Harpers Ferry NHP General Management Plan


Harpers Ferry National Monument was authorized by an act of Congress on June 30, 1944, and became Harpers Ferry National Historical Park on May 29, 1963 (Public Law 78-386) (see appendix A).
two rivers join; two mountains separated by the river; a town on a peninsula, which the rivers flow around
Aerial view of Harpers Ferry

NPS Photo/Volunteer H. Mills

The last general management plan for the national historical park was completed in 1980. Much has changed since 1980 -- visitor use patterns and types of use have changed, people want to bring new recreational activities to the national historical park, and an additional 1,240 acres was authorized for addition to the national historical park in 2004. Each of these changes has implications for how visitors access and use the national historical park and the facilities needed to support those uses, how resources are managed, and how the National Park Service (NPS) manages its operations. A new plan was needed to:

• Clearly define resource conditions and visitor experience to be achieved in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

• Provide a framework for NPS managers to use when making decisions about how to best protect national historical park resources, how to provide a diverse range of visitor experience opportunities, how to manage visitor use, and what kinds of facilities, if any, to develop in the national historical park.

• Ensure that this foundation for decision making has been developed in consultation with interested stakeholders and adopted by the NPS leadership after an adequate analysis of the benefits, impacts, and economic costs of alternative courses of action.

A Draft General Management Plan | Environmental Impact Statement was distributed in September 2008. That plan presented three alternatives, including the National Park Service's preferred alternative, for future management of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The alternatives, which were based on the national historical park's purpose, significance, and special mandates, present different ways to manage resources and visitor use and improve facilities and infrastructure at the national historical park. Further information on the alternatives and environmental consequences of implementing those alternatives can be found in the NPS Draft General Management Plan | Environmental Impact Statement, 2008.

After considering public and agency comment, the National Park Service distributed an NPS Abbreviated Final Management Plan in November 2009. The "Record of Decision" documenting the National Park Service's section of the preferred alternative (alternative 2) was signed on September 28, 2010 (see appendix B).

This document presents the approved plan for managing Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.


The Plan

The approved plan will provide greater visitor enjoyment, increased access to park locales, more varied interpretation, and new life and excitement to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
Park entrance sign reads "Harpers Ferry National Historical Park"; it is a painted sign showing a river, church steeple, and mountains. Trees with fall foliage are behind the sign and to the left is a road and more trees
Harpers Ferry NHP entrance sign in the in fall season

NPS Photo/A. Cook

Under the plan visitors will enter Harpers Ferry National Historical Park at the main entrance where a visitor contact station will be enlarged to function as a visitor center. This facility will provide orientation for park visitors and information on the park's many resources. It will be the starting point for an expanded transportation system that will allow visitors to reach areas of the park such as the Murphy-Chambers Farm, Schoolhouse Ridge and Camp Hill that were previously difficult to access without a car. It will also be a stop on the new around-the-park trail that will allow visitors to hike to all areas of the park.

Leaving their personal vehicles at the Harpers Ferry NHP Visitor Center parking lot, visitors can ride the transportation system to Lower Town where visitors will be immersed in a 19th century environment. Preserved historic buildings, period shops, exhibits, and outdoor furnishings will complement the interpretation provided by rangers and possible period artisans/ demonstrators who will bring life to this area. Traveling exhibits will be sought to supplement interpretation provided in the park. A smaller information center and bookstore will remain but possibly in new locations. Park artifact storage will be removed from the historic structures, and the space will be converted to office use or other types of storage.
John Brown's Fort as seen from under the railroad overpass; it is a small brick building, with three doors, and a cupola atop it.
John Brown's Fort in Lower Town Harpers Ferry

NPS Photo/Volunteer K. Simmons

The Federal Armory will retain its current access. A study of the feasibility of returning John Brown's fort to its original location will be undertaken. The train station will become a secondary portal to the site with proposed excursion trains arriving from Washington several days of the week.

The armory canal will be restored and re-watered, with the turbine also restored for interpretive purposes. The power plant will be rehabilitated for exhibits. Virginius Island and Halls Island will be preserved as an archeological preserve, with ruins stabilized and outlined and wayside exhibits explaining the history and industrial development that was here.

Camp Hill will be managed with a campus atmosphere reminiscent of the Storer College era. Additional signs and waysides will allow visitors to get the feel of the site. Museum exhibits now in Lower Town will be moved to one or more of the Storer College structures to better explain the importance of Harpers Ferry to the story of the civil rights movement in America. Several historic buildings from the military occupation of Camp Hill will be restored and adaptively used for park headquarters. The historic Shipley School on Camp Hill will be made available for rehabilitation by a proposed public/private partnership to allow its preservation and use.

The historic Grandview School will be rehabilitated and enlarged for use by the park's Protection Division.

Implementation of the Plan

The approval of this plan does not guarantee that the funding and staffing needed to implement the plan will be forthcoming. The implementation of the approved plan will depend on future funding, and it could also be affected by factors such as changes in NPS staffing, visitor use patterns, and unanticipated environmental changes. Full implementation could be many years in the future. Additional feasibility studies and more detailed planning, environmental documentation, and consultations will be completed, as appropriate, before certain actions in the plan can be carried out.

Future program and implementation plans, describing specific actions that managers intend to undertake and accomplish in the national historical park, will tier from the desired conditions and long-term goals set forth in this general management plan.

Last updated: December 4, 2017

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
National Park Service
PO Box 65

Harpers Ferry, WV 25425


304 535-6029

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