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Posts Tagged ‘Siloam Springs State Park’

Hey Barred Owl! You're going to need a permit!

Hey Barred Owl! You’re going to need a permit!

Summertime provides ample opportunity to get out and follow your Adventure Foot, and one of the very best ways to do that is to go camping!  Whether you’re tent camping with the kids out of the back of the mini-van or planning a backpacking excursion “off the grid,” a few simple steps can make your next camping trip a safe and fun adventure!

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

Justin putting up a tent at Sand Ridge State Forest

Justin putting up a tent at Sand Ridge State Forest

We’ve all forgotten something important on a trip before, but when we forget something important on a camping trip, it tends to cause more inconvenience than usual.  I’ve found that the way to become a better camper and to forget fewer things is to make a list!  Make a list of the items you’ll need and lay the items all out on the kitchen table before you start packing them in your bag.  When all your items are laid out, you can make sure you haven’t forgotten anything crucial to the trip- matches, bug spray, sunscreen, toilet paper…   don’t leave home without them!

Just as important as what you bring is what you do not bring.  If you’re taking the kids, leave the Nintendo DS at home! Camping time is unplugging time and you will thank yourself for giving all the technology a rest.  Also look for things you can leave out of your life for a day or two.  Pare down the things you’re bringing to just the necessities.  Decluttering is part of the beauty of the outdoors. Besides, whatever you don’t bring, you don’t have to carry!

I like to keep a running list for camping trips.  At the end of the trip, I look to see if there are any items in my pack that I haven’t used at all, and I cross those off for next time.  It lightens the load and helps me to be a more efficient camper.  Likewise, if some item would have made my life easier, I add it to the list and next time I’ll have it!

Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires

Putting the Mmmmmm in Mmmmmarshmallows

Putting the Mmmmmm in Mmmmmarshmallows

Fire safety is every camper’s responsibility.  When building a fire, find out if the campground or space has any rules in place for fire building.  Check for dry conditions and don’t build fires any larger than necessary.  Fire pits or rings are great assets at campgrounds; use them!  They’ll keep the debris all in one place and also help keep the fire from spreading.   If there is not a fire pit, look for a campfire site that is downwind and at least 15 feet away from shrubs, overhanging branches, tents or any other flammable objects.

Please remember: do not transport firewood from one place to another.  There is plenty of loose wood around to collect and burn, and moving firewood is one of the main vectors of invasive species like the extremely destructive Emerald Ash Borer Beatle.

The Bare Necessities

I love Ryan's trail hammock.  Lightweight and even has a bug shield.

I love Ryan’s trail hammock. Lightweight and even has a bug shield.

Water, shelter, food, and waste disposal.  That’s what you’ll need for a camping trip.  If you’re heading out to a state park or campground, water might be easy to come by and all you’ll need is a few water bottles.  If you’re backpacking or going on an especially long hike you may need to bring water purification equipment or tabs.  Plan ahead and know where your water sources are.

Shelter is important too.  Check the weather forecast before you go and pack appropriate gear. In my experience, a forecast for 25% chance of rain turns to 100% if I forget my tent’s rain fly or my poncho.  It’s just the way it works.  Also, pack appropriate gear for the temperatures.  You don’t need that sub-zero sleeping bag if it’s not going to dip below 70 degrees at night.  Likewise, a nice day doesn’t guarantee a warm night, so check and double check the forecast!  It’s not a bad idea to look for safe places to go in case of a storm even if none are forecast.

Food safety is especially important on camping trips, and I’ve heard more than one story of a great camping trip spoiled a day later by intestinal distress.  Don’t forget your safe food handling practices just because you’re out in the woods.  Make sure you cook any meat you are eating thoroughly, be aware of opportunities for cross contamination (don’t touch the fish and then the apples!!), and store food safely.  Make sure you’re storing your food and trash out of the reach of wildlife too.  Even though there aren’t bears in Illinois, a cranky raccoon wandering through camp isn’t much fun either.

Check the Visitor Center for park rules and regs!

Check the Visitor Center for park rules and regs!

Waste disposal doesn’t often get much forethought, but it’s important to plan for too.  Bring trash bags and make sure you keep your campsite clean. You’ll often hear the phrase, “leave no trace.”  This basically means: bring everything out of the woods that you took into the woods.

And while we’re on the subject of waste… sometimes you’re by a porta-john or latrine, and sometimes you’re not.  If you’re in the back country, protect the ecosystem and other travelers by following trail rules.  This often means digging a small hole 10-15 feet off the trail and away from any water sources, doing your business, and covering it up.  If my cats can cover up their dootie, so can you.  In especially delicate ecosystems, you may be required to bring any solid waste with you out of the woods.  Obey rules and posted guidelines!

