Wilson Creek National Battlefield on Rx Day

You may ask: what is Rx Day and what does that have to do with Wilson Creek National Battlefield?

Well, Rx Day is the last day of this year’s National Park Week celebration – focusing on how national parks are part of a prescription (Rx) for good health. And Wilson Creek National Battlefield is a great example of how national park units are not only interesting places to visit, they are also great places to exercise.

We always talk about the walking and hiking paths at national park units, but many reach out to their local communities to provide other recreational opportunities – running, walking (with your kids or dogs), horseback riding, cycling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, kayaking and canoeing, to name a few!

Recreation at Wilson Creek National Battlefield

Wilson Creek National Battlefield is typical of a battlefield park, with a one-way road that has interpretive stops along the way. Here, the ring road is 4.9 miles and has a dedicated lane for cyclists and pedestrians. There is a gated entry, but you will find many people out on their bicycles, or running and walking on the road, before the park opens or after closing time. It’s great to be there when it is car-free.

Not only is it a good way to exercise, it is an excellent way to experience the park. Unlike just driving through the park in a car, as you walk or run or cycle, and struggle to go up and down the hills, you can really feel the terrain the soldiers encountered in a tangible way. You just have to be thankful that you aren’t carrying a rifle or worried about encountering the enemy at every turn!

If you think about it, you will find that it is actually quite a somber place and understand why the park service reminds folks that it deserves to be treated with respect as a memorial to the many who died there. 

Wilson Creek National Battlefield

Wilson Creek was the first Civil War battle in Missouri and the first major battle west of the Mississippi River. On August 10, 1861, during a 6 hour battle, over 2500 men died (1300+ Union, 1200+ Confederates). You can learn more about this at the visitor center and from interpretive signs throughout the battlefield site.

One of the major stops is Bloody Hill, where 1,700 soldiers died. When you are biking or running or walking up its 1,257 feet, you will be calling it a “bloody” hill!

National Park Units – an Rx for Health

Wilson Creek National Battlefield is just one example of a national park unit that offers recreational opportunities. During our travels we have found many.

In an earlier blog we talked about how Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Georgia is full of locals every morning and evening – out for their morning walk or run. We have enjoyed many of these types of parks, in cities and rural areas.

When training for running and triathlon events, we looked for battlefields, especially ones with dedicated lanes for cycling and running. Not only did we experience Wilson Creek this way, we ran through Horseshoe Bend, Vicksburg and Gettysburg National Military Parks in Alabama, Mississippi and Pennsylvania respectively, and Saratoga National Historical Park, New York.

Cycling at Saratoga National Historical Park

It was also fun to participate in organized runs that went through a national park unit. We did ones in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, West Virginia and Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska. We also “ran” through Washington DC, covering a half marathon as we visited all of the monuments on the National Mall and then around town to sites such as the Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site and Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site.

National Mall, Washington DC
Even if you just walk from memorial to memorial, you will find that you cover several miles!

We have also had some fun times kayaking and canoeing in national park units. At Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan, and Canaveral National Seashore, Florida we joined ranger-led kayak trips. We also kayaked in Congaree National Park, South Carolina- right under a snake!!! And one of our favorite holidays included a cabin and a day canoeing at Buffalo National River, Arkansas. The water there was so clear you could see the fish as they swam by!

Canoeing on Buffalo National River

Other national park units just cry out for you to get on your bicycle and explore. We particularly enjoyed cycling in Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland. There you go on paths through a maritime forrest and coastal bays. And cycling in Death Valley National Park, California is very special – you’ll never find anywhere as quiet!

One of our funniest memories is from Little River Canyon National Preserve, Alabama. There we didn’t bicycle – in fact, the road was so hilly in places we were concerned about driving it. But we ran into a gentleman who was doing the road on his bike and we commented that it was a tough ride. His response: “I didn’t retire to get old.” What a great credo to live by!!!

Find Your Park

No matter your age or ability, there are tons of opportunities to recreate and be healthy. You don’t have to be in a gym or health club to work out. As the National Park Service says: “give yourself a gift of health by getting outdoors”. Find a national park unit near you and learn about what they have to offer!