When we pulled into George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, Missouri, last month, we expected the standard drill for smaller NPS units. In about 90 minutes, we can typically check out the museum exhibits and the grounds, collect the passport stamps, and be on our way. For our 84th of 400+ national park units, we anticipated much the same. In part, it’s why we’d arrived about 90 minutes before the park gates closed for the day.
In our first fifteen minutes at the park, though, we quickly realized we underestimated George Washington Carver National Monument. Not only was it full of the completely unexpected, but it also became our favorite unit of the ten national parks we visited on our Midwest National Parks Road Trip.
So today we’re sharing a long list of reasons you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to tour George Washington Carver National Monument. There’s so much to see and learn about Carver’s life and legacy. Don’t short yourself on time like we did!
About George Washington Carver National Monument
Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/gwca/index.htm
Location: Diamond, Missouri
George Washington Carver National Monument preserves the birthplace of George Washington Carver, an African American inventor, educator, and pioneer in the agriculture industry. Carver’s mother Mary gave birth to him in the mid-1860s on the property of Moses Carver, where the monument now stands. It was in the forests surrounding the Carver property that young George first became fascinated with plants, nature, and the pursuit of education.
The park was dedicated in 1943, the first National Park Service unit to commemorate the life of an African American. It was also the first monument to honor someone besides a United States President.
Here’s what you should plan time for during your visit:
9 Things to See at George Washington Carver National Monument
#1 Watch the park film.
If you’re like us, much of what we knew about George Washington Carver prior to our visit surrounded his work with peanuts. We were grateful that when we arrived, the park ranger at the desk encouraged us to start with the park film. About 25 minutes in length, the park film gave us a full scope of Carver’s life, his work to support African American farm families at the turn of the century, and how his religious beliefs inspired his work.
#2 Hike the Carver trail.
After the park film and exhibits, be sure to hike The Carver Trail. About 3/4 mile long, the easy loop hike winds around the Carver property and out to the 1881 Moses Carter home. We recommend stopping in the gift shop to purchase the self-guided booklet before you go. For a few dollars, it gives a good overview of each of the key points along the trail including the Carver homestead cemetery, the birthplace site, and some of the locations around the property that Carver appreciated as a child.
#3 Tour the Carver home.
During regular park hours, you’ll also want to take time to walk through the Moses Carver home. Found along the Carver Trail, it replicates the type of home where Moses Carver and his wife Susan raised their family on the property. After slavery was abolished, Moses and Susan encouraged young George to seek an education. After George left the property to attend school, he would visit Moses and Susan on weekends, coming back to the woods and fields he cherished.
The park service typically stations a ranger out in the home to answer questions. Check at the park office when you arrive for tour times.
#4 Learn about George Washington Carver’s agricultural inventions.
As we mentioned above, most of what we knew about George Washington Carver before our visit was about peanuts. When you visit, be sure to learn about his other agricultural innovations and inventions:
- Introduced techniques to improve soil quality for southern crops like cotton.
- Helped African American farmers learn crop rotation and nitrogen replacement.
- Popularized household uses for peanuts, including his famous bulletin of 105 ways to use them.
- Established a rolling farmer education wagon that would travel to different towns to teach rural farmers new techniques being developed by Carver’s laboratory.
- Established the agricultural extension program in Alabama
The park’s gift shop has a collection of some of Carver’s original writings and pamphlets distributed widely to farmers and families in the early 1900’s.
#5 Admire the Carver statues.
One of the things we loved best about the national monument were the art installations. All around the park you’ll find Carver’s legacy preserved into outdoor artwork.
A large marble bust of Carver greets visitors just outside the visitor center. In the nearby woods, visitors can also admire the “Boy Carver Statue.” Installed at the park in the 1960s, the impressive 9′ bronze statue captures a contemplative Carver as a young boy in his treasured woods.
#6 Take a Ranger-Led Tour.
We write this in nearly all of our #parkchasing recaps, but if you have a chance to take a ranger-led tour while visiting a park, we always recommend it. Guided tours at George Washington Carver National Monument happen twice daily. The tour route includes many of the spots on this list, including the Carver Trail and Moses Carver home.
#7 Stop at Williams Pond along the Contemplative Loop Trail.
Carver fell in love with plants and nature on the property of George Washington Carver National Monument. One of the spots you won’t want to miss in the park is the Contemplative Loop Trail around Williams Pond. Found along the Carver Trail, the Loop is a short route around the pond meant for reflection and peaceful meditation at the park.
#8 Find all of Carver’s Quotes.
As you walk the Carver Trail and wander around the park grounds, be sure to watch for some of Carver’s most famous quotes etched into marble markers. These stones have some of Carver’s most famous quotes, including this one about finding success in life:
#9 Add a visit to a nearby national park.
While not technically within the park, one of the best things about the monument is how close it is to several other national parks. Before or after your visit to George Washington Carver National Monument, consider a visit to one of the other parks within a 1-2 hour drive:
- Fort Scott National Historic Site – Fort Scott, Kansas
- Pea Ridge National Military Park – Garfield, Arkansas
- Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield – Republic, Missouri
Or check out our full Midwest National Park Road Trip that includes George Washington Carver National Monument and nine other national parks!