Looking for spectacular views with a short hike among some of the most unique rock formations in the United States? Look no further than Garden of the Gods in Southern Illinois. The most popular hike in the Shawnee National Forest, Garden of the Gods gives tourists amazing insight into the geologic structure of Southern Illinois and a view that stretches for miles high over the pristine hills of Shawnee Forest.
More than 320 million years ago, the wind and rain patiently started to chisel away at large deposits of sedimentary rock located in what is now, Shawnee National Forest . Over the years, the elements have sculpted some of the most stunning and extraordinary rock formations known to man. There are also plenty of trails for backpacking and horseback riding, allowing nature lovers a welcome tour of what the lively environment has to offer.
There are many miles of diverse hiking and backpacking trails in the Shawnee National Forest including the 160-mile River to River Trail.
One of the most photographed locations in the state, Garden of the Gods’ scenic beauty is extraordinary. In the recreation area you can hike, camp, nature watch or picnic.
The Observation Trail features unique sandstone rock formations and panoramic views of the surrounding Garden of the God Wilderness. Interpretive signs explain the geological history. The 1/4-mile trail is made of natural sandstone and takes about an hour to walk. It contains short, steep grades and steps; benches are located along the trail and as a whole the trail is not tiring. Caution should be used due to the high cliffs in the area.
Love sand and hiking on packed sandy paths? Indiana Dunes National Park, designated as the nation’s 61st national park is located in Northwestern Indiana along the southern shores of Lake Michigan. The park runs for nearly 25 miles alongside of Lake Michigan containing approximately 15,000 acres where you will find sand dunes, wetland, river, prairie and forest ecosystems. The Park is host to a wide variety of wildlife including white-tailed deer, red fox, raccoons, opossums, cottontail rabbits, various rodents, Canada geese, gulls, squirrels, hawks, turkey vultures , mallards, great blue herons, songbirds and garter snakes.
There are nine different diverse trails to explore!
* Paul H. Douglas Trail
* Tolleston Dune Trail
* Succession Trail.
* Bailly-Chellberg Trail.
* Little Calumet River Trail.
* Cowles Bog Trail.
* Calumet Dune Trail
* Glenwood Dune Horse and Hiking Trail
The Indiana Dunes has over 369 species of flowering plants of which thirteen are considered threatened or in danger of extinction. In addition, there are four invasive flowering plants on the list. Some of the more common spring flowers you will find include the May apple, 6 varieties of buttercups, and violets (14 types). During the Summer months orchids( 5 types) and lots of goldenrods (11 types) can be found.
For your first visit to the park, it is highly recommended that you visit the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center located at U.S. Route 20 and Indiana Route 49 near Porter, Indiana. The center offers standard visitor-center amenities including a video, brochures, hands-on exhibits and a gift shop. It is free to the general public.
If you like to camp…..check out the Dunewood Campground located on U.S. Route 12 which includes two loops of trailer accessible sites and a RV dump station. All sites have grills, a picnic table and access to restrooms with running water and showers. There are also a limited number of camp sites at the neighboring Douglas Loop. The park provides for 45 miles of hiking, fishing, swimming, horseback riding and cross-country skiing. Cycling is available on the Calumet Trail which is a crushed limestone multi-use trail that runs through the eastern section of the park. With all the things to see and do here, the park will draw over 2 million visitors each year.
The Voyageur Hiking Trail runs between Sudbury and Thunder Bay in Northern Ontario, Canada. It is a public hiking trail whose name honors the European fur traders of the region who travelled the area mostly by canoe and were known as “voyageurs” (runners of the woods). Used by all ages and levels of experience, the trail is used by day hikers to the serious hardy backpackers.
The hiking trail crosses the vast privately and publicly owned forests of this rugged wilderness. Over half of the linear trail has been completed plus numerous side trails. Sault Ste. Marie is the largest city on the completed trail and is located between two of the Great Lakes………….Lake Superior and Lake Huron. The route runs alongside these two great bodies of water frequently touching the shoreline. Many other communities through which the trail passes include Elliot Lake, Iron Bridge, Wawa, Marathon, Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Rossport and Nipigon.
You can refer to a trail guidebook that provides trail users with all of the up-to-date maps and descriptions of the available trails. In addition, digital maps can be downloaded to GPS units for on-trail navigation. Many trail users participate in Geocaching and the number of geocaches that can be found along the trail is continually increasing.
