Camp Nelson National Monument – 10 Things to Know About About Our Newest National Park Unit

Yesterday Park Chasers everywhere woke up to see exciting, and frankly surprising, news about our national parks.  Despite being an outspoken critic of the Antiquities Act of 1906 (and using the same Act to shrink monuments in 2017), President Trump used it to designate a new national monument on Saturday.  Camp Nelson National Monument in Nicholasville, Kentucky became the 418th unit of the National Park Service on October 25th, 2018.

And just like that, our list of #parkchasing just got a bit longer!

As soon as we heard the news we started digging around for more information on the new national monument.

Today we’re sharing our list of things you should know about the park and why it’s being added to the list of our country’s most protected places.

Map of Camp Nelson National Monument boundary – provided by

10 Things to Know About Camp Nelson National Monument

  1.  Camp Nelson National Monument protects 380 acres of Civil War-Era historical land and artifacts.  The monument honors African-American soldiers and their families who fled to Camp Nelson during the Civil War.  At its peak in the mid 1850’s, the military camp covered more than 4,000 acres.  That included thousands of slaves and their families who fled to the Union Army camp to fight for freedom.
  2. Located roughly 20 miles south of Lexington, Kentucky in the community of Nicholasville, the national monument includes the main encampment area and two other smaller sites.  In the encampment, thousands of African-American troops (then called the U.S. Colored Troops or USCT) were housed and trained.  The other buildings include sites associated with the Home for Colored Refugees.

    The Perry House – located on the Camp Nelson National Monument grounds. Photo provided by
  3. The only surviving Civil War-era structure on the site is the Oliver Perry House.  It will serve in the national monument as a historic house museum.
  4. Adjacent to national monument, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs operates the Camp Nelson National Cemetery where thousands of USCT soldiers are buried.
  5. Camp Nelson National Monument joins 5 other National Park Service sites in Kentucky. These include Mammoth Cave National Park, Abraham Lincoln Birthplace and Cumberland Gap National Historical Parks.  Camp Nelson is the Kentucky’s first and only national monument.

    Photo provided from
  6. In 2013, the Obama Administration established the area as Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park.  This federal protection paved the way for a future national monument.  Until now, the sites have been operated by Jessamine County, the local municipality.  The sites will be jointly operated going forward.
  7. In August 2017, Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke suggested the site be designated as a national monument.  In the same report, Zinke suggested that several other national monuments be downsized, which the Trump Administration moved forward with.
  8. During June and July 2018, the Senators and House members from Kentucky introduced the “Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument Act,” legislation that would use Congressional powers to designate the site as a national monument.
  9. On October 25, 2018, a press release from the White House indicated that President Trump would skirt this route, ultimately using the presidential powers of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create the monument.  It is President Trumps first national monument designation since taking office.
  10. Unlike Stonewall and Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monuments (units #412 & #413) which had little established infrastructure at their founding, Camp Nelson already has a Visitor’s Center, website and some park infrastructure.  It is expected to be issued a national park passport stamp in the next few weeks.



Greg & Amy
Chasing a visit to all 400+ units in the NPS
Current Count: 130/423
Next Stop: @hawaiivolcanoes


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