sitting in the garage.

Harry Truman national historic site kitchen

Visit the Noland Home, located across from the Truman Home, where Harry’s favorite cousins lived. While visiting in 1910, Truman returned a borrowed cake plate from across the street, an experience that reconnected him with his childhood friend Bess Wallace which led to a nine year courtship and 62 year marriage. Self-guided exhibits explore the courtship, the extended Truman family, and life in the Independence neighborhood. Following restoration, the home is scheduled to open in spring 2012.

Head down to the farm: Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, take a ranger-guided tour of the historic 1894 farmhouse at the Truman Farm in nearby Grandview. Experience what farm life was like for Harry as a young man from 1906 to 1917.

Harry Truman farm house

Take a stroll on the grounds (5+acres) of the farm, or take a self-guided audio tour to learn more about the historic farm that was established by Harry’s grandfather and once sprawled over 600 acres.

Back in Independence, catch the park’s free introductory film highlighting the Truman family and their home at 219. N. Delaware during and after the presidency. Film plays daily every 15 minutes in the visitor center at 223 N. Main.

Children ages 5-12 can take part in the Junior Ranger program and learn more about young Harry and Bess, the National Park Service, and why the Truman Home and surroundings are worth preserving.

Who lived next door to the president? Where were the Secret Service stationed? Listen to an audio/cell phone tour to learn more about Truman Home, Truman Farm, or the neighborhood to find out many interesting stories and information. Use your Smartphone to explore more of the sights and sounds of Truman’s hometown.

Follow in the footsteps of the president: Truman walked one to two miles almost every morning around Independence. Visitors can take the self-guided walking tour and see up-close Truman-related sites following his route.

Don’t forget to check out the park’s bookstore for material highlighting Harry Truman, the presidency, Independence, and much more.

Explore the park’s visitor center with changing exhibits located inside Independence’s historic 1927 fire station.

Harry S Truman National Historic Site is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets for guided tours of the home, offered throughout the day starting at 9 a.m., cost $4 (free for children 15 and younger) and are available at the site’s visitor center, off Independence Square at 223 North Main.

Ute Rock Art Arches National Park

As people hurry to make their way to the ever popular Delicate Arch at Arches National Park, they often skip a short quarter mile loop on the left near the beginning of the Delicate Arch trail that takes hikers to some beautiful Ute rock art:

Ute rock art Arches national park

Ute rock art big horn sheep Arches national park

This is what the information sign at the rock art says:

The stylized horse and rider surrounded by bighorn sheep and dog-like animals is typical of Ute rock art, Carved sometime between A.D. 1650 and 1850, these petroglyphs are visible along the vertical wall ahead,

Today, this rock art panel is important to many Native Americans of this region because it was created by their ancestors. Help protect the rock art by not touching it. Oils from your skin hasten deterioration of these fragile and irreplaceable cultural resources.

It’s a huge mistake to skip this little gem because you are too focused on making your way up to Delicate Arch. It really isn’t much of a hike and is well worth making the short detour.

Top 10 National Parks For Kids

I always have to take top 10 national park lists with a grain of salt, especially when they are as subjective as the top 10 national parks for kids. The truth of the matter is that almost all national parks within the national park system are an excellent place to take kids and provide them with numerous activities and learning experiences. This makes picking the top ten national parks for kids a pretty arbitrary exercise that will leave out many excellent national parks that would clearly rank equally with the parks mentioned.

Grand Canyon national park

That being said, the writers at the About national & State Parks guide put together their list of what they felt were the best national parks for kids. Here is what the came up with:

Acadia National Park
Biscayne National Park
Cape Cod National Seashore
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Grand Canyon National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Yellowstone National Park
Yosemite National Park

Not taking anything away from the parks mentioned on the list, I had a hard time believing that Dinosaur National Monument wouldn’t make a list of top parks for kids. I guess that while it certainly was a gallant attempt at giving parents a guide to what national parks their children might enjoy, it really is a nearly impossible task when so many of the national parks are kid friendly. What would you consider to be an excellent national park for kids that didn’t make the list?

2011 National Parks Holiday Celebrations

‘Tis the season! From Alaska to Georgia, there are countless holiday activities to enjoy in America’s national parks. Today, the National Park Foundation, the official charity of American’s national parks, revealed some of the not-to-be-missed holiday festivities to check out this season.

Each year, the National Park Foundation and National Park Service kick-off the holiday season in Washington, D.C.’s President’s Park with the National Christmas Tree Lighting. This year, the National Christmas Tree Lighting can be seen LIVE December 1 at www.thenationaltree.org beginning with the pre-show at 4:30 pm ET. However, in addition to this 89 year-old tradition, there are a plethora of outstanding events national park visitors around the country can participate in.

Alaska – Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park: December 2, 2011, join in the holiday cheer with performances by local talent, sing along carols, stories, poems and refreshments at the Yuletide Christmas Concert in the National Park Service Auditorium.