The Voyageur Trail is a pedestrian trail only….meaning that it is made for hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing and bushwhack skiing. In most places, the trail is too rough for other uses. You will find fallen trees that lie across the path where your only choice is to climb over them. You will cross streams on beaver dams, rocks or logs. And the trail is advertised as a “true wilderness trail” because there are no facilities along the Voyageur Trail. Regardless of your physical condition you can expect to do approximately two kilometers per hour on the trail so plan your outing taking this into account. Some hikers have described it as “bushwhacking with blazes” and in some areas of the trail this description is true. (wiki)
Located on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan in Manistee Township, Manistee County, Michigan……Orchard Beach State Park is a public recreation area covering 201 acres just north of the city Manistee which has a beach, campground and hiking trails. The park dates back to 1892 when it first opened and was developed by the Manistee, Filer City and Eastlake Railway Company. The site was purchased by the Manistee Board of Commerce after the company stopped trolley service to the park and then became part of the Michigan state park system in 1921. The Civilian Conservation Corps was active in the park during the 1930’s and Corps efforts included the construction of several limestone structures including a pump house, pavilion, line house and toilet. In 2009 the park was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places having been cited as “one of the most intact examples of a Michigan state park developed in the 1930’s and 1940’s under National Park Service guidelines. In 2019 it was reported that erosion caused by high water levels on Lake Michigan threatened the park’s historic pavilion with destruction. The pavilion stands only 50 feet from the edge of the bluff. High water had covered the sandy beach at the base of the bluff below the pavilion since 2017 and the stairway built to access the beach from the pavilion led straight into the high waters of Lake Michigan. As for activities and amenities the park offers swimming, fishing, three miles of hiking trails, picknicking facilities and a 166 site campground. (wiki)
“In order to see birds, it is necessary to become park of the silence” – Robert Lund
A rewilding, brought about first through neglect and now through intentional human effort, is occurring on all over the world and certainly here in the Midwest. Over the years, I have discovered unique beauties on ambling adventures along the Wisconsin and Michigan Shoreline, and even in the heart the city…downtown Chicago. A rewilding, brought about first through neglect and now through intentional human effort, is occurring on all over the world and certainly here in the Midwest. Over the years, I have discovered unique beauties on ambling adventures along the Wisconsin and Michigan Shoreline, and even in the heart the city…downtown Chicago.
The early interest in observing birds for their aesthetic rather than utilitarian (mainly food) value is traced to the late 18th century in the works of Gilbert White, Thomas Bewick, George Montagu and John Clare The study of birds and natural history in general became increasingly prevalent in Britain during the Victorian Era, often associated with collection, eggs and later skins being the artifacts of interest. Wealthy collectors made use of their contacts in the colonies to obtain specimens from around the world. It was only in the late 19th century that the call for bird protection began leading to the rising popularity of observations on living birds. The Audubon Society was started to protect birds from the growing trade in feathers in the United States while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds began in Britain.
Bird watching will get your children to go outside. …
Bird watching allows for introspection and contemplation. …
Bird watching can improve cardiovascular health. …
Bird watching gives you an excuse to travel. …
Bird watching builds a sense of community. …
Bird watching quickens reflexes.
“I realized that if I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes” – Charles Lindbergh
Birding in North America was focused in the early and mid-20th century in the eastern seaboard region, and was influenced by the works of Ludlow Griscom and later Roger Tory Peterson. Bird Neighbors (1897) by Neltje Blanchan was an early birding book which sold over 250,000 copies. It was illustrated with color photographs of stuffed birds.
Here are some great resources if you like birding:
White Pines Forest State Park is an Illinois state park in Ogle County, Illinois, which is a 385 acre park that contains the southernmost remaining stand of native white pine trees in the state of Illinois designated an Illinois Nature preserve in 2001. The park contains two freshwater streams, dolomite rock formations and a variety of activities generally associated with Illinois state parks. Among the park’s most distinctive and well known features are the vehicular river crossings. At three places, crossing Pine Creek, fords were constructed instead of bridges. The fords offer visitors a chance to actually drive through the creek, though high water frequently closes the crossings. Hikers are relegated to pedestrian bridges or stepping stones in the creek to cross the stream. Floods are frequent enough on Pine Creek, a large watershed to the north of the park, that there is an emergency exit from the campground. When high water closes the fords, the campground is cut off and the emergency exit is the only way out. The banks of Pine Creek and Spring Creek are lined with large rock and cliff formations that provide habitat to plants ranging from large trees to moss to hanging vines. The forest undergrowth provides small mammal habitats and among the mammals that can be seen include red squirrels, raccoons, deer and chipmunks. The creeks are populated with smallmouth bass, rock bass, channel catfish and , when they are stocked by the IDNR, rainbow trout. The park is Illinois’ third oldest and has become one of the state’s most visited parks hosting over 350,000 visitors each year. During the warmer months picknicking, camping, lodging, hiking and fishing are available. The lodge and cabins are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
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The great plains of the Midwest are home to some of the United States’ most amazing wildlife.
