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Nestled in the northern portion of Iowa’s Loess Hills overlooking the South Dakota and Iowa border, Stone State Park is rich in local history, diverse plant life and rugged terrain. We talked to park manager Brianna Martens who shared five unique facts about Stone State Park:
Once upon a park...
Before Stone existed as a state park, Daniel H. Talbot purchased this chunk of land in 1885 to use for his scientific collections and genetic experiments. It’s rumored Talbot once brought a whale body to this western Iowa town for an experiment and buried its remains on the land. After going bankrupt, Talbot sold his property to Thomas Jefferson Stone, who later sold it to Sioux City for use as a city park.
Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!
Did you know Stone State Park used to be the site of a local zoo? Sioux City opened the zoo in 1916 with elk, monkeys, deer, badgers and even bears. The city sold the park to the State of Iowa in 1935, closing the zoo in 1941. All that remains of the zoo is a metal pole near the west entrance portal of the park.
Hit the Slopes
In the early 1940s, the park had plans to develop a winter sports complex to include a toboggan sled run and an ice skating arena. The sled run was eventually abandoned due to a lack of snowfall in the region, but remnants are still seen today. Visit the Bobsled Run scenic overlook next time you visit to see the concrete blocks that served as the foundation for the sled run.
The highest spot in Stone State Park is Mt. Lucia, named after the granddaughter of Thomas Stone. Mt. Lucia is a secluded destination with few park visitors, making it a beautiful spot to bike, horseback or hike during the day. Rare birds and unique flowers also occupy the area.
A Rugged Terrain
The Loess Hills stretch from northern Iowa to Kansas and were formed by wind-blown particles and glacial deposits over thousands of years. Depending on the location, the geologic composition of the Loess Hills is different. Stone State Park features cretaceous-age rocks with eroded shale, chalky limestone and abundant fossils. Next time you’re taking a hike through the woods at Stone, be sure to look closely for these fossils close to the surface. As a reminder, fossils and other rocks can be viewed but not taken from any Iowa state park.
Whether you’re an avid Stone park visitor or looking for a new place to discover, check out these historical spots in Stone during your next visit!
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