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Rock Bridge Memorial State Park to host New Year's Day hikes

Thursday, December 27, 2012 | 5:32 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The guides at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park are inviting people to join them on a hike on New Year's Day on five unique hiking routes.

First Day Hikes is a nationwide program established by America's State Parks to get people outdoors and into state parks this New Year's Day. Thirteen parks in Missouri will participate, including Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. 

About the hikes

FAMILY FARM HISTORY HIKE

On this strenuous two-mile hike, hikers will see two small springs, one of which exits a small cave called Little Dome Cave, walk alongside Water Slide Creek and see the view from Coyote Bluff, all in the scenic Gans Creek Wild Area.  About one third of a mile of the route is off-trail.  Recommended for ages 5 years and up.

Hike times:  1 p.m.

Meeting location: Special-use area

Trail length: 2 miles (2 hours)

Degree of difficulty: Strenuous


GANS CREEK HIKE

On this moderate hike of one mile off-trail, hikers will see a mid-sized spring at the base of a bluff that flows for several hundred yards before entering Gans Creek and hike alongside Gans Creek. Recommended for ages 5 years and up.

Hike times: 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Meeting location: Gans Creek trailhead

Trail length: 1 mile (about 90 minutes each)

Degree of difficulty: Moderate


SPRINGBROOK HIKE

On this moderate hike of 1.25 miles, hikers will see a small spring that feeds the “springbrook” creek and an old well. The route is on-trail through a wooded area, but includes a short optional off-trail diversion to see the old well. Recommended for ages 5 years and up.

Hike times: 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Meeting location: Playground parking lot

Trail length: 1.25 mile (90 minutes)

Degree of difficulty: Moderate


ROCK BRIDGE HIKE

On this easy half-mile hike open to all ages, hikers will see a "spring house" built to help capture the water of a spring along an old road now known as the Sinkhole Trail and see Devil’s Icebox Spring Branch flowing through the Rock Bridge.

Hike times: 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Meeting location: Devil’s Icebox parking lot

Trail length: .5 (45-50 minutes)

Degree of difficulty: Easy


LITTLE DOME HIKE

On this strenuous one-mile hike, hikers will see two small springs, one of which exits a small cave called Little Dome Cave and walk alongside Water Slide Creek all in the scenic Gans Creek Wild Area. About one-third of a mile of the route is off-trail. Recommended for ages 5 years and up.

Hike times:  11 a.m.

Meeting location: Special-use area

Trail length: 1 mile (90 minutes)

Degree of difficulty: Strenuous


 

The park is located at 5901 S. Highway 163. To make reservations, call 449-7402.



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The event is an opportunity for people to start the new year by visiting state parks throughout the nation. At Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, guides will offer groups the opportunity to exercise and connect with nature while learning about the park, Roxie Campbell, a Rock Bridge Memorial State Park naturalist, said.

"The park has karst features including springs, caves, sinkholes and a rock bridge," Campbell said. "The guides will try to reveal the mystery of what is going on under the ground with the water."

Last year was the first time the park was a part of the First Day Hikes event, Campbell said. Staff had prepared for one hike, but had to split into three separate groups when more than 100 people showed up on New Year's Day.

With the success the park had last year, the staff is planning 10 hikes with five different routes this year. The increase provides openings for 210 people, and as the word spreads, Campbell hopes more people will participate.

Under the theme "Spring into the New Year," each route will take participants to at least one of six of the park's springs.

The routes vary in length and in difficulty. The Rock Bridge Hike, rated easy, is 0.5 miles, while the Family Farm History Hike, rated strenuous, is 2 miles.

Pat McDonald, a volunteer at the state park, will be guiding the Springbrook Hike at 1:30 p.m. She has hiked at the park for more than 30 years, and she has been a volunteer at the park for 2.5 years.

"I’m very excited," McDonald said. "The opportunity to show people the parts of the hike that I have been enjoying is wonderful."

The First Day Hikes are also for seasoned park-goers who may not know about the park's springs, Campbell said.

This year, participants in the hikes can suggest names for the springs, Campbell said. Excluding the Devil's Icebox Spring Branch, the springs have not been named. There are no criteria, but park staff expect a name related to the features of the spring, she said.

Then the staff will pick the best names from the suggestions, she said.

Reservations are strongly recommended because the space is limited, Campbell said. Reservations can be made by calling the park office at 449-7400.

"Winter hiking can be absolutely gorgeous," McDonald said. "There is much more you can see."

Supervising editor is Zach Murdock.


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