Washington State Park Hardwood
Points of Interest:
- Hike along the 1,000 step trail built by the CCC amongst a dazzling array of spring wildflowers.
- Enjoy fall colors of a mixed hardwoods forest.
Natural Features Description: In contrast to the glades and dry woodlands of the rest of Washington State Park, here on these north and east facing slopes above the Big River are stands of tall northern red oak, white oak, and Kentucky coffee tree. Below them a mid-story of Ohio buckeye, sugar maple, pawpaw, spicebush and bladdernut thrives. In the spring, ephemeral spring wildflowers capitalize on the sunlight hitting the ground before the canopy trees fully leaf out. Toothwort, celandine poppy, bloodroot, bellwort, and wake robin grace the forest floor at this time. Many of these spring forest wildflowers such as wild ginger and Dutchman’s breeches depend on ant species for their seed dispersal. They have seeds that contain a small appendage rich in fat that is attractive to several species of ants. Ants gather up the seeds, bring them back to their nests, eat off the treat and leave the rest of the seed unharmed in the nest’s garbage pile underground. Some of these seeds will germinate and in this way wild ginger is able to spread its progeny across the forest.
The hiking trail known as the 1,000 Steps Trail passes through the natural area. This trail was constructed by Company 1743 of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1936. In fact, most of the outstanding rock work in the state park is a result of their efforts. Company 1743 was an all African-American company of the CCC. An even older history is recorded at this state park in the form of petroglyphs dating back to 1000 to 1600 A.D. It is likely that Native Americans traversed these hills during that time period.
This natural area is within Washington State Park. From DeSoto travel west on Highway 21 about 8 miles. Then turn right (north) on to Highway 104 and travel a tenth of a mile to the park office. Inquire at the park office about visiting the natural area. The 1,000 Steps hiking trail provides good access.