Maps, Flashlights, and Emergencies

My smartphone has Google Maps, a flashlight, and can call 9-1-1.  Guess what doesn’t usually work in the woods though? My cell phone!  Come on people, you knew that!

Trail tortoise at Fall Creek

Trail tortoise at Fall Creek

Make sure you’re bringing several light sources for your trip.  I’m a fan of hands-free headlights and small LED flashlights.  On longer backpacking trips, I like a hand-crank flashlight and radio combination, which can be used regardless of battery life.

Bring basic first aid equipment for emergencies and even consider a flare or other signaling device if you will be a long way from emergency services.

And bring a printed park map.  Keep the printed map in a plastic bag or have it laminated.

 Hazard Inventory

Riding and camping are a great combination! This is at RAGBRAI 2012

Riding and camping are a great combination! This is at RAGBRAI 2012

The last great piece of camping advice comes to you courtesy of my grandpa.  He said, “Beware of things that bite, sting, itch, or get you all wet!”  Make a list of the hazards you might experience in the area you’re camping.  Know how to identify poison oak and poison ivy.  Know how to identify and safely remove ticks.  Know if anyone in your party is allergic to bee stings and bring appropriate first aid materials for that person.  Know how to identify a potentially hazardous snake or a harmless one (clue: most snakes in our area are harmless).  And lastly, be aware of any water hazards, especially if you have kids around.  Don’t build your tent close to the creek; flash floods can happen whether it’s raining where you are or not.  Keep the kids away from lakes or ponds after dark.  Don’t cross flooded streams.  Just use your common sense!

Justin out on a long hike!

Justin out on a long hike!

So there you have the Adventure Foot Guide to Safe and Fun Camping!  Be sure to check out these related blogs about some of my favorite local state parks.  I highly recommend Wakonda State Park in La Grange, MO, (second winter Wakonda link here!)  Cuivre River State Park in Troy, MO and Siloam Springs State Park in Liberty, IL (second Siloam link here!) for local camping adventures.  You might also check out Sand Ridge State Park near Peoria.  This park is enormous and especially fun in the late fall and winter! Oh and don’t forget Mark Twain Lake!  There’s no excuse not to camp with so many great places to go!

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Do you need a fun family adventure this weekend that doesn’t break the bank? Celebrate National Get Outdoors Week with FREE FISHING in Illinois!

The free fishing event runs June 8th- 11th and it means that anyone can go fishing on any DNR site (state parks and rivers included) in the state without a fishing license, inland trout stamp or salmon stamp these four days only.   I blogged last week about Siloam Springs State Park- and it’s the perfect place to go to take advantage of the statewide free fishing.   Crabapple Lake is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, redear and green sunfish, carp, crappie, channel catfish and rainbow trout. Rowboats are available to rent at the rates of $8 for 2 hours, $11 for 4 hours or $15 for the day, and canoes are $8 per hour.  There is also a bait shop on-site and a boat ramp for personal craft (only electric motors allowed).   For more on Siloam Springs including trail information, click here!

Fishing Rodeo Saturday June 9th

Moorman Park in Quincy.

In addition to the statewide event, local children and adults can try their hand at angling on Saturday, June 9th at Quincy’s Moorman Park.  The Quincy Park District, KICK-FM, Y-101, and Gamemasters are presenting the annual Fishing Rodeo. It’s free to attend, and since June 9th is a free fishing day in Illinois, no fishing license is required! There will be four different age groups, from kids to seniors! The person that catches the longest fish in each age group will receive a one hundred dollar gift card from Gamemasters! Many other prizes will also be awarded. Registration starts at 1pm, and you’ll fish from 1:30 to 2:30. For more information, contact the Quincy Park District at 217-223-7703.

National Get Outdoors Week is also being celebrated at many national parks this weekend, with many locations waiving camping, entrance or facilities fees.  Check local parks for specific information.

Bluegill can be recognized by a distinct black dot behind the gill, spiked top fins and a round shape. Photo from fish.dnr.cornell.edu

Did you know?

The State Fish of Illinois, as voted on by school children in 1986, is the Bluegill!  Bluegill are common in rivers, lakes and streams throughout the state.  Bluegill are actually a carnivorous fish and eat bugs, larvae, snails, crayfish and algae.  They grow to be around 9 inches long and weigh 12 ounces.

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Photo by Brandon Glasgow of humming birds at Siloam Springs State Park. There are feeders in the parking lot by the boat launch area with many hummingbirds always around!

This Saturday is National Trails day, and I’ve got good news if you’ve a mind to get out on local trails: the weather is going to be beautiful!  Sunny, highs in the 70s- a perfect day to follow your Adventure Foot!

Deer Run Trail runs near open prairie lands and is great for birdwatching!

There are many, many good trails at every state park in the area, but I wanted to take a minute to highlight Siloam Springs State Park.

