Elephant Rocks State Park, located in Southeast Missouri, is a unique geological formation, scenic landmark, and popular state park all rolled into one.
At first blush, it seems a bit of a stretch to imagine a cluster of giant, billion-year-old boulders are a train of elephants. From the right angle, however, the unique, red granite boulders really do take on the appearance of a pack of pachyderms.
The curious formation was created nearly 1.5 billion years ago when molten magma was pushed to the surface. When the magma cooled, it formed the reddish-pink “Missouri Red” granite. Erosion slowly took the hard edges off the stone, resulting in the large, rounded shapes we see today. This same process has created depressions or “tinajitas” in the stone, which collect temporary pools of water.
The boulders, perched atop an isolated rocky peak, first caught the attention of architects and developers in the 1800s. The area’s granite bedrock polishes to a high shine and is ideal for construction. Consequently, Missouri’s first granite quarry opened nearby in 1869.
Today, granite quarried from the site can be found around the country – from California to Massachusetts. St. Louis received the lion’s share, however, with “Missouri Red” granite and other Graniteville stone found in buildings and streets throughout the city.
The “elephant” formation was left intact, however, and has continued to intrigue geologists, history buffs, and hikers.
Visitors to Elephant Rocks State Park will be fascinated by the names and comments that 19th century miners carved into the stone. Children (of all ages) absolutely love climbing and clambering in and around the rocks.
Elephant Rocks State Park offers opportunities for fishing, hiking, picnicking, and climbing. The ruins of an old railroad engine house from the area’s quarrying days can also be explored. Missouri’s first state park trail designed for those with physical and visual handicaps, “The Braille Trail,” is also in the park. The paved trail guides visitors through 7 of the park’s 131 acres with signs written in Braille and regular text.
Come discover and explore Southeast Missouri’s Elephant Rocks State Park!
Elephant Rocks State Park
MO-21, Ironton, MO 63650
April – October, 8am to 8pm
November – March, 8am to 5pm
Visit mostateparks.com for more information.
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