Iowa

State line sign #13 of 50 for us. Funny because this is where we live, we just don’t usually stop for this one. Iowa has lots of fun and beautiful things to do, you would be surprised. This picture was taken in Marquette Iowa which is one of our favorite places to go in the summer and fall. It is just up the road from Pike’s Peak State Park and McGregor, another family favorite.

In Iowa there aren’t many NPS sites but we did manage to get both of them. The links are listed below and we enjoyed our visits to them, I hope you do too.

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

There is also a Smokestacks Heritage area we will visit someday that isn’t listed in the Passport book but does sound worth checking out.

Check back soon for that.

Chimney Rock National Historic Site

Chimney Rock National Historic Site was a quick, quick stop on our way to see Scotts Bluff National Monument. It is just a few miles away from our intended spot. This isn’t registered in the National Parks Passport book but it claims it is a National Historic site and it has cancellations.

We popped into the Visitor Center and Museum to look around. It does cost to go through the museum, we opted not too, we were short on time and we wanted to get up to the Chimney Rock viewpoint. It was a beautiful visitor center so take your time.

We drove up to the viewpoint and got these awesome photos. The one with just the boys went in our Nebraska state photo frame I loved it so much. Great historical photo sites are the best.

Great shots and I loved the sunflowers in the background. Make sure you stop here, it is a beautiful area of Nebraska. So glad we added this stop.

Until next time. I hope you enjoyed this short post. I didn’t want to exclude it because it is a beautiful place, it just doesn’t have much to do. Sometimes short and sweet is nice.

Dinosaur National Monument

Visited: July 26th, 2019

Duration: 6-7 hours, a full day

Accommodations: IHG points in Vernal, Utah (highly recommend this town)

Dinosaur National Monument is going to be divided up into 2 parts in the post. Canyon area of the park and the Quarry area of the park. We were heading west from Steamboat Springs so we started our morning off at the Canyon Visitor Center where we picked up our Junior Ranger books and handed in our Archeologist books and got badges for those as well. The Canyon visitor center is small but the ladies there were fun. Gunnar went to the restroom and then came in the visitor center and said to the rangers, “Don’t go in that bathroom extincts!!” They got quite the chuckle out of that.

We headed off onto the Harpers Corner Road, 31 miles of road that crosses sagebrush-covered plateaus. There are several overlooks and little hiking trails to the overlooks. This is a great place to get out of your vehicle and get some great views.

We enjoyed the drive along the Harpers Corner Road and it allowed the kids to finish up their Junior Ranger books. We headed to Dinosaur, Colorado in hopes of doing a little shopping and getting some lunch. Don’t hold your breath. This town is a ghost town. No food places were open and the shopping is super scarce. We chugged along hoping for something good to pop up. This Utah sign was about the only thing to stop for between the Canyon Visitor Center and the Quarry Visitor Center. We love state line signs and this one “triceratops” our other Utah sign.

We didn’t find anything of interest until we pulled into The Quarry Visitor Center along Hwy 149. Photo stop to get some pics of big stupid roadside dinosaurs. We stopped at the Quarry Visitor center and had a picnic lunch, there were great tables with sun shade. This is about the only place you can find around here to eat, so pack a lunch and enjoy a spot in the park.

At the Quarry visitor center there are many more things to do. We signed up for the tram ride up to the exhibit hall, where there is a wall with fossils still in them for you to see, it was amazing. While waiting for the tram we walked around the VC and got our supplies; magnet, stickers, stamps, cancellations and all of the collectible things we just can’t live without. Tram ride up was fun and informative. They have built a beautiful museum up here to view the fossils in.

We rode the tram back down, got our Junior ranger badges and then went on a very rewarding drive along the Cub Creek Road to see if we could find some Petroglyphs.

Fun dino outside of the VC
The Junior Ranger oath.
We found so many Petroglyphs!!

This drive was amazing. Lots of stops for pictures and getting out to look at things. I would highly recommend doing this drive.

We headed to Vernal, Utah for the night, a fantastic little town FULL of dinosaurs, shopping and great food. If taking a trip to Dinosaur National Monument, this is a town not to be missed. What a great little town and a fantastic monument. Another Colorado NPS site checked off our list. I hope you enjoyed our visit to the monument and maybe we sparked some inspiration for you to visit some day.

Vernal, Utah

Effigy Mounds National Monument

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Visited: June 2017

Duration: 2 hours

Accommodations: Camping at LaRiviere, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin

Every summer we go camping and trail riding in beautiful Prairie du Chien Wisconsin.  This year we added an extra day onto the trip so we could visit this National Monument.  I had been here before on a field trip when I was a kid and I remembered everything. It’s a pretty cool place and the towns surrounding it have a lot to offer.  McGregor, Marquette and Prairie du Chien can keep you busy for a short week if you wanted a good mini-vacation and you are from the midwest.

