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Garric Baker | 04.15.2019

In celebration of Earth Day, the National Parks Service will waive entrance fees to all of its sites on Saturday, April 20. It's bound to be a busy day, and at Outdoor Project we'd like to spread the love and introduce you to some of the best national park sites that fly under the radar right in America’s heartland, the Midwest: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.


Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

By far and away, a favorite of native Kansans is the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, and the park outside Strong City, Kansas, represents the largest remaining stand of tallgrass prairie in the world! The Preserve is fee-free year-round, so even if you can’t make it on Earth Day, at an easy 2-hour drive from Kansas City, be sure to visit the preserve throughout the seasons.

Nicodemus National Historic Site

On the list of must go places is the historic site of Nicodemus, Kansas – and don’t avoid the crowds. Every year, Nicodemus, Kansas hosts their Homecoming Celebration to invite descendants of the largest community of freed slaves west of the Mississippi River – a title it still holds to this day. While the National Parks is waiving entrance fees this Earth Day, guests can visit the town year-round cost free.

Other National Parks in Kansas

  • Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site
  • Fort Larned National Historic Site
  • Fort Scott National Historic Site


Effigy Mounds National Monument

Imagine hundreds of years ago, a native peoples building over 200 mounds for sacred reasons. At Effigy Mounds National Monument in Harpers Ferry, Iowa, you’ll be a witness to this spectacular site. Not only are the mounds intriguing and mysterious, they are located in some of the most beautiful natural areas of the Mississippi River Valley—it’s easy to see why the tribes that lived here payed homage to the wildlife and nature that surrounded them.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Iowa is only home to two national parks, the Effigy Mounds National Monument and the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site—why not visit both and be able to say you’ve visited all of the national parks in Iowa? Herbert Hoover, in West Branch, Iowa, houses the presidential library, the burial place of Mr. and Mrs. Hoover, a visitor center, and the birthplace cottage of the 31st President of the United States.


Agate Fossil Bed National Monument

Another national monument that flies below the radar is the Agate Fossil Bed National Monument. Tucked away in an unsuspecting shortgrass prairie at the edges of the Ogallala Grasslands outside Scottsbluff, Nebraska, guests can walk through the mixture of shortgrass and chalky rock formations. This national monument has been a destination place for paleontologists for years—so why not put it on your list of must-see places!

Scottsbluff National Monument

While visiting Agate Fossil Bed National Monument mentioned above, a short one-hour drive brings you to Scottsbluff National Monument. Eagle Rock, soaring high above the plains can’t really fly under the radar as it has been the marker for centuries to the original native American, early settlers, and now to everyday travelers.

Other National Parks in Nebraska

  • Chimney Rock National Historic Site
  • Homestead National Monument of America
  • Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters
  • Missouri National Recreational River
  • Niobrara National Scenic River


Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

You know the place, it’s iconic – it’s the Arch! But that’s only one part of the memorial, we could list all this place has to offer, including the new Gateway Arch Museum, but being right in St. Louis, there’s no reason you can’t visit!

George Washington Carver National Monument

The first national monument dedicated to an African American is the birthplace of George Washington Carver. Diamond, Missouri, is not only his birthplace, but it also protects 140 acres of restored tallgrass prairie, education programs, a museum, and discovery center.

Other National Parks in Missouri

  • Harry S. Truman National Historic Site
  • Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site
  • Ozark National Scenic Riverways
  • Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield


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