Monday, November 3, 2014

Giant City State Park: Stonefort Nature Trail

Fried Chicken. More importantly, and according to a family friend,the World's Very Best Fried Chicken served in an all you can eat familystyle. That, is what truly brought me to Giant City State Park, locatedjust outside of Carbondale, IL. But what I found, besides the absolutely delicious fried chicken, was an astoundingly gorgeous and completelyunique area, filled with a hiker's wish list of things to do, see,explore and, of course, eat!

With so many differenttrails to explore in Giant City State Park I've decided to break them up into more easily "digestible" single review trails, starting here with the Stonefort Nature Trail...

We began our whole excursion in GiantCity State Park pondering exactly what a "Stonefort" was, and since weall had a different idea of what it may actually be we decided to makethe Stonefort Nature Trail our first official stop. Little did we know, but we actuallycaught a glimpse of the Stonefort Nature Trail's breathtakingobservation point from atop an 80 foot sandstone bluff as we entered the main park.

So, Exactly What Is A "Stonefort"?

Thisone-third of a mile loop trail took us on a tour of an ancient"stonefort", one of ten wall-like structures, constructed entirely ofheavy stone, believed to have been erected in the Late Woodland periodbetween 600AD - 900AD in Southern Illinois. Each of these ancient arrangements have been discovered on top of hills or promontories and were oncebelieved to have been used as some type of stone fortification, thusgiving them the name "Stonefort". These unique walls, consisting ofheavy stones, are now believed to have been constructed as meetingplaces or perhaps ceremonial locations. The original wall that sat atopthis particular trail was actually removed, dismantled by early European settlers to the area, who used the heavy stones as building materials.The low stone base is all that really remains of the original site,however, in 1934 the Civilian Conservation Corps (whom I can't thankenough) rebuilt the wall into the site that we see today. During the reconstruction of the wall, the CCC found many Native American artifacts including a good deal of pottery. "I personallylove sites like this that carry that hint of ancient mystery, sites such as this and Rock Pile Mountain always pique my curiosity of early Native Americans and, while marveling attheir accomplishments and ingenuity, I also find myself theorizing on what these sites may havebeen used for.

But What About The Actual Trail?

The Stonefort Nature Trail itself iswell worn, with many roots and rocks embedded in its surface, which some may find a bit difficult to walk on. The trail also winds it's way upthe side of a small hill, where you instantly come upon the structureitself upon arriving at the top. If you continue the loop, around thetop of the hill, you will come to a spectacular overlook from an 80 foot sandstone bluff which overlooks the park's entrance. A word of warningfor those of you with small children and faint hearts, it is a STEEP,LONG drop to the bottom of this bluff and there are no handrails. Thetrail also narrows a bit here making it a somewhat dangerous portion ofthe trail. For those that continue along the loop, you'll find anotheroverlook along the way along with a carpeting of moss, ferns andwildflowers, sheltered beneath a wide canopy of local hardwoods anevergreens. This trail is well worth the short hike, even if you decidethe breathtaking 80 foot overlook perhaps steals a bit too much of yourbreath.

Directions (click the Google Map below to enter in your address)

Giant City State Park
235 Giant City Road, Makanda, IL 62958
(618) 457-4836

More Information: 

Local Treks on facebook 
Giant City State Park Devil's Standtable Nature Trail - Be sure to hit this trail too!
Giant City State Park - Official IDNR Homepage
Giant City Trails -  A list of all eight established trails
Giant City Visitor Maps - Maps provided by the IDNR of the entire park
More Photos From Giant City State Park - My Flickr Album for Giant City State Park

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