September 09, 2015

Outdoor activities planned at Touch of Nature

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center is offering several outdoor activities series this fall. 

Paddle Days kicks off Thursday, Sept. 10, and continues every Thursday through Oct. 22. It takes place from 1:30 to 5:30 each week. All participants will join in a one-time introductory program the first week they attend to learn the basics of paddling. The cost is $20 for SIU students or $30 for community members for the class.  Then, participants pay just $10 each subsequent week to participate in the paddling fun. 

The all-inclusive fee covers canoes, kayaks, personal flotation devices and paddles.  Those attending will want to wear water shoes or other shoes they don’t mind getting wet and may bring snacks and water bottles. 

SIU students can enjoy the “In Touch All Day” program each Friday from Sept. 11 through Dec. 11. The program is free and gives students the chance to explore the camp and many of the programs and activities it offers. Transportation will be provided from the front of the Student Center, leaving at 9 a.m. for Touch of Nature, and returning to the Student Center by 4 p.m. 

During the morning, students will learn the basics of canoeing and kayaking as well as studying trail stewardship, hiking, mammoth tracking and survival skills. They will spend their afternoons in the Shawnee National Forest or at Little Grassy Lake testing their newfound knowledge and skills. 

Finally, Touch of Nature will offer Trail Stewardship Days each Sunday from Sept. 13 through Oct. 25. The Stewardship Days will give people the opportunity to have a hand in reclaiming the center’s trails and making the outdoor recreational grounds more usable for everyone. Volunteers from the campus and community can come help from 9 a.m. to noon and/or 1-4 p.m. each week. There is no cost and no experience is necessary. Touch of Nature staff will provide tools and instruction in how to safely use them. 

Throughout the years, the forest has taken over parts of the facility’s extensive trail system and this program will reclaim and spruce up those trails for everyone to use. The goal is to eventually connect Touch of Nature Trails with those nearby at Giant City State Park, the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and with the River to River Trail. 

This project is a good chance for students to earn volunteer hours and for students and community members to work together for a worthy cause. Participants may wish to bring snacks and water bottles. 

Touch of Nature Staff remind everyone to wear appropriate clothing for whichever activities are involved in the series they choose to participate in.  For more information, or to register, call 618/453-1121. 

Touch of Nature Environmental Center, online at, is about eight miles south of Carbondale off Giant City Road.