Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Center for the State of the Parks: Park Assessments

Published February 2009


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Harpers Ferry National Historical Park has been the site of a number of historical events. It was a point of supply for Meriwether Lewis’s Corps of Discovery, the site of John Brown’s abolitionist raid in 1859, a key Civil War battlefield, and the meeting place for the Niagara Movement, a 1906 gathering of civil rights leaders. Its position at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers not only set the stage for such historical events but also makes the park a haven for rare native plants.

According to an assessment by the Center for State of the Parks, cultural resources at the park are in “good” condition, although the park needs adequate on-site museum collection storage space, archaeological surveys, cultural landscape documentation, and historic resource studies. The park also faces an overall lack of funding and staff to care for cultural resources.

In that same assessment, natural resources rated a “fair” score of 75 out of 100. Of primary concern is incompatible development around the park boundaries that impacts the local ecosystem and affects the park staff’s ability to interpret historic events for visitors. Non-native invasive plant species are also a concern.

Recent projects have improved services for the park’s 250,000 annual visitors. These include new trails and wayside exhibits, as well as restoration of the historic Baltimore and Ohio Harpers Ferry Train Station.

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