Over the winter of 1777 and 1778, the Continental Army serving under General George Washington and several colonial militias camped at Valley Forge while the British occupied Philadelphia. Because of the plateau landscape, Valley Forge was easy to defend, and the troops had an opportunity to train, rest, and recuperate while waiting for winter weather to pass. The camp would grow to house 12,000 soldiers and 400 women and children, and included both free and enslaved people, speakers of many languages, and many religions.
While encamped, Washington inspired the soldiers to continue fighting for our nation’s freedom and conveyed to them his feelings of duty to the people. He was able to convince Congress to reform the supply system and bring relief from supply shortages, disease, and hunger. This change attracted experienced soldiers and officers to their cause and improved hygiene and organization for all. Although Washington and his troops marched on from Valley Forge in June of 1778, what was left behind formed the foundation for the United States Army as it operates today.
Valley Forge National Park in Chester County
What remains of this colonial encampment serves as a reminder of the spirit of freedom and patriotism that our forefathers fought for. Today’s visitors can tour historic structures, study objects from the period, enjoy the archeological finds, and look out over the landscape to see what Washington and his people saw nearly 250 years ago.
Visitors should stop by the visitor center or download the American Revolution handbook, which contains essays, stories, photos, and descriptions of what to find at more than 24 national parks across the nation. As you tour this historic site, read about the people, places, and objects that are preserved to quench the curiosity of patriots and history buffs alike. Here are just a few of the historical stops that shouldn’t be skipped:
- Washington’s Headquarters. This is where General Washington resided during that fateful winter. The home’s interior is closed to visitors, but guidebooks are available to get a look at what his living quarters looked like so long ago.
- Muhlenberg Brigade Huts. Nine log cabins along with a reproduction of a regimental bake oven are open to the public, and park rangers and volunteers come in full 18th-century dress to give a peek at life in the camp.
- Washington Memorial Chapel. Built in 1903, the chapel serves as a tribute to George Washington and his service. Visitors to the park can attend services here or simply enjoy the bell tower, a replica of the Liberty Bell, and explore the Veterans Wall of Honors.
- Patriots of African Descent Monument. This was built to honor the service and sacrifice of black patriots who participated in the fight for independence. The same independence would not be granted universally to black Americans for nearly 100 years more.
- National Memorial Arch. Built to honor General Washington and his army, the arch was dedicated in 1917 and stands at the Valley Creek entrance to the park.
Beyond the History—Bring on the Fun!
If history isn’t your thing, Valley Forge National Park offers a wide variety of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. For starters, there are more than 30 miles of paths in the park to get out and get moving. Close to 20 miles of marked hiking trails offer a chance to escape into nature and offer challenges from easy to strenuous.
Bicyclists will enjoy the 21 miles of trails, including the paved Joseph Plumb Martin trail or the Schuylkill River Trail that connects to both Montgomery County and Philadelphia—bicycles are available to rent at the visitor center. Plus, 17 miles of horse-riding trails are also available, and parking for horse trailers can be found at the main visitor center parking lot.
There are more than 200 species of birds who have made the park their home. Bird walks are offered throughout the year so visitors can see different birds in all the seasons and various habitats. Birders of every level—beginner to expert—are encouraged to join the two-hour morning walks.
Plus, there are several picnic areas throughout the park. Guests can pack a lunch or stop by the Encampment Store at the visitor center to grab snacks, coffee, cold drinks, and more. The Chapel Cabin Shop, located behind the Washington Memorial Chapel, offers gifts, souvenirs, toys, books, and homemade baked goods every day!
History enthusiasts can continue to the many historic sites, monuments, and military parks in the area including Gettysburg National Military Park, First State National Monument, and Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. State and local attractions include the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia and Brandywine Battlefield State Park.
If the great outdoors is what you love, the Schuylkill River Greenway has hiking and biking trails. Plus there are 137 miles of water trails for paddlers along with plenty of destinations for motorboats, water skiing, and other recreational activities on the water.
Who Lives Here?
Did you know that almost a third of Pennsylvania’s population lives in the Schuylkill River Watershed? That’s more than 3.2 million people! In such a densely populated area, you might think it’s difficult to get out and enjoy nature, peace, and quiet. However, between state and federal attractions, there’s always a way to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city and into the water, forest, trails, and everywhere between.
The Schuylkill River Trail extends for almost six miles in Chester County and 18 miles in Montgomery County and connects residents in that area with the vast network of outdoor activities and relaxation. If you’re considering a move to the city, single-family homes and apartments are available for lease in these desirable areas. Investors also love Chester County as properties in the area are ready to bring in substantial profits!
To learn more about finding a rental home in the area or for expert property management for your investment property, contact Bay Property Management Group today!