Lehman Caves National Monument (Nevada)

… was proclaimed on this date in 1922. It was made part of Great Basin National Park in 1986.

Lehman Caves attracts tens of thousands of visitors to eastern Nevada yearly, a trend that began not long after their discovery in the late 1880s. For over 60 years, Lehman Caves National Monument protected these underground wonders, with their unique geology and ecology. And today, they remain protected as part of Great Basin National Park.

The human history of Lehman Caves is both interesting and insightful. The discovery of such a natural wonder only 130 years ago is thrilling, while the abuse the cave endured during its early years causes many people to cringe. Learning about the early years of Lehman Caves provides context for the cave today. History remains the great teacher.

Great Basin National Park

Aztec Ruins National Monument (New Mexico)

… was proclaimed 94 years ago today (1923).

Aztec Ruins

Around 1100 A.D. ancient peoples embarked on an ambitious building project along the Animas River in northwestern New Mexico. Work gangs excavated, filled, and leveled more than two and a half acres of land. Masons laid out sandstone blocks in intricate patterns to form massive stone walls. Wood-workers cut and carried heavy log beams from mountain forests tens of miles away. In less than three decades they built a monumental “great house” three-stories high, longer than a football field, with perhaps 500-rooms including a ceremonial “great kiva” over 41-feet in diameter.

A short trail winds through this massive site offering a surprisingly intimate experience. Along the way visitors discover roofs built 880 years ago, original plaster walls, a reed mat left by the inhabitants, intriguing “T” shaped doorways, provocative north-facing corner doors, and more. The trail culminates with the reconstructed great kiva, a building that inherently inspires contemplation, wonder, and an ancient sense of sacredness.


Ancestral Puebloans related to those from the Chaco region farther south built an extensive community at this site beginning in the late 1000s A.D. Over the course of two centuries, the people built several multi-story structures called “great houses,” small residential pueblos, tri-wall kivas, great kivas, road segments, middens, and earthworks. The West Ruin, the remains of the largest structure that they built and which has since been partially excavated, had at least 450 interconnected rooms built around an open plaza. Several rooms contain the original wood used to build the roof. After living in the area about 200 years, the people left at about 1300 A.D.

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Eisenhower National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

… was designated 49 years ago today (1967). It is the only home Eisenhower ever owned.

Eisenhower National Historic Site is the home and farm of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Located adjacent to the Gettysburg Battlefield, the farm served the President as a weekend retreat and a meeting place for world leaders. With its peaceful setting and view of South Mountain, it was a much needed respite from Washington and a backdrop for efforts to reduce Cold War tensions.


Eisenhower National Historic Site comprises 690 acres and includes four farms, three of which were used by President Eisenhower for his show herd of black Angus cattle. Today the farm is maintained as it was during the Eisenhower years and the President’s home retains nearly all its original furnishings. You are invited to tour the home and grounds, and take a walk to the cattle barns and skeet range.

Eisenhower National Historic Site

Fort Bowie National Historic Site (Arizona)

… was authorized on this date in 1964. According to the National Park Service:

FortBowie.jpg

Fort Bowie commemorates in its 1000 acres, the story of the bitter conflict between the Chiricahua Apaches and the United States military. For more than 30 years Fort Bowie and Apache Pass were the focal point of military operations eventually culminating in the surrender of Geronimo in 1886 and the banishment of the Chiricahuas to Florida and Alabama. It was the site of the Bascom Affair, a wagon train massacre, and the battle of Apache Pass, where a large force of Chiricahua Apaches under Mangus Colorados and Cochise fought the California Volunteers. The remains of Fort Bowie today are carefully preserved, the adobe walls of various post buildings and the ruins of a Butterfield Stage Station.

Visiting Fort Bowie requires a three mile round trip hike — unless you use the handicap entrance, which they keep a secret until you show up after walking a mile-and-a-half on a July afternoon with a daughter eight months pregnant and a two-year-old grandson.

NewMexiKen photo, 2003. Can you see the deer?
NewMexiKen photo, 2003. Can you see the deer?

Antietam National Battlefield (Maryland)

… was established as a national battlefield site on this date in 1890. It was redesignated a national battlefield in 1978.

Antietam Sunrise

23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat on September 17, 1862. The Battle of Antietam ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s first invasion into the North and led to Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

Antietam National Battlefield

It was the bloodiest day in American history. Among the battlefields I’ve visited, Antietam is my favorite, perhaps because it less congested and monumented-up than Gettysburg. It retains, it seems, more of its 1862 feel.

NewMexiKen photo, 2009
NewMexiKen photo, 2009