Monday, November 09, 2009

A Hike at Castlewood

LAST FRIDAY was a glorious, unseasonably warm day. I took advantage of this day by hiking at Castlewood State Park.

Castlewood State Park, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA - Meramec River

Castlewood straddles the Meramec River in southern Saint Louis County.

The name ‘Castlewood’ derives from the tall bluffs on the north side of the river here, from where this photo was taken. The high cliff faces are reminiscent of medieval castles, and this area is heavily wooded.

A description of this area is found in the book Geologic Wonders and Curiosities of Missouri by Thomas R. Beveridge (2nd edition revised by Jerry D. Vineyard):
125. THE PALISADES — ST. LOUIS COUNTY


St. Louis County, in north bluff of Meramec River between Jedburgh and Glencoe, 2 miles north of Times Beach, in northern part of sec. 19 and northern and eastern part of sec. 20, T. 44 N., R. 4 E., Manchester 7-½-minute Quadrangle.

Sheer bluffs of Ordovician limestones rising 200 feet above the floodplain of the Meramec form The Palisades. These bluffs are sheer in part because they are on the outside of a stream meander loop and thus have been vigorously eroded as a result of centrifugal force acting on the river current. Of the five bluff segments between Glencoe and Jedburgh, the third one east of Glencoe is the most pinnacled and the fourth one is the most impressive.

As is common along limestone and dolomite bluffs, cedars hug the bare rock and deciduous trees prevail on the gentler slopes. Fortunately, the bluff faces are sufficiently bare to be impressive in summer as well as winter.

The area is noted for its fall colors, a virtue created in part by the profusion of hard maples, and a fall drive along the Old State Road thence southeast to Jedburgh is most rewarding. The Palisades are best seen from the river or from the south floodplain. These bottoms were reached by going north from I-44 at the Williams Road interchange, east of the Meramec opposite Times Beach....
Castlewood State Park, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA - powerboat on the Meramec River

A boat motors downstream.

Castlewood State Park, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA - powerboat on the Meramec River 2

The Meramec has a great amount of recreational boat traffic in the summer. But for the nearly three hours when I was hiking here, this and a single kayak were the only boats on the river.

Castlewood State Park, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA - bluff with layers of flint

A view of a cliff face shows layers of limestone (or dolomite) and flint. In areas where these layers have eroded away, great residual piles of this resilient flint can be found. In the Crescent Hills, located just on the other side of the Meramec, a large number of quarries of this flint are found: valued as a good source for making arrowheads and other stone tools, this flint was a common trade good in prehistoric times.

Castlewood State Park, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA - girls sitting on ledge

Girls enjoying the view. There were quite a number of people on this trail that day. Another photo taken at this spot is here.

Castlewood State Park, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA - insect gall on tree

A wasp gall found on a tree.

Castlewood State Park, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA - insect

An unusual insect found along the way.

Castlewood State Park, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA - abandoned stairway

Remains of the Grand Staircase which led people from a railroad station up to the top of the bluffs. Castlewood was a major summer resort in the first half of the 20th century. Although the grand hotels are now gone, some of the smaller former clubs are now private residences. The maps show a "Ridge Road": what was once a road leading to these resorts, presumably for automobiles, is now the rough hiking trail used today.

Castlewood State Park, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA - bluffs 1

A view of the bluffs from below.

Many thanks to Teresa who showed me this trail.

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