Goat Cliff Hiking Trail
Pere Marquette State Park
Bluebells are among the wildflowers
that can be seen along the Goat Cliff Trail in the spring
||1 1/2 miles
The Goat Cliff Trail is the oldest in the park,
originally laid out in 1934 by members of the National Youth Administration,
one of the Depression era work programs. The trail is recommended by Scott
Isringhausen, the Park's Site Interpretive Program Coordinator, as the best way to
sample the park's natural treasures. The trail starts on the west end of the
parking lot by the Visitorís Center near the log cabin.
Near the beginning, as the trail enters the wooded
area, hikers can see rock formations rise sharply out of the ground. Best
seen during the colder months, this is
visual evidence of the Cap-au-Gres fault, a 60-mile fracture line that runs
in an east-southeastward direction from Lincoln County, Missouri into
northwest Madison County, Illinois. When the water flow of the Mississippi
and Illinois rivers hits the hard and shifted bedrock produced by this
fracture, it is deflected east and is one reason the two rivers flow in the
easterly direction that creates the area's Riverbend region.
The woods in this area are an example of a young
forest. When the park was created in 1931, the area below the bluffs was all
hill prairie, but tree plantings by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
and subsequent fire suppression policies allowed trees like the Sugar Maple to dominate
the area and replace the hill prairie eco-system. Other trees that can be
found in the area are the Pawpaw, Kentucky Coffeetree, and Shagbark Hickory.
In the spring hikers can view a variety of woodland wildflowers including
Bluebells, Red Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpits, and Spring Beauty. These
wildflowers are most prevalent on the lower portion of the trail.
The view from McAdams Peak in the Fall
The trail ends near the scenic lookout on McAdams
Peak that sits atop an ancient burial mound and looks over three
prominent bodies of water. The nearest is Stump
Lake, which was once bottomland forest. With the construction of Alton Lock
and Dam #26 in the late 1930's, the forest was cut down by the CCC because
it was feared that once the forest was flooded, dead trees would float down
the river and possibly choke the new dam. Currently, Stump Lake is partially
drained during the summer months to promote the growth of moist soil plants
that attracts many types of birds. Beyond Stump Lake is the main channel of
the Illinois River and Six Mile Island, named so because it is six miles
north of the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers at Grafton.
Further still is Swan Lake, which is part of the Two Rivers National Wildlife
Refuge. Beyond Swan Lake is Calhoun County, and on a clear day the grain
elevators at Hardin can be seen.
The Goat Cliff Trail connects with three trails: Ridge,
Ravine and Hickory.