Outdoor Adventures: Fee Free Weekend at Parks
Fee Free Weekend at Parks
The National Park Service is making it easy and affordable to take a vacation in Maryland. Entrance fees at three of Maryland's national parks and monuments will be waived on the third weekend in August for their "Fee Free Weekend: August 15-16.
In our neck of the woods, see Antietam National Battlefield, site of the deadliest one-day battle on American soil. Baltimore's Fort McHenry is where the flag that became the inspiration for the National Anthem flew during a pivotal battle in the War of 1812. On the edge of the Atlantic is Assateague National Park - a two-mile stretch of beaches, salt marshes and coastal bays where you can swim, hike and kayak, or explore wildlife.
Antietam National Battlefield
Location: North and east of Sharpsburg, Maryland, along MD 34 and 65.
Description: General Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North was ended on this battlefield on September 17, 1862. The battle claimed more than 23,000 men killed, wounded, and missing in a single day--more than on any other day of the Civil War--and led to Lincoln's issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. Antietam (Sharpsburg) National Cemetery (5,032 interments; 1,836 unidentified) adjoins the park.
Begin your trip at the park visitor center where you can see "Antietam Visit," an award-winning film shown on an hourly basis. This 26-minute movie recreates the battle as well as President Abraham Lincoln's visit to the Union commander General George B. McClellan. Every day at 12:00 noon a one-hour documentary about the battle of Antietam narrated by James Earl Jones is shown in the visitor center theater. The best way to view the battlefield is to take the self-guided driving tour. The tour road is 8 1/2 miles long with 11 stops. Most visitors drive the route, but walking and biking are encouraged.
History: Established as a national battlefield site on August 30, 1890; transferred from War Department on August 10, 1933.
Places to see: Bloody Lane, Burnside Bridge, wood fences, cannon displays, National Cemetery, monuments and much more. The Visitor's Center, with Museum Store, Audiovisual Program, Interpretive Programs, and tours, is open daily this summer until 6:00pm.
Assateague Island National Seashore
Location: There are two entrances to Assateague Island National Seashore. Assateague's north entrance is at the end of Route 611, eight miles south of Ocean City, MD. The south entrance is at the end of Route 175, two miles from Chincoteague, VA. There is no vehicle access between the two entrances on Assateague Island. Vehicles must return to the mainland to access either the north or south entrance.
t Assateague Island you live life on the edge where the lands are recreated each day by the ocean and the waves. Life on Assateague Island has adapted to an existence on the move. Explore sandy beaches, salt marshes, maritime forests, and coastal bays. Rest, relax, recreate, and enjoy some time on the edge of the continent.
Camping at Assateague will be a pleasant experience if you plan ahead! The barrier island habitat can be harsh if you are not prepared. Camping is available only in the Maryland district of Assateague Island. Campers are reminded to bring firewood, sunscreen, insect repellent, screen tents for shade and insect protection, and long tent stakes to anchor tents in the sand and wind.
And, of course, there are the horses. "Assateague's wild horses are well known, even to many people who have never been to the island. The "wild" horses on Assateague are actually feral animals, meaning that they are descendants of domestic animals that have reverted to a wild state. Horses tough enough to survive the scorching heat, abundant mosquitoes, stormy weather and poor quality food found on this remote, windswept barrier island have formed a unique wild horse society. Enjoy their beauty from a distance, and you can help make sure these extraordinary wild horses will continue to thrive on Assateague Island.
Local folklore describes the Assateague horses as survivors of a shipwreck off the Virginia coast. While this dramatic tale of struggle and survival is popular, there are no records yet that confirm it. The most plausible explanation is that they are the descendants of horses that were brought to barrier islands like Assateague in the late 17th century by mainland owners to avoid fencing laws and taxation of livestock.
"The horses are split into two main herds, one on the Virginia side and one on the Maryland side of Assateague. They are separated by a fence at the Virginia/Maryland State line. These herds have divided themselves into bands of two to twelve animals and each band occupies a home range. The National Park Service manages the Maryland herd. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company owns and manages the Virginia herd." (www.nps.gov)
Location: The Park is three miles southeast of the Baltimore Inner Harbor and just off I-95.
Fort McHenry is the birthplace of the National Anthem. Francis Scott Key, a young poet-lawyer, witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814 while under British guard on an American truce ship in the Patapsco River. Seeing his country's flag still flying over the Fort the next morning, he was moved to penned the National Anthem.
Visitors to Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine should begin at the Visitor Center. A short orientation film, The Defense of Fort McHenry, is shown three times per hour: on the hour; twenty minutes after the hour; and twenty minutes till the hour throughout the day. Restrooms, exhibits and a gift shop are also located in the building.
Plan to spend about one hour touring the fort - all self-guided. An entire visit usually requires two hours.
Fort McHenry offers many things to do. Places to go include the Visitor Center with a video and exhibits, followed by a walk to the fort and many more exhibits. Outdoor activities feature daily flag changes at 9:30am and 4:20pm, weather permitting. Kids can work on the Junior Ranger and earn a badge and certificate. The Schedule of Events is always full of activities each year. Nearby attractions are numerous in the Baltimore metro area.
The Museums at Fort McHenry include the fort, barracks and related structures. The barracks contain several exhibits: The Enlistmen's Quarters; an Electronic Map; uniform and weapons displays; videos; Junior Officers' Quarters; powder magazine; Commanding Officer's Quarters; and the 1814 Guard House.
For more information on any of Maryland's National Parks visit www.nps.gov.