NJ’S NATIONAL PARKS April 16, 2024

Did you know that there are nine National Parks in New Jersey? Stretching from Cape May to New York, New Jersey has a plethora of natural and historical resources gifted with the honor of being nationally significant destinations! What sets these destinations apart from your typical neighborhood or county park is that those sites deemed National Historical Parks typically preserve “their appearance during the period of their greatest historical significance” in order to “commemorate persons, events, and activities important in the nation's history."  

So, step back in time and check out a few examples of National Parks in our Garden State:


Morristown National Historical Park

The year is 1779. George Washington and the Continental Army settle into the New Jersey landscape in order to combat the harsh winter. Cabins for the Army are built with local materials while Washington and his Officers seek lodging within the local homes of the Ford and Wick families. This was "Where America Survived.” 

For history-lovers in the Garden State, Morristown National Historical Park (MNHP) is probably the first example that comes to mind for National Historical Parks in New Jersey. MNHP was also the first National Park in the country! Composed of over 2.5 square miles of land that once encompassed the winter encampment, this National Park is still home to a sprawling landscape in which the Continental Army camped, the Ford Mansion where Washington made his headquarters, and the Wick House where several Patriot Officers bunked up during the winter encampment. You are even able to step further back in time with a visit to Fort Nonsense--the observation/alarm post built by the Continental Army in 1777.  

Visitors can hike the historic landscape and tour the historic houses to learn more about the impact this winter encampment site had on our nation’s history. 

Paterson Great Falls National Park

The roaring Passaic River tumbles over the cliffs and the mumble of the mills fill the ears of America’s first planned industrial community. Later, steam fills the skies above. Rumbling railroads carve their way through the landscape to help distribute the fine products that this Silk City has produced for the world. This community became a “Revolutionary Idea” that significantly influenced our nation’s industrial history. 

Designated a National Park in 2011, Paterson Great Falls features tangible evidence of this city’s historic significance by giving its visitors diverse views into the past. The wonderous waterfall owes its formation to volcanic events about 200 million years ago. The historic Hydropower Plant on the banks of the Passaic River exemplifies the industrial ingenuity of the city as this plant reduced the amount of water needed to power the early twentieth century mills. Upper Raceway Park follows the historic path that channeled the rushing waters of the Passaic River into the thriving historic companies below--several buildings of which are still standing today. The surviving mills become tools to teach the public about the products produced within their walls. 

“Fall for the Falls” during a guided or self-guided tour of the urban National Historical Park, National Natural Landmark, as well as the adjacent Paterson Museum. Discover more about this culturally rich, historic city! 

Thomas Edison National Historical Park

Teams of researchers and developers crowd the rooms. Glass test tubes and cylinders line the shelves with various ingredients that you can smell faintly as you walk through the invention factory. Lights flash on and off as the innovators test their invention’s limits. Music that sounds like it is coming from the distance weaves its way down the halls. The sounds and smells of innovation and ideas flowing freely through the air. This was “where Modern America was Invented.”  

When most people think about National Parks in the country, few think of Thomas Edison National Historical Park. Situated in Thomas Edison’s historic laboratory complex in West Orange, a tour of the park is truly like stepping into the past. Visitors can see the machines used to produce some of Edison’s greatest inventions in history, tour the library where many of Edison’s ideas blossomed, and sit down in the music room to hear some of the first recordings in history. Visitors can also visit the replica of the world’s first motion picture studio. If you have extra time, take a ride to Llewellyn Park to tour Thomas Edison’s home, Glenmont, to learn more about Edison’s family life. 

The impact that Edison and his team of innovators has had a lasting impact that is now preserved “for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations” as a National Park. Take a tour soon to uncover ingenuity and genius! 

There are more National Parks in New Jersey! Check out the National Park Service webpage for a complete list: https://www.nps.gov/state/nj/index.htm.