September 18, 2015

Touch of Nature sponsoring special excursions

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. – A number of special excursions sponsored by Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center offer people the opportunity to explore some of the region’s hidden gems and natural sites. 

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go” begins Sept. 26 and continues every other Saturday through Nov. 21 at various locations.  Everyone is welcome at each event and costs vary from free up to $20, depending on the location and activity. Each session is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Those attending will board a bus in the SIU Student Center parking lot by 8 a.m. the day of each program. The bus will return there at the end of each excursion. 

The schedule, along with information about what each excursion will involve and the costs, includes: 

  • Sept. 26 -- Coinciding with National Public Lands Day, this is a cleanup of the heavily used Garden of the Gods Recreation Area followed by an afternoon of hiking there in the Shawnee National Forest. There is no cost to participate although donations are welcome and as always, people are welcome to become a Touch of Nature member.
  • Oct. 10 -- This is a double excursion beginning with a visit to Heron Pond where hikers will walk along the boardwalk among the wetlands cypress and tupelo trees. Then, it’s on to Ferne Clyffe State Park for hiking among the rock formations and rare plants found on the Round Cliff Nature Preserve trail.  The cost is $20 for adults and $10 for children ages 10 and younger.
  • Oct. 24 -- A padding excursion is set for Horseshoe Lake, an oxbow lake along the Mississippi River. Participants will learn about the natural history of the lake and the culture surrounding it as they canoe among the bald cypress, wild lotus and swamp cottonwood. It’s $20 for adults and $10 for children ages 10 and younger.
  • Nov. 7 -- This outing includes a hike in the Fults Hill Prairie State Natural Area and a visit to Fort De Chartres. Fults Hill is a nature preserve featuring the largest high-quality loess prairie in the state and the hike is a 1.4 mile loop including steep and challenging terrain. Fort de Chartres was originally constructed by the French in the 1720s and reconstructed in the 1900s and furnished largely in period style. The price is $20 for adults and $10 for ages 10 and younger.
  • Nov. 21 -- Piney Creek Ravine State Natural Area is the destination for the final outdoor adventure and will include a hike along a 1.5 mile trail featuring moderate inclines, creek crossings and rocky areas. Participants will likely have a clear view of the ravine and be able to see many of the 200 Native American petroglyphs and pictographs, part of the largest rock art collection in the state. The cost is $20 for adults or $10 for ages 10 and younger. 

Everyone is welcome to join in for any or all of the “Oh the Places You’ll Go” excursions. Organizers encourage participants to dress appropriately for the planned activity and bring water bottles and snacks. Extra water will be available. Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and must have a signed risk waiver. 

Pre-register or get more information by calling 618/453-1121. You can also find out more by emailing