A Declaration of a Founding Father's Legacy

April 13, 2017Travel Ideas
Betty Greene, Share the Experience
5 National Parks that Tell President Thomas Jefferson’s Story

Born on April 13, 1743, Thomas Jefferson became a 19th-century revolutionary man who left a lasting impact that continues to echo through American history. He was a Founding Father who served as the principal author of our nation’s Declaration of Independence and the third president, so it’s no wonder his legacy lives on within many parts of our country, including in our national parks. From the Thomas Jefferson Memorial to historic sites that honor this iconic figure’s accomplishments, these destinations display how a single individual’s life can profoundly shape the future of a nation.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

A waterfront view reflects the grandeur of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial as fall trees border each side and a sunset sky filled with clouds hovers above.
Bill Paisley, Share The Experience

A unit of National Mall and Memorial Parks in our nation's capital, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 13, 1943. Influenced by Jefferson's own taste in classical architecture, the neoclassical building was modeled after the Pantheon of Rome and houses a bronze statue of Jefferson. This 19-foot immortalized Jefferson overlooks the Tidal Basin holding the document he was so instrumental in writing: the Declaration ­of Independence.

Independence National Historical Park

Under a bright blue sky, winter trees are scattered between the buildings at Independence Square in Independence National Historical Park.
National Park Service

Philadelphia was a central setting in our nation’s early history. Comprised of multiple locations around the city, Independence National Historic Park preserves historic sites that were crucial to the American Revolution and our nation's independence.

One of the park's most famous locations is Independence Hall, where Jefferson and other Founding Fathers debated and later adopted both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Liberty Bell is another major tourist attraction included within the park, but be sure not to overlook some lesser-known sites, like Old City Hall and the City Tavern.

Jefferson Expansion National Memorial

The Gateway Arch appears to tower above the Old Courthouse and fountain at Jefferson Expansion National Memorial.
Betty Greene, Share The Experience

As the focal point of downtown St. Louis, the Gateway Arch, the Old Courthouse, and the grounds of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial provide a green oasis amid rows of hotels, shops, and eateries. This memorial commemorates Thomas Jefferson’s role in the westward expansion of the United States in the early 19th century with the Louisiana Purchase, when St. Louis was essentially the "gateway" to the west. 

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Under a bright blue sky with thin white clouds, the iconic figures carved into Mount Rushmore appear even grander compared to the green trees that stand below the monument.
Lanis Rossi, Share the Experience

Thomas Jefferson is in good company at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where his visage is immortalized on the granite mountainside along with George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. This author of the Declaration of Independence is also responsible for the Louisiana Purchase, which added territory that would eventually become 15 new states. The primary sculptor of this memorial, Gutzon Borglum, chose Jefferson to represent the growth of the United States. Originally conceived as an idea to promote tourism in the Black Hills region of South Dakota by historian Doan Robinson, Mount Rushmore has become one of America's most recognizable monuments. 

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Within the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, a boarded walking trail crosses the Netul River surrounded by fall foliage and endless trees in the distance.
Dennis Adams, Share the Experience

Stretching across eleven states from Wood River, Illinois, to the Washington coast, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail follows the approximate route that the Lewis and Clark Expedition — also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition — blazed from May 1804 to September 1806. While the trail is primarily dedicated to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, those who traveled with them, and the young Native American Sacagawea who led them, it's important to remember that it was Thomas Jefferson who dispatched the expedition, hoping to learn more about the newly acquired lands of the Louisiana Purchase. Stretching 3,700 miles, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is one of the original national scenic trails, established in 1978, and hiking it in its entirety remains an adventure even today. 

These national parks honor Thomas Jefferson’s story and interpret the impact he had on shaping America. Take the opportunity to revisit these places, scattered coast to coast, and explore his legacy at one of these incredible national parks.

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