Colorado – Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site: December 2 and 3, witness the joys, pleasures and pastimes of the 1840s at an isolated trading post with candlelight tours of the fort.

GeorgiaFort Pulaski National Monument: Work off that turkey dinner at the Thanksgiving Field Day. On November 27, Fort Pulaski will commemorate the 149th anniversary of the Grand Thanksgiving Fete and Festival of 1862 by recreating the 48th New York Infantry first Thanksgiving in the fort with activities for all ages including foot, sack and wheelbarrow races, demonstrations and a Civil War garb burlesque parade.

IndianaIndiana Dunes National Lakeshore: On December 10, visitors can take part in Holiday Traditions in the Dunes including activities in four different park locations, tree decorating and a live performance from Nordic Kids.

Iowa – Herbert Hoover National Historic Site: December 2 through December 4, the birthplace of Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States, will host “A Christmas Past” events.

Louisiana – Cane River Creole National Historical Park: Stop by the Magnolia Plantation Overseer’s house on December 10 for Christmas crafts and live music by the LaCour Trio. The whole plantation complex will be open for self guided tours.

Missouri – Jefferson National Expansion Memorial: Come out and enjoy the 2011 Historic Holiday Traditions Weekend Series on December 3, December 10 and December 17. The Historical Old Courthouse will feature music and activities that will take place in the rotunda, which will be adorned beautifully with Victorian decorations. Complimentary cookies and juice will be served during all weekend events.

Montana – Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site: On December 4, explore the elegant Kohrs’ family ranch house. It will be decorated to reflect a Victorian Christmas.

Nebraska – : Homestead National Monument of AmericaFrom November 25 through December 31, the Winter Festival of Prairie Cultures celebrates the winter traditions of people who lived on the Great Plains during the homesteading era.

New Mexico – Petroglyph National Monument: On November 26, visitors can celebrate the beginning of the 2011 winter season at a Holiday Open House at the Visitor Center. Light holiday refreshments will also be served. A traditional horno oven Pueblo Indian bread baking demonstration will take place.

New York – Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site: Visit the Vanderbilt Mansion from November 25 to December 21 to view the holiday decorations; or kick off the holiday season at the special Holiday Open House on December 4.

Ohio – Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Journey to the North Pole on The Polar Express Children’s Holiday Train November 17 through December 20. Enjoy hearing a reading of The Polar Express en route to the North Pole. Passengers are encouraged to wear their pajamas. Cookies and hot chocolate are served.

Pennsylvania – Steamtown National Historic Site: Join in the merriment and festivities aboardthe steam-powered “Holiday Express” rides to Moscow, Pennsylvania on November 23, 24 and December 1. Enjoy holiday songs, stories and other fun activities for the childrenat both the former passenger station and freight depots.

Utah – Golden Spoke National Historic Site: From December 28 – 30, visitors can take part in the annual Winter Steam Festival and watch one of their locomotives in action, as well as at rest in the same spot where the transcontinental railroad was completed over 142 years ago.

WashingtonFort Vancouver National Historic Site: Friday evenings through mid-December visitors take park in a guided lantern tour through the Fur Store, the Counting House, and Bake House. You will learn what activities would have occurred once the sun set at Fort Vancouver

Washington, D.C. The White House and President’s Park: After kicking off the holiday season with The National Christmas Tree Lighting on December 1st, visitors are invited to Santa’s Workshop to meet Santa and his elves and enjoy holiday music performances throughout the month of December.

For more information on these and any other events happening in America’s national parks, please visit www.nps.gov.

Better Food For National Parks Initiative

Golden Gate Bridge at Golden Gate National Recreation Area

OK, I think this is a fabulous idea — having the National Parks across the US provide the local, seasonable food for the area the park is located as (at the very least) an option for those visiting the parks. I’m not the only one that thinks that way. The Institute at the Golden Gate’s Food for the Parks initiative has the goal of expanding the availability of local, nutritious, and sustainable fresh food to all National Park visitors. This program hopes to take advantage and leverage the National Park Service’s purchasing power to make small changes in the food supply chain which will ultimately affect the food systems across the country and beyond.

In order to achieve these goals, the Institute put together two publications which it hopes that the National Parks in conjunction with food service providers will use as a guide to take the needed steps to continue to help spread this idea.

The first of these is called Food for the Parks: Case Studies of Sustainable Food in America’s Most Treasured Places. This PDF document highlights parks and concessionaires which have already implemented healthy and sustainable food programs. Looking at these programs, it pinpoints the best practices of these programs so that these can be adopted by other parks around the country.

The second of these is called Food for the Parks: A Roadmap to Success. This PDF document can be used as a sort of toolkit by providing strategies and ideas to help initiate and inspire collaboration among the parks and food service providers. It encourages the two to be partners in order to create a fresh, healthy, and sustainable food program which can be used in parks or any other similar places across the country.

