Beall Woods State Park Travel Directions
Southeastern Part Of State, Wabash County. Closest Town: Keensburg. On Route 1, Six Miles South Of Mount Carmel, There Is A Well-Marked Turnoff To The Park At The Village Of Keensburg. After The Turn, It Is 1.8 Miles To The Park Itself.
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There Are Trail Guides At The Visitor Center, Where One Of The Nicest Trails Begins. Camping Is Available At The Park.
In The 1800s, Edward Beall Purchased One Square Mile Of Land Along The Wabash River In Southern Illinois; Half Was Covered By Forest That Had Never Been Logged. By The Time Beall Moved There, He Was A Widower And Accompanied Only By His Daughter, Laura. Unlike Most Men Of His Era, He Chose Not To Allow Any Logging On His Property Other Than What The Sharecroppers Needed For Firewood Or Repairs To Fences And Cabins. I Imagine Beall And His Daughter Shared A Love For The Forest, Because When He Died And Left It To Her, She Didn’T Allow It To Be Logged, Either.
Laura Beall Never Married. She Lived To Be A Very Old Woman, And When She Died, In 1961, She Left No Will And No Heirs. The Property Was Sold At Auction In 1962, And The Purchaser Planned To Log The Large, Valuable Trees. By Then The Forest Was Already Recognized As One Of The Last Remnants Of Old Growth In Illinois, And The Public Outcry At Its Imminent Destruction Caused State Authorities To Step In And Halt The Cutting Just A Week Before It Was To Begin. The New Owner Was Not Happy With The State’S Interference, And A Lengthy Legal Battle Began. Eventually, The State Prevailed, Paying A Few Thousand Dollars More Than The Purchase Price To Take Over The Land. In 1965, Illinois Dedicated Beall Woods As A National Natural Landmark And Opened It For All To Enjoy.
Stories Like This Gladden Me, Of Course, But I Wonder How Many Forests We Cannot Visit Because No One Was Able To Save Them. I Think Of The Forest In Kentucky That Lucy Braun Pleaded For And The Primeval Forest In North Carolina, Both Gone.
Now, Though, I Was In An Old-Growth Forest That Got Saved. I Was Alone In The Forest On This Green-Gold Afternoon. This Place Is Sometimes Called The “University Of Trees,” And I Could See Why. My Head Was Spinning From Trying To Identify All The Different Tree Species. I Can Name More Than Most People, But I Still Shrugged My Shoulders At A Few. I Thought Of My Students And How They Feel When I Take Them To The Forest.
I Am Always Amazed By How Many Young People Cannot Recognize Any Tree Species At All. The Forest Must Be Just A Green Blur For Most Of Them. To Many College Freshmen, All Evergreens Are “Christmas Trees” Or, At Best, “Pine Trees.” Out Of Hundreds Of Students, I’Ve Only Had A Few Each Year Who Enter College Able To Tell The Difference Between Oak, Hickory, Maple, And Gum. Maybe One Or Two Students In Fifteen Years Have Been Able To Identify Different Kinds Of Maple Or Oak Or Hickory Or Pine. In This University Of Trees, I Was A Student Again; There Are Five Kinds Of Maple, Six Kinds Of Hickory, And Thirteen Kinds Of Oak! And There Are Forty Other Tree Species In This Forest Of Fewer Than Three Hundred Acres.
Those Not Familiar With Tree Identification Tend To Think The Answers Are All In The Shape Of The Leaf. Most Guideblogs Would Lead You To The Same Conclusion As You Turn The Pages And See One Leaf Illustration After Another. Leaf Shape Might Help With Some Types Of Maple, Oak, Or Nut; But What If Someone Brings You An Elongated Oval Leaf With A Pointed Tip And Asks What Kind Of Tree It Is From? If The Edges Are Serrated, It Could Be Birch, Cherry, Hornbeam, Beech, Or Elm. If The Edges Are Smooth, It Could Be Magnolia, Black Gum, Sourwood, Or Persimmon. In A Diverse Old Forest, The Leaves Don’T Really Help Much Anyway, As They’Re Usually Very Far Away. Who Can Tell From A Hundred Feet Below Whether The Leaves Are Serrated Or The Veins Are Forked? Sometimes You Get Lucky And A Branch Has Fallen From The Canopy, But Proper Identification Usually Requires A Number Of Other Clues. The Texture Of The Bark Helps, But It Can Vary From Tree To Tree Of The Same Species. Fallen Flowers Or Fruits Are Even More Helpful, If You’Re Lucky Enough To Find Them.
Even Autumn Hues Can Be A Clue. Black Gum, For Instance, Is Always The First To Change Color In The Autumn, And It Always Turns Deep Red, Never Yellow, While Tulip Poplars Turn Yellow, Never Red.
I Could Even Use My Sense Of Smell. Here There Was A Small Tree With Oval, Alternate, Smooth-Edged Leaves In The Understory. There Were No Flowers Or Fruits On The Trees, And The Bark Was Unremarkable, A Smooth Gray. I Could Reach The Leaves, So I Tore A Small Piece And Inhaled. To Me It Smelled Like Creosote Tar, So I Knew For Sure It Was Pawpaw.
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