Visitors Guide to the
Columbus-Belmont State Park
350 Park Road
Columbus, Kentucky
270-677-2327



Accessible Parking Accessible Picnic Facilities Accessible Interpretive Exhibits Accessible Missouri Historic Site Hiking Trails Accessible Scenic Views Wildlife Viewing Accessible Information Center Accessible Camping Facilities Accessible Gift Shop Accessible Restrooms
   
 





 
 

Columbus-Belmont State Park is a 156-acre site that sits on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. The parks is located on the site was considered by both North and South to be strategically significant in gaining and keeping control of the Mississippi and of a Confederate fortification built during the Civil War. In 1861 Confederate General Leonidas Polk fortified the area by building a fort along a bluff along the "cutside" of the river at Columbus. The fort was christened Fort DeRussey and referred to by Polk as the "Gibraltar of the West." He equipped it with a massive chain that was stretched across the Mississippi to Belmont, Missouri, to block the passage of Union gunboats and supply vessels in the western theater of the war. The fort was also equipped also with 143 cannons. Columbus was the northernmost Confederate base along the Mississippi, protecting Memphis, Vicksburg and other key Southern holdings. As the northern terminus of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, Columbus was logistically tied to Confederate supply lines.

The struggle to control the river led to the Battle of Belmont on November 7, 1861 where Union troops led by Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the future Union Army general in chief and U.S. President, fought with Confederate troops at Belmont across the river from the Confederate fortifications. Grant's troops overran a Confederate camp and destroyed it. The scattered Confederate forces quickly reorganized and were reinforced from Columbus. Their counterattack, supported by heavy artillery fire from across the river, forced Grant to retreat to his riverboats and back to Paducah, Kentucky. This was also Grant's first active engagement in the Civil War. Many of the earthen fortifications, buildings and artillery pieces were lost to erosion of the bluff during heavy flooding in the region during the 1920s. When the flooding receded in 1925, the giant chain was exposed, and the people of Columbus decided to save it for future generations. The area containing the park was purchased by the state of Kentucky in 1934.

Some of the artillery and the six-ton anchor that held the great chain stretching across the river are on display in the park. In 1934 the Civilian Conservation Corps built a stone monument to hold the chain. The remains of "Lady Polk," a giant experimental cannon named for Polk's wife, can be seen.  This 10 foot long gun could fire 10 feet (3.0 m) long and 15,000 pounds. However, two days after the Battle of Belmont it exploded when a round failed to escape and killed eighteen Confederate soldiers. The park hosts an annual Civil War Days reenactment that includes battle re-enactments, living history exhibits and military encampments in October. There is a 2.5-mile self-guided hiking trail in the Park. The park features seasonal facilities that include a Civil War Museum, a snack bar, gift shop, and miniature golf course. A river cliff campground is open year round utility hookups and grills. A central service building offers rest rooms, showers, and laundry facilities.

 
     
  Bird Watching
Columbus-Belmont State Park is listed on the National Audubon Society's Great River Birding Trail. The site affords excellent opportunities to see birds characteristic of loess bluff upland hardwood forests and may be a good site for observing birds migrating up or down the Mississippi river in the spring or fall.
 
     
  Visiting Columbus-Belmont State Park
     Hours:
          April - October: 8 am - 9 pm
          November - March: 8 am - 3 pm

There is no charge to visit Columbus-Belmont State Park.
 
   
 
Directions: From KY-123 in Columbus take Cheatham Street through Columbus and into Columbus-Belmont State Park.
 
   
  GPS Coordinates
36 45.944'
W 89 06.654'
 
   
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