The 3,323 acre park was purchased in the 30s and designated a state recreation area in 1940, but underwent major improvement in the late 1990s.  The park provides ample ideas for fun- there are great shelter houses, a playground, around 12 miles of hiking trails, campsites with restrooms, showers and electricity or primitive campsites, 23 miles of equestrian trails, and a large lake which is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, rainbow trout and more (you need to purchase an Illinois fishing license with trout stamp before fishing at the park.)  At the lakehouse, you can rent canoes and row boats very affordably.  There is also bait and tackle for rent.  The park is only about a 30 minute drive from Quincy or a couple of hours by bicycle if you’re in the mood for a nice long (65 mile round trip) ride!

Great Blue Heron at Siloam Springs State Park

I had the opportunity to visit Siloam last weekend, and was once again reminded how wonderful outdoor recreation close to home can be.  My husband, my friend Clint and I headed to the park in the very hot weather to spend some time on the lake.  We brought along a kayak (important note: if you bring your own kayak/canoe/boat you must have a current IL sticker to use the lake) and also rented a 2-person canoe.  The canoe cost $8 per hour and included lifejacket rental.   We had a nice time paddling around the lake and exploring each shoreline.  I especially enjoyed seeing wildlife including several great blue herons and lots of turtles!

After our paddle, we headed out to Crabapple Trail. This trail traverses 1. 5 miles of woodland, crosses a creek, and has neat outcroppings of limestone every so often.  It’s also one of my favorite trails in the springtime for mushroom hunting.   If you’re looking for a nice easy hike that you could do with a family, Crabapple trail is a good one to try.  It starts and ends in the parking area by the lakehouse, so its location is ideal.

Emerald Jewel Wings are common around the lake shore.

Mmm marshmallows! There are great campgrounds at Siloam Springs!

Another good route to try, especially for groups of adults or those with older kids along, is a combination of the Deer Run, Hoot Owl and Old Village Trails.  Deer Run Trail picks up at the Ranger Station and heads past some open prairie and down a moderate hill to the main Springs area. The prarie area is a great place for bird watchers- there are purple martin boxes and I’ve spotted indigo blue buntings, many types of finch and woodpeckers and even Baltimore Oriels in this area.  When you get to the end of this trail you’re at a great little creek.  I highly recommend fossil hunting in that area!  There are lots of shells, snails and crinoid fossils to be found in the creek bed.  After fossil hunting, you cross the park area and pick up the 1.5 mile Hoot Owl Trail.  This trail goes steeply uphill for a few hundred yards but is fairly easy after that.  I like it because it’s got the best view of the valley in the park, and also a dense stand of pine trees where I always spot deer or red tail hawks.    When you exit Hoot Owl, cross the county line and the bridge and, maybe after a stop for a picnic lunch at the shelter house, go find the Old Village Trail.  This short trail will take you up the bluff and back toward the Ranger Station where you started.  The whole loop ends up being 3-3.5 miles and will give you a great tour of the entire park.

I hope you get out and enjoy some trails this weekend.  Remember to keep our parks clean and leave no trash behind.   If you’d like to read more about another close-to-home State Park- check out this blog from last year about Cuivre River State Park in Troy, MO (1.5 hours from Quincy).   For more info on Siloam Springs including campsite fees, hunting regulations and other amenities, click here!

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Justin Sievert hikes on Crabapple Trail.

Siloam Springs State Park used to be like the jean jacket in the back of my closet. I always knew it was there, I just didn’t think I had much use for it.  But in the last year, I’ve dusted off the jean jacket and headed out to Quincy’s closest state park for some of the most accessible, most affordable fun a person can have in the Quincy area.

The beautiful 3,323-acre park is an ideal spot for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. The park is perfectly suited to hunting, fishing, camping, boating, picnicking, bird watching, playing on the playground with the kids, or for a great hike.  There are no fees, save for hunters or boat rental.

Female Red Headed Woodpecker.

Hiking is my preferred activity at state parks, and Siloam Springs has got everything I need. The trails are all easy to moderate for most hikers, with only a few that present noticeable inclines, and none that risk much in the way of hazards.  There is a wide variety of trails, that range from the just under a mile long Old Village Trail to the 4 mile long Red Oak Backpack trail.  My most traveled route is a combination of the Deer Run trail (which starts right at the parking lot of the ranger station), to the Hoot Owl Trail (which features the park’s steepest incline, but rewards you with beautiful views over the ridges), and then back up the Old Village trail.  This 4 mile loop offers a variety of views, different trees and habitat, a nice spot along the creek to eat a lunch or fossil hunt in the creek bed, and it crosses one of the main park and shelter house areas if you feel like playing on the swing set for a few minutes.

