America's Best History Spotlight
On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.
Salt River Bay, U.S. Virgin Islands
It was indigenous to the tribes of St. Croix and the other Virgin Islands, including the Igneri, Taino, and Carib, the spectacular region of Salt River Bay, that is, until November 14, 1493 came and the second voyage of Columbus began to explore the cove. Yes, for European history, and today, American history, Salt River Bay, with its National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve telling the story of the land, the ocean, the bay, the indigenous cultures, and the fact that it is the only spot in the territories, including states, of the United States, where the men of Christopher Columbus set foot. You can argue whether that was good or not. Photo above: Underwater scene at Salt River Bay, Susanna Pershern. Courtesy National Park Service.
Info, What's There Now, History Nearby
Salt River Bay
While from a history standpoint, the European claim to fame is that landing site of Columbus, it's in the nature of its waters and land that Salt River Bay really shines. From the largest remaining mangrove forest in the Virgin Islands to the coral reefs and submarine canyons three hundred and fifty feet deep within its protected waters, the park is a delight for historians as well as scuba divers with enough skill to ply these sites.
For the history minded, there's the site of Taino villages and the excavation site of a ball court, Forts Flamand (Sale) with remaining earthwork fort, the site of the 1645-1665 English Village, English Governor's House, Fort Greig, and the estimated site of the 1493 clash between the Carib's and the Columbus crew. See below a short explanation of that in the book about Dr. Chanca's letter. It was the first recorded battle between the natives of the New World and the Europeans at a site now known as Cape of the Arrow. At the time of the Columbus crew landing, the Taino tribe had been enslaved by the Carib.
Of course, the history here is not too pleasant throughout the colonial period, including those seven changes in empire. The Spanish, after Columbus, effectively eradicated the Caribs. The colonial empires would employ African slaves. The English (1641, 1645-50), Dutch (1642-1645), French (1650-1733), Danish (1733-1917) all attempted a St. Croix colonial empire here after the Spanish with plantings of cotton, indigo, and sugar. It's a living history museum of beautiful nature and what went wrong in the colonial world.
Photo above: Columbus Landing Site, Salt River Bay, 2007. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Below: Christopher Columbus, 1892, Currier and Ives. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Where Is It
Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve is located on the north side of St. Croix, essentially mid-island. It is approximately seven miles east of Christensted on Route 75 East. Give yourself a bit less than one half hour for the travel. Address of the park is 2100 Church Street, Christensted, St. Croix, 00820.
What is There Now
The Visitor Center was damaged during Hurricane Maria and is not currently open as of 2019. The park itself includes over one thousand acres of prehistoric and colonial remnants and ruins, plus the Salt River Bay and its nearby underwater environs of the Caribbean. Snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and hiking tours are available.
When Open and How Much
Open year round. With no contact station currently available on site, you can get information about a visit at the Christensted National Historic Site Visitor Center. There is currently no entrance fee.
Fees subject to change.
Salt River Bay National Historic Site
Christensted National Historic Site
Well, there's Christiansted National Historic Site on St. Croix, as well as the unique charm of both Christensted itself, as well as Frederiksted on the western side of the island. There's Buck Island Reef National Monument to the north; on St. John, there's the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park, as well as verdant beaches and more on St. John and St. Thomas, where the capital, Charlotte Amalie, is located. Charlotte Amalie includes unique sites such as Blackbeard's Castle, Fort Christian, and Paradise Point, accessed by an aerial tram.