Columbus-Belmont State Park

Columbus-Belmont State Park is a 160-acre recreation park and historic site. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and on the Kentucky Civil War Heritage Trail.  Columbus-Belmont is a Kentucky Interpretative Center on the Great River Road and a National Scenic Byway.  It is also a National Parks Service Trail of Tears Water and Land Route site.  There are interpretive signs throughout the park with details and history.

History:

Civil War –In 1860, Columbus, KY was a busy Mississippi River port of 1000 people and the northern terminus of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. Columbus sat on a plain in front of a semicircular chain of 180’ tall bluffs that provided a strategic location for control of the river.  In September 1861, Confederate General Leonidas Polk ordered the occupation of Columbus.  Polk dug massive earthworks and miles of trenches. He named the fortification Fort DeRussy.  Polk had more than 17,000 soldiers, 90 large cannon, 50 smaller field cannon, and dozens of electrically fired land mines buried around Columbus.  River mines were placed in front of a mile long chain of twenty-pound links, supported by pontoons that stretched across the river from Belmont to a six-ton sea anchor buried inside Fort DeRussy.  The Confederates proudly called Columbus the “Gibraltar of the West.  Because of its’ massive defenses, Columbus was never directly challenged but on November 7, 1861 Union General Ulysses S. Grant fought his first Civil War battle when he raided the small CSA camp at Belmont, Missouri located directly across the river from Columbus.  Both sides claimed victory with approximately 500 on each side dead or wounded. In February 1862, Grant went around Columbus by capturing the much weaker Forts Henry and Donelson on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. Outflanked and useless, Columbus was abandoned by Polk in March 1862.  The fort was immediately occupied by the Union Army & Navy and became a very important military river and railroad supply depot for the rest of the war.  Fort DeRussy would be renamed Fort Halleck and be eventually garrisoned by 1000 former slaves of the 4th U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment. Columbus became a major refugee center for runaway slaves and a major recruiting center for black soldiers.

The Town-The Civil War left Columbus devastated. Many buildings were ruined, the local people impoverished, and the Mobile & Ohio Railroad wrecked. Recovery came after the Mobile & Ohio Railroad was repaired and the Saint Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad came to Belmont, Missouri.  A steamboat ferry at Columbus carried the railroad cars across the river. Swelling to about 2000 people, Columbus now became a busy and prosperous transfer point for passengers and freight.  The river and the railroads had given birth to Columbus and both combined to destroy it.  In 1881, the M & O bypassed Columbus.  In 1911, the Saint Louis & Iron Mountain discontinued service to Belmont. Columbus lost all economic reason for existing. In 1918, the Mississippi River began to eat away at Columbus. In 1927, the second of two record floods finally washed away the riverbank.  The American Red Cross moved 500 people and 166 buildings to a new Columbus City on top of the bluffs.  The river continued to move eastward and covered the site of the old city.

 Civil War Heritage Trail – Columbus-Belmont is one of many Civil War Heritage Trail sites throughout Kentucky. This site is noted for breaking KY’s neutrality and being the most heavily fortified Confederate site on the Mississippi River.  The Battle of Columbus-Belmont was Union General Ulysses S Grant’s first battle.

C.C.C.-The Civilian Conservation Corps built Columbus-Belmont State Park during the 1930s. Two shelters, a restroom, a lookout house, and log cabin are still in use by park today.

National Trail of Tears Site-Under the Indian Removal Act in 1838, The Benge detachment of Native Americans made its way through west Kentucky and camped several days in Columbus while horses, wagons, and people were ferried across the river. The camps are believed to have been located in park campground area.

 Great River Road Interpretive Center & National Scenic Byway-

Columbus-Belmont is one of two Kentucky Interpretive Centers for the Great River Road, the other is Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site, just 20 miles from here.

Facilities:

  • Campground – This is a year round facility with 38 sites with water and electric. Each site has a patio with picnic table and fire ring. Eleven sites have sewer hook-ups. There is a bathhouse, laundry, and a playground. Two rental campers and one small log cabin are available. For reservations www.parks.ky.gov or call 1-888-459-7275 call park office for camper and cabin rental 270-677-2327
  • Conference Center – The meeting facility has two rental rooms. The larger room seats 200 people and has a catering kitchen. It is used for numerous events such as weddings, family reunions, proms, and business functions. The smaller room seats 40 and used for business, showers, and small family functions. Call park office for reservation 270-677-2327
  • Picnic area – The area has many picnic tables and grills scattered throughout the park. A large playground is located here.
  • Shelters – There are four shelters available for rent.
  • Hiking Trail – A 2.5-mile hiking trail through the Civil War earthworks, rifle pits and through the woods and nature area.
  • Snack Bar – open 9-6 Mon & Tues and 9-9 Wed-Sunday. (grill closes 30 min before closing) The seasonal snack bar features hot and cold sandwiches, snack foods and drinks. The snack bar is famous for its “quickie dogs” and fantastic soft serve ice cream.
  • Mini Golf – open 9-6 on Mon & Tues and 9-9 Wed-Sun. (last play 1-hr before closing)18-hole mini golf
  • Gift Shop – open 9-5 daily -The gift shop features Civil War and Kentucky items. (located inside Museum)
  • Museum – open daily 9-5 – The Columbus-Belmont Civil War Museum is one of the finest in the area. It was used as a hospital during the Civil War. Many artifacts are on display and interpreted throughout the building. A short informative video is available for viewing.
  • Outdoor Artifacts – Anchor and Chain (used as a blockade across Miss. River by the Confederates) 32 pdr. Columbaid seacoast cannon, remains of Civil War Earthworks, rifle pits, and trenches.
  • Mississippi River – Follow the sidewalks around the park for a breathtaking view of the Mighty Mississippi.
  • EVENT: Civil War Days at Columbus – October 9-11, 2020
  • The weekend will include battle reenactments, living history, and encampments. Friday is “education day”. Schools, scouts, groups, & clubs are encouraged to schedule field trips. Narrated battles are held at 2:00 both Sat. and Sun. featuring skilled reenactors bringing history back to life. There will be a Ghost Walk on Friday evening through the historic earthworks and a Civil War Ball on Saturday night featuring The 52nd Regimental String Band. Sunday morning services led in period style by Rev. Alan Farley followed by a memorial ceremony at Columbus Cemetery. Sutlers and food vendors will be on site to serve the needs of the reenactors and visiting guests. Cavalry and artillery by invitation, all infantry welcome. Straw, wood, powder ration, and a meal are provided to reenactors. There is no registration fee or admission charge. For more information please call Park Office (270-677-2327) or email cindy.lynch@ky.gov  or KY STATE PARKS WEBSITE – www.parks.ky.gov The event is sponsored by Columbus-Belmont State Park, Hickman Co. Judge Executive/Fiscal Court & Civil War Days Committee

Contact Information

Cindy Lynch
Reservations and Information:
270-677-2327

Address:
350 Park Road Columbus, KY 42032

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Location

Other Information

  • Hours Open

    8:00am - 8:00pm
  • Seasons Open

    Campground and Conference Center and grounds open year round. All other facilities are seasonal.
  • Accessibility

    The park has sidewalks that cover all but natural areas. Museum, snack bar, Conference Center, and restrooms are wheelchair accessible.
  • Pet Friendly Notes

    Pets allowed on a leash