This Underrated Southern State Park Is A Family-Friendly Historic Destination

Imagine yourself wandering a place that has seen a historic battle. Something just feels different about it, as though you can faintly hear the shouts of the soldiers and catch a whiff of gunpowder. If visiting places with a fascinating history is right up your alley, we've got an underrated state park to add to your itinerary on your next road trip through Kentucky. It's a great place to take your kids as well, where they can learn about the history of the Civil War and the Battle of Belmont, which took place on November 7, 1861. They can visit the same places soldiers hid and battled from and see some of the weapons and equipment used in the fight.

This place is Columbus-Belmont State Park in Columbus, Kentucky, and it sits along the Mississippi River. The park is 156 acres and includes a campground and a range of activities for the whole family. Here's what you need to know to visit Columbus-Belmont State Park and what you can do during your trip. 

About Columbus-Belmont State Park

Columbus-Belmont State Park is open from dawn until dusk (unless you're camping) all year round. It's just about perfect for nature lovers and history buffs alike. As we mentioned, this was the site of the Battle of Belmont. The year was 1861, and Confederate General Leonidas Polk decided to find a way to stop a possible invasion by the Union Army by taking over the river bluffs in this area and watching for ships. Kentucky had been officially neutral until that point. That happened in September, and the battle occurred in November. 

There are remnants of that battle in the park today. In the picture above and the one before it, you can see different views of the giant chain that Polk used to keep Union ships from moving forward. There are also a number of cannons on-site and the earthworks that make up the sides of the trenches that soldiers fought in. There is actually a 2.5-mile self-guided hike through the trenches and up on the river bluffs that you can take here, as well as other trails.

These bluffs were also the site where around a thousand displaced Cherokee were kept for 10 days. They were then taken further down the Trail of Tears after their land was stolen from them in the first half of the 19th century. There is a museum here as well with artifacts from the time, which is open in the summer but requires an appointment to visit over the winter.

Activities at Columbus-Belmont State Park

If you're a nature lover, this is a great birdwatching destination, particularly during the spring and summer when you will have a blast looking for eagles, orioles, thrushes, and more. If you're into water sports, this park has access points for launching boats and you can fish in the Mississippi River. There are plenty of picnic tables and pavilions, a gift shop, and a snack bar open from the beginning of May to Labor Day. If you have a dog with you, that's fine as long as they're leashed.

You can wander the trails, and some are wheelchair-friendly, as are many of the park's other amenities. If the kids need a break, there is a playground to visit and you can play on the park's miniature golf course over the summer and on the weekends. There are events like Civil War Days with reenactments and living history spots so your kids can feel what it was like to live back then. If you like camping, this is your spot, with 38 campsites, a log cabin to rent, trailer rentals, utility and water hookups, and amenities like showers, laundry, and bathrooms. You can reserve a site here. No matter what you choose to do when visiting Columbus-Belmont State Park, there's lots to see, do, and learn.