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Show Me The Missouri National Parks

Missouri has long been considered the gateway to the West, as the 24th state in the Union was the Eastern starting point for the Pony Express as well as the start to both the Santa Fe and Oregon trails. Missouri is also known as the “Show-Me State” which many believe came after Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver was reported to have said, “I’m from Missouri and you’ve got to show me,” in 1899. This began the lore that Missourians were common-sense people known for their stubbornness.

Missouri boasts seven national parks – including the homes of U.S. presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Harry S. Truman. Below are some must-visits when visiting the Show-Me State.

GATEWAY ARCH NATIONAL PARK: Missouri’s most famous landmark, Gateway National Park contains its namesake of what was once only an idea: a literal gateway to the new American territories. Located in St. Louis this mastery of architectural craftsmanship stands as a tribute to every pioneer who’d ventured past the relative comfort and security of life in the early eastern states for the unvarnished promise of undiscovered lands. Explore the museum to learn more, take a guided tour, or for those looking for a pretty good view and a stomach-dropping climb into the heavens, take a tram to the top of the famous arch!

Photo Courtesy Chris Hardy

STE. GENEVIEVE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK: This historical site preserves the legacy and memory of the very first European settlement in the state. Drawn by tales of the fertile ground in Missouri’s heartland near the Mississippi River, French Canadian settlers settled here in 1750. A flood in 1785 forced the pioneers to move the town’s location about three miles down the way to higher ground where it still sits today. A relatively new national park, Ste. Genevieve visitors can take a guided tour or simply stroll the beautiful Jean Baptiste Valle rose gardens. 

Photo Courtesy NPS

SANTA FE HISTORIC TRAIL: Owing to its reputation as a launching point to the exploration and later settlement of the American West, this portion of this historical trail commemorates where it all began. Stop in on your next visit to learn all about the history of the “Great Prairie Highway”, a commercial thoroughfare between Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico that shaped the settling of the west and started right there in the heart of Missouri.

Photo Courtesy NPS

OREGON NATIONAL HISTORICAL TRAIL: Perhaps the most well-traveled throughway in U.S. history, the Oregon Trail begins in the Show-Me State. Crossing lands long inhabited by native peoples, in 1810 a fur trader named Robert Stuart was the first white man to trek 2,000 miles from Ft. Astoria to St. Louis, MO – which took more than 10 months! That path became known as the Oregon Trail, where soon after wagon trains would follow, many forming and leaving from Independence, MO. Hike, ride horses, or simply check out one of the many museums along the great, old trail.

Photo Courtesy NPS

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