Best Vacation Spots in the Midwest

These state parks are the best vacation spots in the Midwest.The Midwest of the United States is not just corn fields and pastures. There are many amazing spots for camping and RV adventuring. 

Carter Caves State Resort Park: Olive Hill, KY

Carter Caves State Resort Park, planted in the foothills of Eastern Kentucky, is considered a 2,000-acre natural wonderland. Enjoy the breathtaking underground beauty by taking a guided tour of Cascade Cave year round. During the summer you can enjoy historical tours of the nationally recognized Saltpetre Cave and Bat Cave, which are winter homes to thousands of endangered Indiana Bats. The park has 26 miles of hiking trails that highlight many cliff faces and more than five natural bridges. Carter Caves Natural Bridge is a 180-foot long natural tunnel through the hill and is the only natural bridge in Kentucky that supports traffic on one of the park roads. Smokey Bridge is Kentucky's most massive limestone natural bridge with a tunnel that is 220-feet long and over 90-feet high. The most unusual rock formation on the park is Box Canyon, a 60-foot high natural sandstone wall with nearly perfect corners. Smokey Lake is a beautiful remote 45-acre lake that is home to great fishing for bass, crappie, catfish and bluegill. 

The park also offers a 28 room lodge, 11 vacation cottages, 89 campground sites, a 9-hole regulation golf course, a gift shop with Kentucky crafts and souvenirs and a restaurant serving many favorite Kentucky dishes.  Seasonally, visitors can enjoy a swimming pool, 18-hole miniature golf course, guided canoe trips, horseback riding and activities led by a recreation director. Enjoy year round special events including the Carter Caves Crawlathon, Wildflower Weekend, Pioneer Life Week, Haunted Trail and a Halloween Campout Celebration.

Columbus-Belmont State Park: Columbus, KY
In 1860, Columbus, Kentucky was a busy Mississippi River port of 1000 people and the northern terminus of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. Columbus sat on a plain in front of a semicircular chain of 180 foot tall bluffs. In September 1861 Confederate General Leonidas Polk ordered the occupation of Columbus because cannons placed on the bluffs could control the river. On November 7, 1861, a then unknown Union General Ulysses S. Grant fought his first Civil War battle when he raided a small CSA camp at Belmont, Missouri, across the river from Columbus. 

By early 1862, Polk had dug on the bluff a large earthwork named Fort DeRussy and two smaller forts surrounded by miles of infantry trenches. Cannons were mounted on three shelves cut into the side of the bluff. Two small earthwork forts and more infantry trenches protected the town itself. Polk had more than 17,000 soldiers, about 90 large cannon, 50 smaller field cannon and dozens of electrically fired land mines buried around Columbus. River mines had been placed in front of a mile long chain of twenty pound links, supported by barges that stretched across the river from Belmont to a six ton sea anchor buried inside Fort DeRussy. The Confederates proudly called Columbus the "Gibraltar of the West." 

In February 1862 Grant went around Columbus by capturing the much weaker Forts Henry and Donelson on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. Outflanked and now useless, Columbus was abandoned by Polk in March 1862. Columbus was immediately occupied by the Union Army and Navy and became a very important military river and railroad supply depot for the rest of the war. The occupying Union soldiers had to cope with hostile local civilians, large numbers of refugee former slaves, massive smuggling, endemic guerilla warfare and raids by Confederate General Bedford Forrest. Fort DeRussy would be renamed Fort Halleck and was eventually garrisoned by 1000 former slaves of the 4th U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment. By 1865 at least 75% of the Union soldiers in western Kentucky were former slaves. 

The Civil War left Columbus devastated. Many buildings had been ruined, the local people impoverished, and the Mobile & Ohio Railroad wrecked.  Recovery came after the Mobile & Ohio Railroad was repaired and the Saint Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad came to Belmont, Missouri.  A steamboat ferry at Columbus carried the railroad cars across the river.  Swelling to about 2000 people, Columbus now became a busy and prosperous transfer point for passengers and freight. 

The river and the railroads had given birth to Columbus. Both would now combine to destroy it.  In 1881, the M & O bypassed Columbus. And in 1911, the Saint Louis and Iron Mountain discontinued service to Belmont. Columbus had lost any economic reason for existing. In 1918, the Mississippi River began to seriously eat away at Columbus.  In 1927, the second of two record floods finally washed away 450 feet of the river bank. The American Red Cross then moved 500 people and 166 buildings to a new Columbus City on top of the bluffs. Since then, the river has continued to slowly move eastwards and has covered about half of the site of the old city. 

Columbus-Belmont Kentucky State Park was built on top of the bluff by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s. In addition to a wonderful view of the Mississippi River the park has a newly renovated museum featuring 1864 photographs of Union soldiers stationed at Columbus, the largest Civil War cannon in Kentucky, Polk's six ton sea anchor with a chain of twenty pound links, and the remains of infantry trenches and Fort DeRussy/Halleck. 

As you face the end of the park parking lot you will see before you paths leading to shelter houses, picnic tables, the anchor and chain, the mounted 32 pdr cannon and a magnificent view of the river 180 feet below. To your right will be paths taking you to the snack bar, the gift shop, the public rest rooms and the remains of Fort DeRussy/Halleck. To your left is a path leading up a small hill to a restored earthwork fort and to the park museum just beyond it. Columbus-Belmont State Park also has a beautiful campground sitting high on the bluffs overlooking the mighty Mississippi River. All 38 sites have water and electric hook-ups, paved pads and a picnic table. The sites are large and shaded. There is a nice playground and small meeting room. The bathhouse/restrooms are immaculate and there is a coin operated laundry. There is a wonderful view, beautiful scenery and a relaxing atmosphere. The friendly staff will make you feel right at home.    

Fort Robinson State Park: Crawford, NE
Steeped in history and nestled among the buttes of the Pine Ridge, Fort Robinson State Park promises to provide a trip back in time. This historic outpost served from the days of the Indian Wars until after World War II in numerous capacities and now serves as Nebraska's premier State Park. This was the site of the famed Cheyenne Outbreak and the death of Sioux Chief Crazy Horse. All historic buildings still stand and are used to lodge park guests. 

Guests may choose their lodging from buildings dating from 1874 through 1909.  With cowboys and Indians galore, park guests may enjoy Breakfast on the Buttes, an early morning trail ride followed by a Cowboy's Breakfast served under the Pine Ridge buttes. Later in the day, watch a rodeo or enjoy a real live Powwow. Museums and period-correct out buildings display life as it was at Fort Robinson in the late 1800s.
The Trailside museum provides an exciting look at pre-historic life from as long ago as 200 million years.  Most of the fossils in the museum have come from within 75 miles of Fort Robinson. The Post Playhouse at Fort Robinson offers live musical performances sure to please the entire family! Fort Robinson State Park is not just a place to learn about history; it is a place to step into it and see what it was like to live way back in the Wild Wild West.  

Roche-A-Cri State Park: Friendship, WI
Roche-A-Cri includes prairie and oak woodland that surrounds an intriguing sandstone mound - 300 feet high and smaller Chickadee Rock. Visitors can climb 303 steps to the top of Roche-A-Cri Mound for panoramic views of the State Natural Area and ancient landscape. At the accessible rock art observation area, visitors can see and learn about petro glyphs and pictographs, carvings and paintings left by pre-historic visitors. This is the only accessible rock art site for public viewing in Wisconsin.

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