The best part of the Food for the Parks initiative is that it ultimately can become a model to help encourage ongoing incremental improvement within the current large-scale food system that reaches far beyond just the National Parks system. Having the National Parks service leverage its buying power to requests improved food offerings by concessionaires, these new choices will become available not only to the National Park service, but to all the concessionaire’s customers as well. This would include the better food choices being available to institutions such as hospitals, sports stadiums, and universities. The hope is that by working together, National Parks and food providers can both create and expand markets for sustainable foods and products which in turn will reduce the impact on the environment while benefiting local economies which surround the parks.

Does this sound like an initiative that the national parks should be doing?

Fallen Giant Redwood Dynamited At Redwood National Park

What happens when a giant California coastal redwood tree falls in a wind and rain storm? This was the question that the rangers at Redwood National Park had to solve recently when an eight foot diameter redwood fell across the popular Newton P. Drury Scenic Parkway in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The decision? Forget chainsaws and bulldozers — get out the dynamite. That’s exactly what they did, and they hope to have the road opened by the end of this week:

fallen giant redwood tree gets dynamited at Redwoods National Park

While the reopening of the road will be appreciated by those wishing to drive the scenic route, bicyclists and hikers may be a little less enthusiastic. With the tree forcing the closure of the road for about the last month, bicyclists and hikers have been taking the rare opportunity to see Atlas Grove and the Procession of Giants without any vehicle traffic.

Somehow I don’t think the entire dynamite process was quite a spectacular as when National Forest personal decided to use dynamite to blow up a beached whale. Enjoy (thanks Kevin in comments)

Photo courtesy of the NPS. More information can be obtained at //www.nps.gov/redw

Behunin Cabin Capitol Reef National Park

When you enter Capitol Reef National Park from the east on highway 24, one of the first landmarks you come across is Behunin Cabin. Although the structure may not look all that impressive in its grandeur, I found it extremely impressive for where it was and how well it was built.

Behunin Cabin at Capitol Reef national park

the window frame of Behunin Cabin Capitol Reef

The information sign by the cabin give a peek into how life was in the area when the Capitol Reef area was first settled:

In 1882 Elija Cutler Behunin and his family built this cabin, and stayed a brief time until the rising river washed out their crops. Behunin was one of the first settlers in this area.

A family of ten lived here. Braided rugs covered the dirt floor. Ends of dress materials became curtains. There was a fireplace to cook in, and a water supply near the door. The family probably ate outside.

Father, mother, and the two smallest children slept in the cabin. The post bed almost filled one side of the room. By widening a dugout in the cliff, the older boys had a place to sleep. The girls made a den in an old wagon box.

It’s well worth the 10 minutes it takes to stop and look around (and you will instantly have a new appreciation for all the modern conveniences we have today)

Petrified Dunes Arches National Park

When you travel to see Arches National Park, you make the logical assumption that you are going to see a lot of arches. While that is certainly true, there are also a lot of other geological wonders to surprise you at this park. As you head away from Park Avenue toward Balanced Rock, there is a small turnout that most cars drive right on by. It’s worth a stop because you get to see the remnants of ancient sand dunes that have been petrified:

petrified sand dunes at Arches National Park

ancient sand dunes that have been petrified at Arches National Park

This is what the information sign at the turn-out had to say:

Ancient Sand Dunes: This vast area was once covered by extensive sand dunes. Some 200 million years ago, winds from the northwest carried tons of fine-grained sand into this area, creating an immense desert. Over time, the sand drifts were covered by other layers of sediment, compressed and cemented by quartz and calcite into Navajo Sandstone.

Petrified Forest National Park Art

One of the things that I love most about National Parks is the way they inspire all of us. It’s especially interesting to see how the National Parks stimulate artists creative juices and the artistic works that come from this. Mary C Nasser is one of the many artists that find creativity and inspirations in National Parks:

All of my art is inspired by nature: specifically, landscapes and geology. My love of geology began with my first artist-in-residence award at Mammoth Cave National Park in 2005. There I studied the interconnectedness between surface and subterranean landscapes: exploring the relationships between developments underground and the evolution of the landscape that takes place on the surface.

In 2006, I was awarded another artist residency, this time at Wildacres Retreat in North Carolina along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was during this particular residency that I began incorporating maps into my mixed-media paintings and adding geologic drawings, too. I studied the geology of the Great Smoky Mountains and mountains of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

In 2007, I spent time 2 weeks living as resident artist at Petrified Forest National Park, examining desert landscapes, where the combination of aridity and erosion exposed the earth’s composition, structure, and layers, the relationships between them, and the deep time they represent.

Here are two wonderful mix media pieces which were inspired by Petrified Forest National Park:

Blue Mesa Petrified Forest National park inspired art
Blue Mesa: Mixed Media and Acrylic on Canvas

Plateau Petrified Forest National Park inspired artwork
Plateau: Mixed Media and Encaustic on Canvas

You can see more of Mary’s work on her website at Mary C Nasser, follow her on twitter or like her on Facebook. You can also keep up on Mary’s latest projects on her blog.