Discovering Harpers Ferry
Do you enjoy being outside? Are you a history buff?
Then plan a trip to Harpers Ferry in Western Virginia.
It was not on my tour itinerary while I was in the US in June. Our friends Suparno and Malabika decided to take us to a scenic spot in Virginia. We left our friends’ Silver Spring (Maryland), home at 10 in the morning. The June sun was beating down on us.
Suparno was driving his Honda Acura. Suddenly, it dawned on him that they (he and Malabika, his wife) haven’t visited Harpers Ferry Park in Western Virginia even though it wasn’t far off from their hometown. We changed our destination and began heading toward Harpers Ferry Park.
Driving through US Highways is an unalloyed pleasure. We’re driving along Highway 270 North. We reached Charlestown rest area, a scenic town just adjoining Harpers Ferry National Park. It took us just an hour to reach the park.
A visit to this quaint, historic community, at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, is like stepping into the past. Stroll the picturesque streets, visit exhibits and museums, or hike along trails and battlefields. You can spend a day or a weekend. There are lots of hotels around.
Begin your visit at the visitor center and get info on Park sites. Brochures on specific park areas help you choose one of the ‘Paths through History”.
Ranger-led tours and programs are available in the spring, summer and fall. In winter, organized activities are limited. But the visitor center, trails and museums are open. Winter visitors experience a serene and tranquil environment.
Below are the park areas to explore:
Lower Boliver Heights
The history of Harpers Ferry has few parallels in the American drama. In Harpers Ferry, the landscape shapes history. The water gap, carved out by the rivers—Potomac and Shenandoah– provided a travel route for American Indians, explorers and settlers, and later the canals and railroads. In the past, the rivers produced power for local mills and factories.
To help tourists understand Harpers Ferry’s past, the National Park Service has identified as many as six themes that run through the town’s history.
The Appalachian Trail runs through Harpers Ferry. A short walk along the trail from the lower town to the C&O Canal takes one from West Virginia to Maryland in just a few minutes.
The park is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm and closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Park passes may be purchased at the fee collection entrance station daily from 8 am to 4 pm.