Journey vs. Destination: Improvements and additions come to historic military sites

Barracks and building foundations at the 1840’s era Fort Atkinson in Fort Atkinson, Iowa.

The entry gate to the Delta-01 launch control facility com- pound at Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota.
By : 
Lisa Brainard

During the early days of November, I had a birthday. History marches on and as time goes by, the excitement about getting yet another year older kind of loses its allure. Although I will admit seeing bunches of greetings on Facebook is fun.

Here’s what stands out about my birthday; within a week we found ourselves in the cold temps of mid-January! How did that happen?!

I was hoping for a few nice, late fall days to still enjoy being outside… perhaps warm, sunny, dreamy days of a so-called Indian summer. But oh no, it ends up that my wish was the dream! Instead, it got quite unseasonably cold. (I hope that bodes well for an early spring, since January is occurring a couple months ahead of schedule. It does work that way, right? Right?!).

Maybe we need a diversion from it all. Let’s go ahead and look at news releases about projects at two historic military sites in the Midwest.

Minuteman Missile – National Historic Site

CACTUS FLAT, S.D. – In recognition of Veterans Day, on Monday, Nov. 11, the staff and volunteers of Minuteman Missile National Historic Site planned to debut an improved and expanded mobile phone tour of the park.

While an audio tour exploring the features of the Delta-09 missile silo has been available for many years, the expanded tour provides 10 stops. They will take visitors to the main gate of the Delta-01 Launch Control Facility. The full tour features ten stops each at the Delta-01 and Delta-09 locations.

The enhanced tour can be used and accessed in multiple ways: visitors may dial 605-301-3006 to get started on the tour or utilize the mobile web app at to view the tour with pictures and text for every stop, in addition to the audio recordings.

The mobile web app features content for all 20 stops points of interest. It includes images, tour text, and links to expanded content. The latter includes 3-D virtual tours of the silo and underground control center.

The new tours are narrated by United States Air Force Security Police veterans who served at the sites during the Cold War.

“Giving voice to those who protected silos and control centers in South Dakota’s missile field enhances the story we tell,” said Superintendent Eric Leonard.

“Expanding the tour to include the walk to Delta-01 ensures that all visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the launch control facility.”

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site's headquarters and visitor center is located off of exit 131 on Interstate 90 in western South Dakota.

The park consists of three sites along a 15-mile stretch of that highway. Authorized by Congress in 1999, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site preserves components of the Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile system.

It interprets the deterrent value of the land-based portion of America's nuclear defense during the Cold War era. It also commemorates the people and events associated with this recent period of American history.

More information about the park can be found on the park’s website,, at or by phone at 605-433-5552. You can also visit this historic site on Facebook and Twitter.

Fort Atkinson State Preserve

FORT ATKINSON, Iowa – The National Park Service (NPS) has awarded Fort Atkinson State Preserve in Winneshiek County, Iowa, with a $497,500 grant as part of its Save America’s Treasures program. The grant award was announced by the NPS in September.

Fort Atkinson is a nationally significant military post from the 1840s now managed by the Iowa DNR as a state preserve.

The historic site includes several original buildings such as barracks and a gunpowder house, along with archeologically significant artifacts.

“We are pleased to receive funding to help restore this site, which is home to a unique part of Iowa’s history,” said Todd Coffelt, DNR Parks, Forests and Preserves Bureau chief.

“We look forward to working with local community members and those with a passion for Iowa history to make this project a success.”

Originally built by the U.S. government from 1840 to 1842, federal troops occupied Fort Atkinson for military purposes until 1849.

The fort featured prominently in the removal of Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) people from their ancestral lands.

The NPS grant will be used to assess and repair four buildings at the historic fort during the next three years. More information about the NPS Save America’s Treasures grant program can be found at

The Fort Atkinson Preserve’s website is

Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this Journey vs. Destination column weekly for over 15 years.