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Graham Cave State Park, MO
Sunday, July 31, 2005 - 2:00pm by Lolo
213 miles and 4.5 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay
We continued our long treck east, looking for a place to spend the night. Our next planned destination was the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, but since it was already getting late in the day, we decided to stay somewhere west of it and then hit it early in the morning. With six transcontinental trips under our belts, there was no excuse for us not having been to the Arch before. It probably would have been more symbolically significant to hit it on our way West, but it was a little late for that, so it was just going to have to be our Gateway to the East.
We found a nice campground right off I70, about an hour and a half west of St. Louis. Originally, we had intended to stay in Graham State Park, but it was so hot out that we opted for a campground with a pool right outside the park. After a swim in the pool, the boys and I went for a run over to the State Park. There was absolutely no one around, which might explain why they actually let me run with them this time, rather then 50 yards ahead of me.
On our run through the trails in the park, we came across the park's claim to fame (to archaeologists anyway)--a large sandstone cave with Native American artifacts dating back to more than 10,000 years ago. Of course, they don't let you just wander around touching ancient pieces of pottery and spear points, but we did get to peek at them through a fence that blocked off the entrance to the cave.
That night back at the campground, we made a fire and roasted s'mores. I didn't dare have one. I was having enough trouble just eating dinner without my loose cap coming off again, so I could just picture what a sticky marshmallow would do to it. I don't think I did a very good job gluing it on with my Wal-mart temporary dental glue (see Salina if you really want to hear this sordid tale). The boys still couldn't stop laughing at the thought of my tooth episode in Wal-mart. I know it would have made their night if I lost my tooth in a marshmallow, but I wasn't going to give them the satisfaction.
Graham Cave State Park is located in the hills above the Loutre River in eastern Missouri, just 2 miles off of I70. Its primary feature is an unusual sandstone cave that contains evidence of human occupation more than 10,000 years ago.
In the early 1800s, Robert Graham purchased the land that is now the park from the son of Daniel Boone. One of Graham's descendants took an interest in some artifacts that he found in a cave on the property and brought them to the University of Missouri. The University was very interested and began excavations of the cave in 1930. The results of these excavations showed that Native Americans used the cave as a winter dwelling more than 10,000 years ago. A ring of rocks inside the cave suggest that they held ceremonies there. In 1961, Graham Cave became the first archaeological site in the United States to be named a National Historic Landmark. Today, visitors are allowed in the entrance of the cave, where interpretive signs point out interesting discoveries. Pottery and spear points remain buried onsite, exactly where the Indians left them.
In addition to the cave, the park contains 356 acres of forests and glades through which there are several hiking trails. Other park facilities include a boat ramp providing access to the Loutre River, a picnic shelter and playground, and a campground with some electrical sites.
Graham Cave State Park location map