Each Sunday afternoon in October, the Crab Orchard NWR opens some of its back roads to the public for a self-guided Discovery Tour. Since I have found myself here on an October Sunday, you can bet I took that tour today. As you can probably guess, the middle of the afternoon on a hot day doesn’t bode well for seeing much wildlife, but there is a lot of history to this refuge. It was established the same year I was born and consists of 44,000 acres. It’s main purpose is protect the lands that provide the needed habitat for migrating and nesting waterfowl.
Crab Orchard Lake and many of the refuge ponds were created by the CCC in the 1930’s. These ruddy ducks are some of the early fall arrivals. My guess is this great egret may head further south as the season progresses.
Several Civil War veterans are buried in the Hampton Cemetery. The oldest tombstone dates back to 1855. There is only access to this cemetery on the Sundays in October.
Neighboring farms lease pastures for grazing their cattle during the summer. By the end of the month, all of the cattle will be gone and the pastures will be used as feeding and resting areas all winter for the visiting geese.
Local farmers plant crops on about 5000 acres of the refuge, and in lieu of rent, they share the harvest with the wildlife. By my figuring, it looked like about 25% of the crop was left behind.
Also located on one of the back roads was this Illinois “Big Tree” Champion. In 1984, this Swamp White Oak was classified as the largest known swamp white oak in the state. It was huge.
Down another of the roads were large mounds of earth covered “igloos”. They were used during World War II for the storage of bombs, mines, shells and other high explosives. Like I said, lots of history to the lands of this refuge. I’m so glad I got to take this back road trip that most folks don’t get to see.
I found the tour interesting, but I can’t say the same for my passenger in the back seat. Emma did well, but was ready for something more invigorating, so we took a different hike today. We did the Woodland Trail that begins right off of the Visitor’s Center parking lot. Another nice walk through the woods, and because it was late in the afternoon, we had the whole trail to ourselves.
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy