Missouri's Fourth Wonder: Elephant Rocks State Park
The granite, known as "Missouri Red," was quarried here in the 19th century.
"Right after the Civil War, there was a need for granite," said Walt Busch, park superintendent. "It got real hot and heavy in here in the late 1880s, early 1890s, and part of the drive behind that was St. Louis making a lot of the cobblestone streets."
The huge rocks formed 1.5 billion years ago, when hot magma cooled into crystalline, red granite. As the surrounding hills eroded and rain washed off the sediment, the rocks pushed up. But, the park offers more than just big boulders, and attracts up to 500,000 visitors a year.
"A mile and two-tenths for hiking, but we also have picnic areas, a playground area," Busch added. "And I just think people like to come out here to see this. I mean, it's one of the better landscapes you can see in this valley."
You can follow the Braille Trail where mats on the path tell visually-impaired people they're near posts with information in Braille and English.
"It's accessible to almost anybody," Busch explained. "Our trails our fairly wheelchair-accessible. A little steep in places, but fairly accessible."
The winding trail among the boulders also takes visitors to a pond where chiseled rocks are a reminder of quarrying days. The newest, 450-foot trail leads to an engine house for the trains that carried Missouri Red Granite to St. Louis and beyond.
"This is where they'd repair engines and ore cars," Busch said.
The quarry closed after World War II. Now, the only reminders of the granite workers are their names carved in the boulders of Elephant Rocks State Park.