On this trip we stopped in at the visitor center to get a self guided brochure and our Junior Rangers. We visited the north unit this time, it has some great views points (Eagle Rock and Fire Point), Great Bear Mound Group and Little Bear Mound group. Just a heads up, if you are interested in seeing lots of Mounds, Marching Bear Group might be what you are looking for in the South Unit.

We took off up the hiking trail from the visitor center, looking carefully for a vent one of the rangers had secretly told us about.  Just like she said, it was right there! Boys were elated that we found it. We told everyone that walked past us about it 🙂  It wasn’t a secret for long. Next up, awesome views of the Mississippi River.

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Eagle Rock View Point

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Eagle Rock

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Fire Point View Point

After you hit the view points you go back to the main trail to visit the mounds.  We hit both Little Bear and Great Bear mound groups.  Hard to see from the ground, I like the aerial pictures in the brochure better, obviously.  Still very pretty.

The term effigy refers to mounds built in the shape of something. Here at Effigy mounds they are mounds in the shape of bears and birds.

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We hiked around some more and got the phone call that dad was done running errands and is on his way back to pick us up.  We headed back down to the visitor center and finished up our Junior Rangers on the observation deck right outside.  We went in and earned our badges, got our stickers, magnet and cancellations and we were off to enjoy a weekend of riding mules.

That concludes our trip to this National Monument. We had a great time and will revisit the South part of the park on our next visit. Thanks for stopping by.

Nebraska

State line #5 of 50. This photo was taken on National Park Trip Season 1. Seems like just yesterday but we are still working on Season 5 in 2020, so it has, in fact been awhile. They are so little in this photo. We haven’t had a chance to post about Nebraska until now. It is usually a drive through state but on NPT Season 4 we decided to follow the Oregon trail and it took us right to a beautiful Nebraska National Monument and a state historical site (Chimney Rock) that goes with Scotts bluff.

Please feel free to check out the informational blogs on our trip through the Cornhusker state, and as always check back there are a total of 6 parks in this state and we will eventually hit them all. For now enjoy these:

Scotts bluff National Monument

Chimney Rock National Historical Site

That’s it until we head west again! Enjoy for now.

Fort Laramie

Fort Laramie National Historic Site, Wyoming

Visited: July 2019

Duration: 2-3 hours

Accomodations: Used IHG points at the Holiday Inn, Scottsbluff, NE traveled to Fort Laramie then stayed overnight in Steamboat Springs, CO again using IHG points.

We left Scottsbluff, Nebraska in the early morning after earning our Junior Ranger badges and we headed west to Fort Laramie. Fort Laramie became the principal military outpost on the Northern Plains. The fort was known as the transportation and communication hub to the central Rocky Mountain region. Emigrant trails, stage lines, the Pony Express and the transcontinental telegraph all past through this post.

As the number of emigrants on the trails increased the relations of the army and Indian tribes decreased. Conflicts grew and the military launched campaigns against the tribes. The Northern Plains tribes defended their homelands against the westward expansion. At the end of the Indian wars, Fort Laramie wasn’t an important outpost and in 1890 the US Army abandoned the post and sold it at public auction.

When we arrived at the Fort, we parked and headed straight to the Visitor Center. We grabbed Junior Rangers and set off for a demonstration of guns and cannons. The Junior Ranger book has you visit several stops on the property, reading the signs and answering questions. What a great way to explore and learn about the park. One of the Junior Ranger tasks was to find a park volunteer and ask them questions about the fort. Hunter lucked out on this one and was able to interview the bartender at the civilian bar. This guy was fun and a fountain of information. Hunter learned WAY more than he wanted.

The kids were pretty stoked to discover that the Pony Express rode through this trail. Here is a picture of Hunter next to the Pony Express dedication monument to the park.

We had our ranger books done so we headed back to the Visitor Center. The rangers were great here, very funny and educational, this is what we look for in our favorite rangers. Below are the boys receiving their Junior Ranger badges and patches while taking the oath of the National Park Junior Rangers 🙂

Junior Ranger patch and badge
Great NPS stickers and lots of Passport stamps at this site! Have extra pages ready!!

After visiting this wonderful park we lunched at the picnic area just north of the park and next to the parking area. Great shade and a cool breeze, it was perfect. Off now to explore just a little bit of Colorado, we are veering off of the Oregon trail to enjoy some hot springs and learn dinosaur history. Check back for Dinosaur National Monument.

Scotts bluff National Monument

Visited: July 2019

Duration: 2-3 hours

Accomodations: Used IHG points at the Holiday Inn, Scottsbluff, NE.

Along the North Platte River in western Nebraska, Scotts bluff jets out of the landscape. Scotts Bluff and Chimney rock were mileposts for those expanding westward in the great migration. This is a place where the emigrants knew they were traveling the correct route when they saw these formations. Both Oregon and California Trails pass through here. We are following the California trail out west and hitting up the Oregon Trail on the way home.

