Thursday, June 30, 2016

Beall Woods State Park: Tuliptree Trail (Blog Hike #577)

Trail: Tuliptree Trail
Hike Location: Beall Woods State Park
Geographic Location: southwest of Mount Carmel, IL
Length: 1.1 mile
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: June 2016
Overview: A short nature trail loop past some large poplar trees.

Directions to the trailhead: In extreme eastern Illinois, take I-64 to SR 1 (exit 130).  Exit and go north on SR 1.  Drive SR 1 north 11.9 miles to CR 900N; there is a sign for Beall Woods State Park at this intersection.  Turn right on CR 900N.  Drive CR 900N east 1.8 miles to the state park entrance on the left.  Turn left to enter the park, and drive the main park road to the Visitor Center at the road’s end.  Park in the paved parking lot in front of the Visitor Center.

The hike: Located in southeastern Illinois flush against the Wabash River, Beall Woods State Park (pronounced like “bell”) protects 329 acres of old-growth forest.  The park’s name comes from the Beall family, who owned this land from the mid 1800’s until 1965.  The Beall family farmed part of the land but left some of the original forest intact.
When Laura Beall, the last heir from the Beall family, died intestate, an investor bought the Beall tract at auction with the intention of harvesting the old-growth timber.  Due to local public opposition, the land was purchased by the State of Illinois from the investor against his wishes via eminent domain.  The park opened in 1966.
            The park has a developed area with a small fishing lake, a campground, and several picnic shelters, but the park’s five hiking trails explore the old-growth forest. I came here intending to do a medium-length hike of several miles, but I found all of the trails along the creeks and Wabash River closed due to recent flooding.  Hiking on closed trails is never wise (closed trails are usually closed for good reasons), so I hiked the park’s only open trail: the short Tuliptree Trail described here.  While the length was less than I desired, I had a nice hike, and the brevity was a blessing in disguise due to the mid 90’s temperatures I faced on that afternoon.
Trailhead: Tuliptree Trail
            Start by picking up a park brochure and trail map at the Visitor Center, which was closed on my visit.  (Aside: the park’s website said that the Visitor Center would be open when I was there.  I have often found information on the Illinois State Parks’ website to be outdated and/or wrong.)  Next, walk down the concrete sidewalk-like path that ends at the signed trailhead at the edge of the woods.  The dirt Tuliptree and White Oak Trails both start here, and they run conjointly at first as they head east into the woods.
            In less than 500 feet, the Tuliptree and White Oak Trails part ways at a signed intersection.  Angle left to stay on the Tuliptree Trail loop, which you are hiking counterclockwise.  True to its name, the trail passes some large tulip poplars, but some maple, beech, and cottonwood trees also live here.  Numbered orange carsonite posts correspond to a self-guided trail brochure that may be available at the Visitor Center provided it is open on your visit.
Hiking through the old-growth forest
            At 0.3 miles, you cross a narrow ravine on the first of two wood/iron footbridges with concrete supports.  Soon Coffee Creek comes into view in the distance on the right, and then the trail moves closer to the creek.  Coffee Creek is a small creek that drains a narrow watershed consisting mostly of farmland.  The sandy-bottomed creek was very shallow on my visit, but water levels can get high after a thunderstorm.
Coffee Creek
            At 0.6 miles, you reach your closest approach to Coffee Creek as you pass a pair of benches that sit at the top of the steep creek bank.  The trail now curves left and climbs slightly to leave the creek behind you.  Soon the trail joins an old road before coming out at the north end of the parking lot, thus closing the loop and completing the hike.

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