On an unusually warm and sunny December day, I had the pleasure of accompanying a small group of local girl scouts on their outing to Big River State Park.
The objective of the day was to learn about trees and identify at least 5 different trees on our hike.
Big River State Park, along the Mississippi River, is primarily an old pine plantation, established for the demonstration of growing marketable timber and good forestry management. The plantation includes white, red and jack pines. The girls learned to identify these 3 species right at the start of our hike. However, as we walked along the forest changed to include many other species of trees. Sycamore, red oak, pin oak and hickory were all trees we keyed in our guides and learned about their distinguishing features. The park has undergone changes over the years and now includes prairie areas and mixed hardwood forest. It sits on the edge of Henderson County which is known for it's sandy soils. We discovered the sands contain many interesting plant species. Prickly Pear Cactus and many interesting lichens grow here. In addition, the girls noticed the tracks of many creatures and had fun trying to identify what animals they may have belonged to. Deer, coyote and smaller mammals and horse prints were all noted. Overhead, Bald Eagles could be seen and we came across feathers of other different birds that inhabit the area. Woodpeckers and their activities in the forest could be seen and heard.
Although closed to visitors at this time of the year, there is a fire tower in the park and tours are available. It would be fun to be up there to see the scope of the forest and surrounding lands.
Overall, this was a fun and interesting place to visit and I believe the girls achieved their objectives for the day. The afternoon was topped off with cooking a meal of pizzas made with tree fruits(olives) and then finished off with wonderful cherry pie in keeping with the theme of the day.
It was an inspirational day for me and I know I will be returning to explore more of the lands of Big River State Park.
Rose Moore – Master Naturalist
Today's post was written by Rose Moore. Rose is a Certified Master Naturalist serving Henderson, Knox, McDonough & Warren Counties. She enjoys exploring the natural world around her and recording the experiences in art and writing.