Sunday, October 14, 2007

My Canyon Field Trip

Today I went to visit the ONLY canyon in Cook County, which is located in Lemont, IL at Camp Sagawau.

Camp Sagawau is not a camp, but a nature education center where they have guided hikes, classes, and skiing in the winter. Here, we begin our trip as we are greeted by Ralph, the welcoming mascot. Ralph was hand carved by a talented artist, who loves Camp Sagawau and gave him as a gift.

After being "approved" by Ralph, you may walk up to the beautiful Camp Sagawau house which was built in the 1850's by an Irish immigrant who worked on the Cal Sag River. He established a dairy farm here but couldn't grow crops because the ground was unable to be tilled. We will see why later.

What a lovely looking house. Here is where the nature classes are held. It remains the same color that it had from historical photos. Interestingly enough, the house had additions build in the 1940's which are not holding up as well as the original section of the house built in 1850! Enough of the house, let's go canyon hiking!

Bad picture, but good illustration of how narrow the stairs are. You really have to suck-it-in when you go down these! The stairs are a few feet East of the house. I though we were going to hike for some time before we reached the canyon, but no, the canyon is right by the house!

Here it is! We are now in the canyon. Beautiful limestone constructed sediment. This particular limestone is called dolomite limestone, a calcium magnesium carbonate rich mineral.

Do you see all of the holes in the limestone? Do you know what was growing in them? Coral. This use to be a coral reef. I am not kidding. Here's how: before the continents split and the plates shifted, this area use to be real close to the equator, where it's tropical like. That explains the fossils found here of species that only survive in tropical climates. This use to be part of a coral reef, there are many around, but they are buried underground. This canyon was carved by glacial ice which pushed through and retreated 4 times. That will conclude our history lesson for today, you can wake up now. :)

Here is the left side of the canyon. Notice the floor, covered in water. It was REAL slippery, especially because the rocks are covered in moss and lichen. When it rains, this stream comes alive and becomes active. When it floods, it actually moves large boulders down stream! This stream leads to the Illinois River, which leads to the Mississippi, which leads to the Gulf! How cool.