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Illinois hunting and fishing

Step into Illinois’ pioneer past in Carpenter Park

October 23, 2011 at 02:33 PM

The State Journal-Register

Step into Carpenter Park and step into Sangamon County’s pioneer past.

Those who go can expect a different experience, mostly because the park has few amenities. There is no playground, no ball fields, no concession stands and only a portable toilet.

What Carpenter Park does have is more than 300 acres of old-growth forest, one of the few examples left in Illinois.

It is owned by the Springfield Park District and was dedicated in 1979 as a state nature preserve.

As a place to learn about Illinois’ pre-settlement past, Carpenter Park is a wonder.

Gaze up at a bur oak tree more than 300 years old or seek out massive sycamores towering above the flood plain.

There are several trail systems, none of them very long. It is possible to complete any of the loop trails with kids in tow.

With small children, short out-and-back jaunts work just as well.

Along the Sangamon River are the sandstone outcrops, the signature postcard of the park.

Take extra care hiking along the sandstone bluff.

Those seeking a more challenging hike should keep going and press on to Gurgens Park, a 270-acre addition that buffers Carpenter Park directly to the west.

Riverside Park contains 470 acres and is located on the opposite side of the Sangamon River. Together, Carpenter, Gurgens and Riverside Parks add up to 1,174 acres of mostly forested land to explore along the Sangamon River.

During the fall, hikers can find fragrant spicebush and hazelnut shrubs dominating the forest floor beneath towering oak trees.

October also is a great time to see migrating birds at one of the top birding spots in the area.

To get to Carpenter Park, take Peoria Road north toward Sherman.  Just across the Sangamon River, turn left at the light toward the Rail Golf Club. Before the turn off to the golf course is the easy-to-miss entrance to the park.

A winding cinder road takes cars a quarter-mile into the heart of the park, where parking is available and hiking trails begin.

The historic stone shelter house has a fireplace, which visitors may use, but it is their responsibility to extinguish the fire before leaving the shelter.

The shelter, a good place for picnics, may be reserved — though reservations are not required. Gates to the park entrance are locked at dusk.

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528.

About the park

*Location: On the Sangamon River just off Business Interstate 55 adjacent to the Rail Golf Club

*Acreage: 434 acres (322 acres dedicated as a state nature preserve)

*Owner: Springfield Park District

*Nearby parks: Gurgens Park, 270 acres; Riverside Park, 470 acres

*Contact: To reserve the stone shelter, call 544-1751

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Cant wait to try this park out..i wish there were more of them in the area…

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/25 at 09:13 AM

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