Washington is unquestionably a state worthy of your typical National Park. Snow-capped mountains, lush forests, rivers, sounds and whatnot. But when it comes to the National Park system, it is not all just about spectacular vistas. You may not be aware that the National Park system contains a number of what is known as “units” that focus more on the history of man than the evolution of the planet. You might expect that the bulk of these historical sites that are part of the National System would be located in the eastern states which have had more time to make history. And you would be right. But, hey, that’s not to say that important historical events haven’t taken place in the beautiful state of Washington, too.
San Juan Island National Historic Park
Yeah, this is not that more famous historical San Juan. You won’t find any myths or legends about Teddy Roosevelt riding up a hill. No, the history you learn about at this National Park unit in Washington is far more fascinating, involving America and England inching ever closer to the precipice of all-out war over the killing of a British hog by an American farmer. Look it up; it’s all there in the history books under the title “The Pig War.” Or, better yet, stop by the more than 1700 acres of San Juan Island National Historical Park situated right there in Puget Sound. “The Pig War” was evaded at the last moment and the ultimate outcome of that war of nerves over a dead hog is the chance to learn about the idiosyncracies of military history in between doing wickedly cool National Park stuff like taking home any empty military shells you happen to find, hiking through the trails of both the British and American camps, kayaking, whale-watching, birdwatching and avoiding snakes.
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
If you were paying attention in history class, you may remember hearing a little something about the Hudson’s Bay Company. The fur trade during the second quarter of the 19th century was the equivalent of sneaker trade today. Those who controlled the warming of pioneers controlled the entire geographic population. And out there in what is now the state of Washington was Fort Vancouver, the western headquarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company. What does this mean for the National Park system’s presence in Washington? It means that the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is a very entertaining way to fill in the momentous gaps in the history lesson I just provided. This National Park system unit offers tours for every personality: guided tours, self-guided tours and audio-assisted tours. Authentic demonstrations provide background to life in the Pacific Northwest when blacksmiths and carpenters were the internet start-ups of their day and bake houses were the Starbucks. Explore all 208 acres of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site to learn just how vitally important in the history of the America was everything that encompassed the fur trade.
Whitman Mission National Historic Site
Marcus and Narcissa Whitman may not be names that mean much where you live, but wait until you pass through the wonderfully named Walla Walla, Washington. Once there you will understand how events that happened a long time ago in a galaxy right right here resonates across time to impact society even as you are driving up in your SUV. The Whitman Mission National HIstoric Site sounds like it is just another commemoration of Christian missionary work. But this mission is not like all those others found and up down the West Coast. The Whitmans and eleven other missionaries were victims of what came to be known as the Whitman Massacre (or Whitman Incident or Walla Walla Massacre). The inability of Dr. Whitman to stem an outbreak of measles among the Cayuse and Umatilla tribes led to a culture clash and bloodshed. This unit of the National Park system in Washington is a great place to examine the larger significance of oppositional perspectives on issues related to when helping people become more progressive treads into the murkier waters of enforced assimilation.