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Discover engaging history, nature at Missouri’s national parks

By Barb Brueggeman

Take an adventure along scenic riverways, learn about the lives of Missouri’s only president or tour iconic architecture.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways preserves a wild river system
Credit: Missouri Division of Tourism

Summer is the best time to round up the family and head outside for an adventure in nature or to take a deep dive into our colorful history. Whichever option appeals to you, Missouri has a national park or historic site to fit the bill:

  • Gateway Arch National Park (St. Louis) is the best of all worlds for the family: a brand-new museum documenting the history of the American West; the Old Courthouse with its lessons about the Dred Scott freedom trials; lots of green spaces to walk, run, bike and play; and the tram ride to the top of the iconic Gateway Arch itself.
  • George Washington Carver National Monument (Diamond) is the first national monument dedicated to a black American and the first to honor someone other than a president. Learn about and honor the famous scientist who discovered hundreds of uses for peanuts, soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes at his birthplace right here in Missouri.
  • Harry S. Truman National Historic Sites: Browse objects from the Harry S. Truman home, learn about his home life and tour the house in Independence, where Missouri’s only president lived from 1919 until his death in 1972, then take a self-guided tour of his grandmother’s farm in Grandview, where he lived from age 22 to 33.
  • Ozark National Scenic Riverways (Van Buren/Eminence/Salem/Winona) give you a chance to get back to your wild side in the first national park to preserve a wild river system. Float, fish and swim in the pristine spring-fed waters and maybe catch a glimpse of Missouri’s herd of wild horses.
  • Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (St. Louis) invites you to visit the home of the 18th President of the United States. The house, White Haven, is a National Historic Landmark; you can explore the house, outbuildings and grounds and browse the interactive museum in the stable.
  • Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield (Republic) brings history to life on the grounds of the second major battle of the Civil War. The driving tour and walking trails let you view the battlefield, canons and notable locations like the historic John Ray House, while the visitor center offers artifacts, history and a lighted animated map of the waves of fighting during the battle.
  • Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park (Ste. Genevieve) is Missouri’s newest addition to the national parks system. This park preserves and interprets the French Colonial history of the area and preserves its early French architecture.