MIDWESTERN NATIONAL PARKS Experience Endless Beauty This Winter
The American National Park Service is truly something else. Not only did they send snarky tweets to the president when their operating budget was in jeopardy of being slashed, but they preserve some of America’s most beautiful swaths of nature for lowly peons like us. These are five great national parks located in the heart of the American Midwest you won't want to miss.
Voyageurs National Park | Minnesota
Named after the “voyageurs” or French-Canadian fur trappers who first attempted to trade with the First Nations peoples (and were later depicted in shows like Netflix’s Frontier), Voyageurs National Park lies on the northernmost border of the best state in the north: Minnesota. While there are several boat ramps and visitor centers along the periphery, the main body of the park is only accessible by boat or snow shoes/skis in the winter. This is an ideal place for fishing or just to enjoy the northern forest. The park lies due west of the Boundary Waters, but unlike that notorious camping ground, Voyageurs allows motorized boats, so renting a houseboat for a multiday trip is a very popular option.
Badlands National Park | South Dakota
First occupied by the Lakota tribe for thousands of years, the Badlands were the location of the last “Ghost Dance” said to protect the Lakota people from the onslaught of the encroaching white soldiers. Now a beautiful national park, despite its designation as “bad land”, Badlands National Park is a great place to camp known for its truly unique landscapes that are rather evocative of Mars. It’s also where conservationists decided to reintroduce the most endangered species in North America: the black-footed ferret. So there’s that.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve | Kansas
Tallgrass prairies once covered 170 million acres of North America, but most of that was ploughed under within a single generation. Today if you want to get a sense of the majesty of America’s once rolling hills, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is the best place to see the remaining 4% of the tallgrass. First established in 1996, the preserve has since become the home to a genetically pure herd of buffalo that roam along the pristine prairieland.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park | North Dakota
One of our greatest presidents in history, Theodore Roosevelt, lost both his wife and his mother in the same 24 hour period. A distraught and broken northeasterner, he travelled west to a ranch he’d previously purchased in search of solitude and healing. It was there that he developed a love for the American West and his ideology of the pursuit of “the strenuous life” which has inspired so many men to this day. Rich in history, this national park isn’t lacking in gorgeous natural resources. Visit the historic landmarks, go on extended hikes, or ride horseback through the landscape.
Effigy Mounds National Monument | Iowa
The American Midwest was once dotted across with thousands of “effigy mounds” or earthen mounds built up in the shapes of animals or other natural objects to commemorate the spiritual beliefs of the native populations and the passing of their loved ones. Today over 200 of these effigies can be found perfectly preserved at the national monument in Iowa and they’re quite a sight to see. Check out the fascinating history at the visitor's center and hike the 14 miles of trails amongst these 3,000 year old monuments.