You might think that trail hiking is an activity best saved for warm summer months, but let me give you a few good reasons to get out to the park sooner than later!  First: No bugs yet. No bug spray, no mandatory tick check when you get home, no flies or mosquitoes, and fewer spider webs to stick on your hat. Second: Quiet. You’re not going to run into a bunch of other hikers. Third: Wildlife! Jays, cardinals, deer, hawks and the occasional owl are the winter inhabitants of the park, and the lack of foliage make the viewing that much easier. The red tail hawk calls in the area rang out like bells, and deer moving through the trees are easy to hear and easy to spot.

My day-pack for hiking at Siloam includes a couple bottles of water, a camera, gloves and maybe a sack lunch. In the winter and spring, waterproof shoes are pretty critical, as portions of the trail will be soggy, particularly after snow melt.  I also recommend bringing an extra layer of clothes even if the day is nice. Weather can change fast this time of year, and once the sun starts to go down, so will the temperature.

Check the Department of Natural Resource’s website for more information and for directions to the park.http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/r4/siloamsp.htm

Stay tuned for my follow up article on why morel mushroom hunting at Siloam Springs is the best part of Spring, but don’t expect to find out where my top-secret-awesome mushroom spot is at the park, because I’m not telling!

Original Post March 14, 2011

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Eastern Fence Lizards can be found in Sand Ridge State Forest.

It’s Memorial Day Weekend and I don’t yet have a plan. I know, I’m getting to it a little late, but here’s the thing: there are so many great options.  The weather is finally going to cooperate and give us some sunshine, and I’m ready to hit the trail for some hiking, but where to go? Here are the four ideas I’m tossing around — Maybe you can help pick:

Siloam Springs State Park

It’s the closest park to Quincy and has hiking trails that are just lovely.  The boat house opens this weekend, so we could rent canoes or a john boat and enjoy Crabapple Lake.  I know there are lots of nesting birds around the edges of the lake too, so maybe I’d get a chance to see some fuzzy baby geese or something!  Siloam is always a good choice for a near by adventure.

Argyle Lake State Park

Justin Sievert at Argyle Lake State Park in both the winter and the spring.

This state park is also quite close to Quincy.  It’s just outside of Colchester, IL, and is one of the area’s best-kept secrets.  The park features nice amenities including nice spots to camp and the hiking trails make different loops around and near the lake.  There have been several improvements to the park lately, including the addition of stairs on parts of the trail that were in areas that are steep and can wash out in the rain.  There is also a self-guided interpretative trail near the lake with info-graphics that describe the lake ecosystem. I love a good info-graphic!  This park is also one of the few in the area with designated mountain biking trails for the intrepid weekend warrior!

Sand Ridge State Forest

At 7,200 acres Sand Ridge is the largest state park in Illinois. It’s in Forrest City, Illinois, which is in the general vicinity of Peoria.  This park is wholly unique to Illinois.  It is a backpacker’s dream with over 26 miles of trails and 120 miles of fire lanes that can all be explored. There are registered campgrounds as well as rustic backcountry sites that can make this park a real outdoors experience.  The ecosystem of the park is unlike the rest of the state.  Thanks to the receding glaciers of the last ice age dumping millions of tons of sand on the area, as well as a prehistoric dry period in the state’s history, the forest is actually considered temperate desert or “Sand Prairie.”  The unusual make-up of the soil supports plants and animals unseen anywhere else in the state.  There are badgers, pocket gophers, fence lizards, prickly pear cactus, bur oak, and many more unusual species.  The area is also known for its bird life and includes semi-tropical migratory birds like indigo buntings, verry, ovenbirds, and scarlet tanager, along with Illinois game birds like quail, dove and pheasant.

Cuivre River State Park

Question Mark Butterfly at Argyle Lake State Park.

I blogged about this Troy, Missouri park just a few weeks ago, but I just can’t say enough about it.  The trails are great, and the wildlife is even better.  The campsites are nice and flat and all have fire pits and grill covers, and maybe best of all, there are shower facilities that are included when you pay the $12 fee to camp.  Now that it’s warm, the lake and beach will be open.  That means swimming and lounging around to soak up some rays!  The park rents paddleboats and canoes, so there are plenty of ways to beat the heat.  As if all of those things weren’t enough, Ranger Talks start this weekend, and you can listen to the experts tell you more about the wildlife of the park.  Who knows, I may even bring my bike if we go to this park, because the roads through the park also make a lovely ride.

So there you have it.  It’s a good list of options, and now all I need to do is make a choice.  I said this on my first blog, but it’s worth saying again: we live in amazing part of the country.  All that’s asked of us is to “Get Out” and explore it. Have a great weekend everyone!

Links and directions:

Siloam Springs State Park http://tinyurl.com/siloamsprings

Argyle Lake State Park http://tinyurl.com/argylelake

Sand Ridge State Forest: http://tinyurl.com/sandridgeil

Laura Sievert

Cuivre River State Park http://mostateparks.com/park/cuivre-river-state-park

Original Post May 27, 2011

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