In the American prairie your will mostly find animals adapted for living in grasslands. Indigenous mammals include the American bison, eastern cottontail, black-tailed jackrabbit, plains coyote, black-tailed prairie dog, muskrat, opossum, raccoon, prairie chicken, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, swift foxes, pronghorn antelope, the Franklin’s ground squirrel and several other species of ground squirrels.
Rabbits live throughout and neighboring areas; the black-tailed jackrabbit is found in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas, the white-tailed jackrabbit in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the swamp rabbit in swampland in Texas, and the eastern cottontail is found in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and every state in the Eastern U.S.The groundhog is a common species in Iowa, Missouri, and eastern portions of Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
The groundhog is widespread throughout Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Minnesota. Virginia opossum is found is states such as Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas.
The nine-banded armadillo is found throughout the South and states such as Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. The muskrat is found throughout the Central U.S., excluding Texas, while the American beaver is found in every central state.The American bison is the heaviest land animal in North America and can be as tall as 6.5 feet (2.0 m) and weigh over a ton.
Maybe the most iconic animal of the American prairie, the American buffalo, once roamed throughout the central plains. Bison once covered the Great Plains and were critically important to Native-American societies in the Central U.S. They became nearly extinct in the 19th century, but have made a recent resurgence in the Great Plains. Today, bison numbers have rebounded to about 200,000; these bison live on preserves and ranches.
Some of the species that occupy every central state include the red fox, bobcat, white-tailed deer, raccoon, eastern spotted skunk, striped skunk, long-tailed weasel, and the American badger and beaver. The wild boar is common in the South, while the American mink lives in every central state with the exception of Texas. The least weasel is found around the Great Lakes as well as states such as Nebraska, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
The gray fox is found in Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and also around the Great Lakes region. The ring-tailed cat is found in the southern region, including in Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. There are many species of squirrels in the central parts of the U.S., including the fox squirrel, eastern gray squirrel, Franklin’s ground squirrel, southern flying squirrel, and the thirteen-lined ground squirrel. Voles include the prairie vole, woodland vole and the meadow vole. The plains pocket gopher lives throughout the Great Plains. Shrews include the cinereus shrew, southeastern shrew, North American least shrew, and the Elliot’s short-tailed shrew. (wiki)\
All year round, plan to be surprised and awed at the spectacular natural features found here at Starved Rock in Illinois.
Surrounded by the flat, seemingly endless fields of Illinois farm country, a totally different topography is found within the park. Starved Rock was formed thousands of years ago by the melting of glaciers releasing torrents of water. As the water rushed downstream it eroded and stripped away everything in its path except the resistant St. Peter sandstone. It is that sandstone that formed the steep rock walls and the cool dark valleys of the eighteen canyons. When conditions are right cascades of falling water spill down into these gorges, creating the waterfalls so many come here to enjoy.
WATERFALLS Although you can technically see waterfalls in 14 of the 18 canyons, some of the most scenic waterfalls are found in St. Louis, French, Wildcat, Tonty, Ottawa and Kaskaskia canyons. The best times to see waterfalls are in the spring when the snow and ice melt or after a heavy rainfall.
ICEFALLS Winter brings a whole new life to the canyons. The freezing and melting that happens during this time of year creates amazing ice sculptures in the canyons. Make sure you come back in the winter to see an icefall – they are spectacular!
