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On The Trail: Giant City Nature Trail

(WSIL) — This week “On The Trail” we’re heading back to Giant City State Park to hike a trail that receives millions of visitors each year.

Natural Resources Coordinator, Jennifer Randolph, says, “The Giant City Nature trail is what we consider to be kind of the premiere trail for the park so when people come to Giant City. Usually this is the first trail that we send them to.”

Randolph says that while the Natural Trail is only a mile long, there is no shortage of things to see.

Randolph explains, “If you spend just a little more time when you’re hiking, it’s amazing what you can find and what you’ll see. Look at these cool little red mushrooms, how neat are those? This tree is call a Pawpaw tree, have you guys ever heard of Pawpaws? It’s an understory tree, the really cool thing about Pawpaw’s is that they get a fruit. It’s really hard to find these because pawpaw fruit needs two completely separate genetic strands of trees. It tastes like the cross between a banana and a mango and it’s delicious. I don’t think a lot of people know that you can legally pick fruit here at Giant City as long as you’re not in the nature preserve.”

The vegetation isn’t the only thing to keep an eye out for the park also filled with beautiful rock formations.

Randolph elaborates, “The area that we’re standing in now, 300 million years ago was a warm shallow sea and as the waters receded the sand and the silt built up into the wonderful rock formations that we have at Giant City State Park. Sand stone is a sedimentary rock and as the wind and the rain and the snows beat against the rock it wears away and we get this really nice pitting. This is iron oxide that protrudes from the rock and as the sand stone wears away, this of course being more cemented continues to protrude so really beautiful.”

The streets of Giant City are not only beautiful but are filled with rich history. 

Randolph says, “If the moss was cleared off, you’d be able to see some really cool carvings here. Albert and Theodore Thompson lived in the area that is now the park and they were Union and they wanted to send a warning to the Copperheads or Confederate Soldiers that would have secret meetings in the rocks at Giant City, that this is Union territory. A little bit of interesting history that ties that back to Carbondale and SIU is that if you’re familiar with Thompson woods, it was the same family.”

Randolph shows, “Now we’re going to go under the balanced rock, which is another one of our rock formations that we’re known for here at Giant City. I have a picture of this very opening from the early 1940s and you would’ve had to have ducked down to get through there so you can see the impact that close to a million visitors a year has on the trail.”

For more information about how you can get out on the trail this summer and Giant City State Park click here.

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