Scotts Bluff National Monument is a great easy stop out in western Nebraska where there isn’t much else to see or do. I was really surprised how beautiful the countryside was on our trip. We came from Iowa traveling along I-80 which is pretty boring if you have ever traveled it. We took our exit and after a few minutes the beauty began to unfold. You truly have to see it to believe it.

We arrived pretty close to sunset and drove to the top of the bluff. The kids thought this was a pretty cool drive because you get to go through several tunnels on the way up. Once at the top, gorgeous views of the town and all around.

We stopped off at the visitor center on the way down the hill grabbed some Junior Ranger booklets and walked around the interpretive trail to the south of the bluff. There were covered wagons and oxen to check out for an idea of how the pioneers traveled.

It was getting late so we called it an evening and decided to stop back in the morning to earn our Junior Ranger badges.

We got our badges and cancellations (shown below) and will continue our journey westward! Up next is Fort Laramie, WY. Check back soon for that blog.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

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Visited: November 2016

Duration: 2-3 hours

The boys visit the U of I every once in a while to get tests done. This park is about 20 minutes away and we took an opportunity on this visit to go and see this park on a gorgeous fall day!

We parked at the Presidential Library and Museum and walked over to the Visitor Center. There we got our passports stamped and grabbed a brochure to do a self guided tour through the park.

There are several stops on the self guided tour: The Birthplace Cottage, Blacksmith shop, Schoolhouse, Hoover Creek, Friends Meetinghouse, House of the Maples, The Presidential Library and Museum, Herbert Hoover’s Gravesite and the Tallgrass Prairie.

We visited all of the places on the self guided tour, it was a beautiful day out and we were the only ones in the park. The park gives an overview of every aspect of Hoover’s life. He was elected the 31st president of the US in 1929. Before that he was a mining engineer and a millionaire by age 40. Raised Quaker he sought out a life on a course of public service.

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The Birthplace Cottage

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Enjoying a fall day

After we were done walking through the park. We went to the museum.  The museum has an entry fee, we paid our fee and walked through the museum and headed over to the gift shop. We bought some crap and called it a day!

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Great little stop for the day to break up our time at the hospital for appointments.

We didn’t do a Junior Ranger here so it looks as though we will need to revisit this place. Until then you will just have to enjoy our cancellations 🙂

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That’s all for now. Come back enjoy our next post on Effigy Mounds which is also another Iowa National Park Service site tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by.

 

Florida

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The Florida State line! We were happy to see this state line. I see warm weather in our future!  We have been to Florida so many times but we always fly in so we aren’t able to get the state sign. This trip we got it. This is state line sign #36 for us. Checking them off pretty quickly! We have 10 left to get and 3 years to get them. Fingers crossed we get to them all before 2023!

This sign was at the Florida Welcome Center on I95 South. Super easy to get to and very safe. I love it when welcome centers have these signs.

While in Florida we visited several great places. Here is a list of the National Park Service Sites we have visited in this state:

Fort Caroline National Memorial

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve: Kingsley Plantation

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

Fort Matanzas National Monument

Canaveral National Seashore

On this trip we made a stop at St. Augustine and we learned, we LOVE this town.  Lots of great shopping, restaurants and stupid tourist places!  I will touch on the Fountain of Youth Park we visited. The kids (and Mom) wanted to check this place out because we saw it on an episode Josh Gates Expedition Unknown.  It’s a cute little tourist park that will keep kids busy for a few hours.  We enjoyed it.

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First things first, we had to drink out of the fountain of youth, although I have my doubts on this.

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There are 27 sites to hit at the park and we got to all of them in an afternoon.  Favorites were The blacksmith exhibit, the bucket challenge and the Cannon Firing!

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That is a wrap for this Florida trip!  Looks like we will be back to Florida on Spring Break 2020 to get the parks in the south!  We can’t wait!  Check back soon for those.

Canaveral National Seashore

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Visited: November 2018

Duration: 4-5 hours

Accommodations: Stayed at a friends house in Port St. John

In town for a wedding and what do we find??  A National Park Service Site about 5 minutes away. We had to do it!

We started off at Merritt Island and walked around the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge visitor center, taking in the wild life and plants surrounding the area, completely different than anything in Iowa with a few similarities. Different Junior Rangers can be earned at the 2 visitor centers. We earned our Merritt Island badges and headed north on Kennedy Parkway to A1A.

We headed out to enjoy the seashore, walk the beach and play mostly.  We had a remarkably beautiful day with one guy fishing on the beach. Perfect!

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Kids worked on their Jr. Rangers while we drove the seashore and back to the visitor center. We could have spent all day here but we had friends to meet at Old Florida Grill (my husbands favorite lunch spot). Back at the Visitor Center we earned our Canaveral Jr. Rangers items (patch, badge, certificate) and it was made formal under the flag pole!

What a great addition to our weekend wedding trip!

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That wraps up all of the Northern Florida NPS sites.  Next spring break we will visit the Southern Parks, we are all excited for some more sun! Thanks for stopping. Let me know if you have any questions.

 

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