History, beauty, and hiking in Harpers Ferry

Built at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, Harpers Ferry, WV has become America’s chronicler of centuries of confluences: of a coastal collection of states and a people striking out across a continent, of freedom and shackles, of North and South.

The town, of course, was seared into our nation’s consciousness by the failed slave insurrection here in 1859 of rabid abolitionist John Brown, a spasm of an uprising extinguished by forces led by one of the US Army’s leading officers, Robert E. Lee.

Meriwether Lewis came here in 1803 to gather the supplies needed for his expedition with William Clark that would reveal an America from sea to shining sea. A one-room museum offers samples of what their party packed for the 28-month expedition.

About 30 paces away, you can learn about the role the town played in birthing the civil rights movement. The Niagara Movement, the precursor to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, met for the first time on US soil here in 1906.

Harpers Ferry is also at the juncture of the southern and northern legs of the Appalachian Trail, a symbolic midpoint for the thousands of through hikers who attempt the 2,200-mile, five-plus month trek. Learn about the history and topography of the journey at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Visitors Center just outside the Lower Town.

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