In 2020, despite the pandemic, four new locations were added to the National Park Service family with a fifth added in 2021. If you haven’t had a chance to check out these “youngsters,” we’ve provided some of the highlights of each from the NPS websites so you can add them to your “must go” list.
Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial
The first to join the National Park Service (NPS) in 2020 was the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in the District of Columbia. Named after the 34th president of the United States who also served as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in World War II, the memorial showcases Eisenhower in both roles. Frank Gehry, a famed Canadian-American architect, designed the memorial, and Sergey Eylanbekov, in collaboration with Gehry, designed the sculptures. The stainless steel woven tapestry framing the entire memorial was created by artist Thomas Osinski.
The memorial, located at the foot of Capitol Hill, is in a newly created, four-acre public park along Independence Avenue SW between 4th Street SW and 6th Street SW., and is open 24 hours a day, except for unusual circumstances. For more details about the memorial, click here for an audio tour.
Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument
Next in 2020 was Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument in Kentucky, the second location to become part of the NPS. The site of the first major victory for the Union Army during the Civil War, areas related to the Battle of Mill Springs is located between the towns of Nancy and Mill Springs in Kentucky. Stop at the Visitor Center and Museum in Nancy, where you can view a free 20-minute film about the Battle of Mill Springs. (Note: The Visitor Center and Museum is open from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM Wednesday through Sunday and is closed Monday and Tuesday.) The Mill Springs Battlefield Association has developed a self-guided 10-stop Driving Tour.
Sites to visit include Zollicoffer Park, where you can follow a 1/2 mile (0.8 km) Ravine Trail that crosses historic battlelines, the pre-Civil War Brown-Lanier House that served as headquarters for both Union and Confederate generals, and Mill Springs Mill, situated on the shores of Lake Cumberland, that features a 40-foot overshot working water wheel—one of the largest in the world and probably the largest water wheel currently operating.
Ste. Genevieve National Historic Park
October 2020 saw the addition of Ste. Geneviève National Historical Park in Missouri to the NPS list. Ste. Geneviève has the distinction of being the first permanent European settlement in Missouri, having been established in 1750. The town shifted three miles northwest of its original location following a flood in 1785. The Park is open 9 AM to 5 PM daily, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Must-see places include The Amoureux House, Jean-Baptiste Vallé House, and Ste. Genevieve Memorial Cemetery. The Park is also one of the seven Missouri National Parks featuring the Wellness Challenge, with a range of physical, mental, and educational activities.
Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument
The year closed with the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument in Mississippi joining the NPS. The site, located in the Medgar Evers Historic District, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its significance as the first modern subdivision designed for middle-class African Americans after World War II in Mississippi. The monument honors the life and work of these two important civil rights figures—Medgar, who was the first National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) field secretary in Mississippi, and his wife Myrlie, who together with her husband established the NAACP office in Jackson, Mississippi in the mid-1950s. Following Medgar’s assassination in 1963, she continued to work on civil rights issues, serving for three years as the national chairwoman of the NAACP. While the home itself is closed to the public, there are other sites in the area that focus on civil rights history.
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
The newest member of the Park Service family, New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia, formerly known as New River Gorge National River, joined the NPS in 2021. The park itself encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along 53 miles of the New River which, despite its name, is actually among the oldest rivers on Earth. The forest is home to the most diverse flora of any river gorge in the south and central Appalachian Mountains, while the river continues to carve the deepest and longest river gorge in the Appalachian Mountains
Outdoor activities include hiking the park trails, rafting the river, or biking along an old railroad grade, all while surrounded by spectacular scenery. Whitewater rafters will be challenged by the Lower Gorge of the New River, featuring rapids ranging in difficulty from Class III to Class V, with very powerful currents, crosscurrents, and hydraulics. Or stay in the upper part of the river, where rapids are in the less challenging class I to III making them a better choice for whitewater canoeing.