When I told the kids we were going to Springfield, Missouri, the two things they were most excited about were caves and Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. We have civil war soldiers in our ancestry, and anything involving the Civil War, history, or battles is high on Jack’s interest list.
Despite a rain shower halfway through one of our hikes (someone remind me not to wear flip flops next time I take the kids on a mile hike and rain is on the radar, please), it ended up being a highlight of our trip!
Here’s everything you need to know to plan your visit to Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield with kids (but this info will be helpful even if you don’t have kiddos with you!).
Wilson’s Creek was the second major battle of the Civil War, and the first fought west of the Mississippi. I did not know this until we visited, but Missouri was kind of a neutral state in the Civil War. Depending on who you’re talking to, it was either a Confederate State, a Union State, neither, or both. Maybe all of those are true. But the battle at Wilson’s Creek was a win for the Union.
The Visitor Center is full of helpful information to get your journey started. This is also where you’ll pay ($10 per vehicle) for admission to the park.
Kids can get an educational work book in the Visitors Center that they can fill out as they visit the park. Return the book to a ranger at the end of your adventure and kids will take home a badge, a Ranger pin, and a Junior Ranger certificate!
The kids (and the grown-ups!) loved learning about the history of the region and the families in the area who inadvertently became a big part of the Civil War story.
They told us in the Visitors Center that with some stops, the drive through the park could take about an hour-and-a-half.
A five mile road winds through the park (you can drive this!), with lots of well-marked stops along the way to learn about events and activities that took place leading up to, during, and after the battle.If you drive straight through, it will last about twenty minutes. We made lots of stops and even toured the Ray House (a local home that was converted in a hospital for the wounded after the battle) – our trip took a little over two hours.
The Visitors Center also houses a library, so if you have ancestors who might have fought in this battle, be sure to check that out.
Several of the stops require short hikes to reach the actual site of the place or event. Wear walking shoes (lesson learned!). If you plan on exploring the trails, also bring water, sunscreen, and a hat.
Random side note about these pictures: I SWEAR my kids aren’t always holding hands and getting along this well, but for some reason, they were the best of friends on this trip – and I loved it, and took lots of pictures.
If the Ray House is open for tours, you’ll want to check it out. Not only will get you some local history, but you’ll also get the see the very bed that General Lyon’s dead body was laid to rest on after he was shot and killed in battle. Jack thought that was really cool! I loved getting a peek into life in those days (and thanked my lucky starts, once again, that I was not a pioneer woman).
All of the stops have helpful signs that explain the history and the significance of the events that took place in that area. They also provide phone numbers you can call for recorded stories about the location you’re at.
The kids were MOST excited about visiting Bloody Hill, where much of the battle took place.
Our visit actually inspired me to get a membership to ancestry.com when we got home. With some searching I learned that my great-great-great-great grandfather not only fought in the Civil War, but was in Missouri and fought in Arkansas. As far as I can tell, he was not at Wilson’s Creek – but after visiting, we now have an idea of what he would have seen so many years ago.
You can find park hours for Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield here.
Check here for admission prices.
Be sure to check out their calendar for events you might want to attend!
Want to know what else to do in Springfield with kids? You can see all of the posts from our Springfield adventure here.