Points of Interest:
• Walk between and around giant pink granite boulders the size of elephants!
• Marvel at the ancient geology of the core of the Ozarks.
• Learn about Missouri’s granite mining history.
Natural History: Huge pink granite boulders, some of them weighing over 600 tons and standing over 20 feet tall, are strewn across a few acres like a giant natural playground. These rocks were formed 1.5 billion years ago by the slow cooling of molten rock, magma, as it bubbled up into the earth’s crust. Later the Ozark plateau warped upward causing stream down cutting and erosion. The granite was slowly exposed and began to slowly weather along joints – vertical and horizontal cracks in the hard rock. Today these rocks continue to slowly weather away.
Much of this pink granite was quarried beginning in the 1840s. The nearby town is named Graniteville for this reason. This granite was used for paving stones on St. Louis streets (still visible at Laclede’s Landing), piers for Eads Bridge in St. Louis, and columns found at the Missouri Governor’s mansion in Jefferson City. Thanks to a generous gift in 1967 from John Stafford, retired chief geologist for St. Joseph Lead Co., this site became a state park and designated natural area for its outstanding geologic features.
As you walk and climb around these rocks know that you are at the geological heart of the Ozark ecoregion. Be careful of damaging fragile and slow-growing lichens and mosses which cling to the rock faces. Lichens, a symbiotic organism consisting of an algae and a fungus, can take years to grow just a half inch. Growing on shallow soils and in nooks and crannies with enough soil developed are blackjack oak, winged sumac, and farkleberry. This vegetation, as it grows, assists in the slow weathering process of these magnificent rocks.
From Pilot Knob take Highway 21 north for about 3.75 miles. The entrance to the park will be on the right (north) side of Highway 21. The park entrance is about 0.5 mile west of Graniteville on Highway 21. Visitors to Elephant Rocks can easily view the granite boulders from the one-mile Braille Trail, designed to accommodate people with visual or physical disabilities. Hunting and fishing are not permitted.