Friday, September 22, 2023


Historic markers along the road: Standing where Teddy Roosevelt got inspired

“Historic marker, 500 feet.” You know the feeling, right? No matter what it is, you sort of have to stop. It’s almost as if, since someone was thoughtful enough to mark it, you owe it to yourself to reward their efforts with at least a brief stop. Maybe it doesn’t always feel rewarding. Maybe it’s actually not that interesting. But still, if somebody thought to put a plaque or a marker there, there’s just something about it that’s worth your time. At least that’s how I feel. Can you relate?

I have always felt naturally drawn to those subtle invitations along the road. If something happened there, I want to know more about it, whether it interests me or not. It’s one of the real charms of the road. We all have our favorite signs. The special ones connect us to some event or incident that we have pondered in the past. And then, when we find ourselves right there, it almost doesn’t feel real. All of a sudden, you are breathing the same air as whoever occupied that space creating history before you arrived.

I wanted to share one of my favorite signs. It’s at Yosemite National Park. I was in the middle of researching a book that I was writing on President Theodore Roosevelt. Back in 1903, during his first trip to California, he quietly set aside three days and nights to go backcountry camping with the famed naturalist John Muir. Over their campfires, horseback rides, and hikes in the wild, the two men hatched an idea that eventually gave way to the creation of our National Parks. Like many of you, I revere the National Parks. I truly find them to be our most valuable national resource and over the years they have given both myself and my family much pleasure.

There’s a sign in Yosemite that marks close to the exact spot where the men spent their third and final night together camping. When I found it, it gave me great pause. I had been working on the book for about a year, re-tracing as many of their steps as I could, and this truly was, for me anyway, the most pivotal spot. Standing there, I let my mind drift back and imagine what it must’ve been like more than 100 years ago when they sat by their campfire under the stars discussing what they could do to help preserve and protect our most beautiful open spaces.

Whenever I go back to Yosemite, I always make sure I go visit the sign and then reflect a little bit on what took place there. There are a number of signs around the country that have a similar effect on me, but not quite to this degree. How about you? What’s the sign or marker that makes you stop and think? The one that makes you pinch yourself a little bit? The one that makes you feel the most gravity. These places matter. To a traveler, they become like an oasis. They nourish us and enrich us.

All of a sudden, I can’t wait to get back to Yosemite.

Read more from Chris Epting here

Chris Epting is an author, award-winning journalist/photographer and dedicated road tripper. His best-selling books including James Dean Died Here (the locations of America’s pop culture landmarks), Roadside Baseball, and The Birthplace Book, along with many others that remain popular with many travelers and RVers throughout the country and world. He is excited to be contributing to and looks forward to helping to lead you places you may not have discovered otherwise. You may learn more about Chris at his author’s site,



  1. On one of our many trips through Ireland, there was this impressive monolith roadside marker…

    Situated behind the Connemara Giant, near Joyce’s Craft Shop in County Galway, midway between Galway City and Clifden, this marker is filled with Irish wit.

    The marker proclaims, ” On this site in 1897 nothing happened.”

    The surprise upon reading this had us in stitches as we returned to the car for our continued journey

  2. My daughter and I like to take road trips. While scouting out colleges, we took Route 40 across Ohio. We stopped at each road marker and several mile markers. She then checked our progress on a map – the old paper kind! It was a great trip.

  3. I second the Explore Here app. If you don’t have time or your rig is too big, it will give you a run-down of what the marker says.

  4. Rarely stop, given our total length of 56 feet and lack the ability to back up. I am not sure, but I don’t think that we have ever stopped, even if driving the towed vehicle. I can’t say that I gave much interest in such. Given the crowding I have experienced, I don’t care to go to any national parks either. I’m satisfied to see the pictures at my leisure in some quiet, solitary place.

  5. Good article. I wish to point out that Texas, and perhaps other states, has an app that, reveals to you a map containing all the historical markers within X miles of you. As we approach the historical marker, using our phones, we can choose to stop or have the marker read aloud to us as we continue down the road.

    The author asks which markers move you. I once read a series of markers that laid out, in chronological order, the events of an Indian attack on a wagon train. The surviving settlers of the first attack tried to make it to a settlement a few miles away. As you follow the escape route, the markers explain what happened along that way at about 3 – 4 locations. The last marker marks the spot where the last settlers were wiped out, in sight of the settlement they were trying to reach. Of the 1000? of roadside markers I have seen, this set moved me the most.

  6. Have you noticed often there is a “Historic marker, 500 feet.” sign and then no marker? Or no warning sign, just the marker you see as you go past?

  7. Mine was while living in Central Montana. It was a marker for the Battle of Canyon Creek” between the U.S. Army and the fleeing Nez Perce tribe, left by Chief Joseph. It is in a remote spot just north of Laurel, Montana, just west of Billings. It’s a lesser known section of the Nez Perce Trail of Tears saga. It’s a very lonely spot, and it’s easy to see it exactly as it was in 1877 as General Reno chased the Native Americans across the prairie. It deserves more attention than it gets.

    • I grew up near this location and visited it numerous times, first on my bicycle. Now living in Colorado, I am still drawn to these locations as we travel. Lewis & Clark expedition, Oregon Trail, Pony Express, are primary at this point in time.

  8. Check out the app ‘Explore Here’. It provides pictures and text of the nearby roadside and interpretive signs as you travel. Also shows Native lands, NPS, memorials, volcanos and hot springs. I haven’t played much, but it showed me all the local signs quickly. Not sure where I found this one, may even have been a prior RVTravel newsletter!

  9. I have a “Love-Hate” relationship with historical markers. My wife and I love to stop at them, but we have to add an extra day to our trips so we can read them all!

  10. I see a lot of these markers on the side of 2 lane country roads. I would stop and look at most of them but they never have parking or even a shoulder near them.

    Kinda sad but stopping would be dangerous and foolhardy in those circumstances.

  11. I don’t remember where it was, but I once saw a sign that said, “Hysterical Marker” “Sitting Bull stood up here”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.