Pere Marquette State Park Handbook, Illinois’ First Comprehensive Guide to State Parks

GRAFTON – Often referred to as a “nature lover’s paradise,” Pere Marquette State Park is teeming with beauty, flora, fauna, geology, and every other scientific category you can think of.

While most of us don’t tend to think of the smallest details of every physical aspect when visiting the park, Richard C. Keating, author of “Pere Marquette State Park, Jersey County, Illinois: An Unofficial Guide to History, Natural History, Trails and Drives ”, has dug into the depths of the majestic site.

Published by Missouri Botanical Garden Press, the manual is the first comprehensive, illustrated guide to any state park in Illinois and introduces readers to the history and ecology of Pere Marquette State Park. As the title of the book suggests, it covers pretty much every aspect of patterns that you would need to know, albeit in somewhat scientific terms. Still, the narrative accompanying the graphics and technical names makes it a guide anyone can use to explore, or researchers can use as a tool for further investigation.

Keating said his target audience is anyone who is curious about nature from all walks of life. Growing up in Arlington, Virginia, he spent a lot of time exploring the woods and various parts of the mountain ranges of the eastern United States. He attended Colgate University in upstate New York, majoring in botany, and completed his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Cincinnati, majoring in plant anatomy and general botany. .

When he moved to southwest Illinois 50 years ago to accept a teaching position at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Pere Marquette State Park piqued his interest.

“It was very close, and I immediately saw its beauty and its value,” he recalls. “It’s one of the few ‘non-glacial’ landscapes in the state, and it exhibits interesting geology and topography. This supports a diversity of plant and animal life.

And he loves to hike the park, hike its trails and hills repeatedly, gleaning more and more information to add to his knowledge base.

The Pere Marquette Park property, now 8,050 acres, which runs along the Illinois River, was established as a state park in 1932 by reporters John D. McAdams, of Alton, and “Uncle” Joe Page, of Jerseyville, Keating State in the book’s preface, citing the movement as visionary leadership at a time when green was not normally people’s first priority.

The original park was approximately 1,500 acres in size, but has grown over time through various land acquisitions. The architecturally acclaimed lodge, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is made of limestone and solid wood, and features a 50-foot vaulted ceiling, handmade chandeliers and a huge 700-ton stone fireplace .

The area is marked as having been “discovered” for the first time in 1673 by a group led by cartographer Louis Jolliet and French missionary Father Jacques Marquette. The group also wrote the first known account of paintings of the Piasa bird. When the park was created more than two centuries later, it was decided that it would honor the name of one of its founders, Father Marquette.

Keating’s book includes discussions of the origins and amenities of the park, including cabins, campgrounds, and horse and water facilities, as well as vehicles and hiking trails that invite exploration. Color maps and photographs illustrate some of the features of the park.

Keating covers the geological makeup of the park; regional archeology which tells the story of human history; topography, geography, ecology, climate, soils; and, the 406 species of vascular plants from 102 families, classified and listed with Latin and common names. And don’t forget the animals – 59 species of reptiles and amphibians, 46 species of mammals and for bird watchers – 234 species of birds. Chapter 11 contains a checklist for checking sightings on each bird trip.

Hikers will especially like Chapter 6, which covers trails that run through the park, categorized by difficulty and distance, features and dangers, including dangerous or bothersome creatures, insects and plants.

For the less adventurous, the routes listed in Chapter 7 allow you to have a good view of the park and panoramic views even if you are not exercising.

Keating’s main focus with the guide was to provide tools to educate people about natural history.

“The idea for the book arose from my early feeling that the public should value the natural world around us. My education training is one of them, ”he said. “When I was a student, my mentors emphasized that as a teacher, beyond a duty to your students, you should never ignore the public’s need to know.

“I think that the more citizens know their parks, natural spaces, reserves and nature in general, the more likely they are to support their protection in the political landscape,” he noted.

It also helps people notice details of nature, which increases the enjoyment of park visitors.

“As an environmentalist, I believe that not only does nature improve our lives, but her salvation is also our long-term salvation,” Keating said.

Keating is Emeritus Professor of Botany in the Department of Biological Sciences at SIUE. In recent years he has lectured on “lifelong learning”, demonstrations and lectures in the Plant Anatomy Course at SIUE. He has also taught at a plant anatomy unit in Costa Rica and at a field station on the coast of Maine with colleagues from the New York Botanical Garden.

He is currently an associate researcher at the Missouri Botanical Garden. He continues to study structural botany and is the author of two technical manuals and a previous field guide, Colorado’s Spanish Peaks Region: An Exploration Guide to History, Natural History, Trails and Drives, also published by Missouri. Botanical Garden Press.

“Pere Marquette State Park, Jersey County, Illinois: An Unofficial Guide to History, Natural History, Trails and Drives” costs $ 19.95 and can be purchased at the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, Missouri Gift Shop Botanical Garden, www.mbgpress.org, www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com and other booksellers. Book signings are scheduled for Friday, September 8 at the Hayner Public Library and Monday, September 21 at Farley’s Music Hall in Elsah. Call Hayner Public Library, Alton at 618-462-0677, and / or Historic Elsah Foundation at 618-374-1059 for respective signing times.

Contact writer Vicki Bennington at [email protected] and Twitter @ vicben1.