600 million years ago Northern Illinois was part of a broad upland that was undergoing extensive erosion. The erosion wore the land down to near sea level. Erosion that forms a near sea level surface is called a peneplain. This peneplain was submerged several times by sea water and several layers of sediment were laid on the surface. Starved Rock State Park was once covered with 3000-5000 feet of glacial ice on and off over a course of 700,000 years. Glacial ice can move forwards never backwards. When a glacier is said to be retreating, it is actually melting faster than it is moving forward. As glacial ice can only move forward, it picks up rocks and carries them in the ice. When the ice melts, these rock particles are dropped at the point of melting. All dropped rock material is called drift. Drift found at the point of melting is called till. Till is unsorted glacial drift. When the glacier is stagnant, the drift accumulates into a pile called an end moraine. After the glacier has retreated, it leaves a range of irregular hills which are the end moraine. The melt waters of the glacier were so great that they would accumulate behind the moraines and form vast lakes. The streams that drain these lakes were gigantic compared to today’s streams. The Illinois Valley was formed by one of these streams. 15,000 years ago during the Wisconsinan Glacial Age, the glacial meltwater of a large lake overtopped the Marseilles Moraine and formed Lake Ottawa behind the Farm Ridge Moraine that ran north to south along what we call Starved Rock State Park today. This lake drained when it overtopped the Farm Ridge Moraine cutting a channel that became the Illinois River. Repeated meltwater floods of the Kankakee Torrent poured through the channels cut through the Marseilles and Farm Ridge Moraines establishing the drainage for the Illinois, Fox, and Vermillion Rivers. This repeated drainage also cut the outcrops , overlooks, and 18 canyons that you see today.
Looking for premier hiking in the Midwest. Look no furture….The Ice Age Trail is a National Scenic Trail located entirely within Wisconsin. The trail is also one of 42 designated Wisconsin state trails and the only one specifically designated as a “State Scenic Trail.” From Interstate State Park on the Minnesota border to Potawatomi State Park on Lake Michigan, the Ice Age Trail winds for more than 1,000 miles, following the edge of the last continental glacier in Wisconsin.
One of only 11 National Scenic Trails, the Ice Age Trail is intended to be a premier hiking trail and conservation resource for silent sport and outdoor enthusiasts. The trail traverses some of Wisconsin’s most scenic landscapes and helps tell the story of the last Ice Age by highlighting Wisconsin’s unique glacial features.
Primary attractions include topography left by glaciation in the Last Ice Age. Glacial features along the trail include kettles, potholes, eskers, and glacial erratics. Many of the best examples of glacial features in Wisconsin are exhibited in units of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve, most of which lie along the trail.
The Ice Age Trail is primarily an off-road hiking and backpacking trail that provides excellent opportunities for sightseeing, wildlife viewing and bird watching. In winter, some sections of the trail are open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Opportunities are available for camping along the Ice Age Trail in national, state and county forests and in many state and county parks, including some private campgrounds. Campgrounds can vary from primitive walk-in campsites to facilities complete with electric hookups. When planning a trip, it is best to check ahead of time for camping locations and availability. The Ice Age Trail Atlas and Guidebook, which are available for sale from the Ice Age Trail Alliance, provide camping and lodging details for all segments of the trail.
The Ice Age Trail travels through 30 counties on state, federal, county and private lands, connecting dozens of communities. There are hundreds of trailheads and access points located along the trail route. More than 600 miles of trail are open. The completed sections of the trail are connected by less-traveled roadways and other temporary routes.
Stone steps lead the way up the bluff trails at Devil’s Lake State Park.
The Ice Age Trail goes through several state and federal lands in Wisconsin, including traveling many miles through county and private lands. In addition to the state parks and forests listed below (from west to east along the trail), the Ice Age Trail travels through many state wildlife and fishery areas and some state natural areas.
Interstate State Park, Saint Croix Falls
Straight Lake State Park, near Frederic
Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area, near New Auburn
Brunet Island State Park, Cornell
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
Hartman Creek State Park, near Waupaca
Devil’s Lake State Park, near Baraboo
Kettle Moraine State Forest
Southern Unit, Eagle
Lapham Peak Unit, near Delafield
Loew Lake Unit, near Monches
Pike Lake Unit, near Hartford
Northern Unit, near Campbellsport
Point Beach State Forest, near Two Rivers
Potawatomi State Park, near Sturgeon Bay
The Ice Age Trail includes parts of other Wisconsin state trails.
Gandy Dancer, St. Croix Falls to Frederic
Tuscobia, Rice Lake to Birchwood
Mountain-Bay, near Hatley
Military Ridge, near Verona
Badger, near Fitchburg
Sugar River, Monticello to Albany
Glacial Drumlin, near Wales
Eisenbahn, near Kewaskum
Ahnapee, Casco Junction to Sturgeon Bay
Interstate State Park, Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area and the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine Forest – all units of the Ice Age Scientific Reserve – have Ice Age Educational and Interpretive Centers with major displays in glacial history and geology .https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/iceagetrail/