Gateway to the South: A Field Trip on the Geography of Chattanooga and the Southeastern United States

A group of young people sit on a sidewalk overlooking a city
Students on a field trip to Point Park work on drawing maps of the Tennessee Valley around Chattanooga.

NPS/C. Barr

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park preserves the landscapes in around Chattanooga, Tennessee, where Union and Confederate Armies clashed during the summer and fall of 1863 during the American Civil War. The vast majority of students who visit Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park do so in support of their curriculum related to the Civil War and Reconstruction. However, the reason armies fought here during the Civil War was due in large part to the geography of the region. The confluence of the Tennessee River, the Cumberland Plateau, Lookout Mountain, and the greater Appalachian chain made Chattanooga the gateway to the Deep South. By visiting Point Park, students can see first hand how geography can shape human activity.

Curriculum Standards
A Geography focused field trip to Point Park on Lookout Mountain will reinforce the following topics with your students:

- Recognizing basic map symbols and cardinal directions
- Locating topographical features on the earth's surface
- Analyze how location and geography can affect people's lives
- Describe how physical geography has affected the history of the United States, including American Indian groups in the region, and the later development of roads, rail, and the Civil War era.
- Describe how the geography of the eastern United States both hindered and benefited territorial expansion from 1801-1861.

Rangers will tailor the specific topics covered based on the grade level and state standards for your individual class.

Field Trip Locations

This geography-focused field trip is primarily geared towards Point Park on Lookout Mountain. From this vantage point more than 1,500 above the city of Chattanooga, students can see numerous geographic features, including a river, creeks, mountains, plateaus, a peninsula, and ridges.

If you are unable to schedule a physical field trip to the park, check out some of our educational videos on Early American Indians, Indian Removal and the Trail of Tears, Causes of the Civil War, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Geography.

Things to Do During Your Field Trip

In addition to your ranger-guided program on geography, there are other things to do as well.

There is a small picnic area located just outside the gates of Point Park. Many classes chose to spend time walking through Point Park and enjoying the view from the park's various overlooks. The park operates a small museum exhibit inside the Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center, which is located across the street from Point Park, although there is no park film.

Please note that if you are planning on utilizing the Incline Railroad or visiting the "Battles for Chattanooga," that these are privately run businesses who are not connected to the park. You will need to visit their websites to coordinate any visitrs with them independently.


For directions and other information about getting to the Lookout Mountain Battlefield Center, see the information below. 

Last updated: February 8, 2023

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