my Elephant Rock Nature Park Flickr Set. I have passed their sign many times, but I never took the time to drive up the hill and see the place. We have been missing out on a great Illinois River resource for outdoor enthusiasts.
The Elephant Rock is one of the most widely recognized landmarks on the Illinois River. I think I got a pretty good picture of it. It looks like an elephant to me. What do you think?
Anyone who has read our blog for long, knows that Dianne and I love paddling the Illinois River. Spending the night in some of the Illinois River campgrounds has been a goal of ours for sometime now. Usually, we grab a cabin somewhere quietly hidden away from the summer Illinois River party scene. Elephant Rock Nature Park offered us something more exotic...a Yurt deep in the woods!
What's A Yurt
The Mongolian yurt is a round, usually portable, self-supporting structure designed for camping in comfort. Rather than relying on ropes or stakes to hold itself up, the walls, rafters, roof ring, and tensioning bands all work against each other to keep the structure standing. It is handy structure for camping because all of the interior space is useful living space with no space wasted on tent poles or low sides. The basic yurt collapses down into pieces no longer than 8 feet, so you can chuck it into the back of a truck.
The yurts at Elephant Rock have been highly customized to offer all of the comforts of home: refrigerator, stove, A/C, heat, toilet, shower, everything even the kitchen sink... literally. After our invigorating 14 mile paddle down the Illinois River (concluded with a dramatic backwards, toes-in-the-air, fall on my part while attempting to exit the kayak), we were grateful for a comfy night's sleep. Their yurt did not disappoint.
The Nature Park
The owners of Elephant Rock Nature Park do some volunteer wild animal rehab. We met two deer that they had taken in when they were too tiny to take care of themselves. Now the two deer, June and July, roam the yard at their house playing with guests and the family cat. I scratched a wild baby deer between the ears, it was quite an experience!
The park is a 120-acre hardwood and pine forest, right on the river, criss-crossed with well-marked nature trails and tent camping sites. This is over-night river lodging (no RV's) for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts that seems a million miles away from the pavement and parties, but in fact is a short drive to from the Tahlequah Wal-Mart. Best of all, Elephant Rock camp stays open all-year-long so you can enjoy the truly great outdoor seasons in Oklahoma: Spring and Fall.
The Illinois River
The water level was up just enough to make the journey from No Head Hollow to the Highway Bridge with only one portage. The one portage was a few steps on the gravel bar due to a downed tree in an area where the current wasn't very swift. With the water level this high, I'll bet you could make the whole trip from Chewey Bridge to the Highway Bridge in two days easily with little portaging. Better get on this water soon, before it is gone again!
Stop by sometime and meet Rod and Susan Foster at Elephant Rock Nature Park, whether you are looking for tent camping , yurts, canoes, kayaks or shuttling...they offer a uniquely, earth-friendly, family-friendly alternative to the familiar Illinois River camping scene.
Next time I get a free moment, I'll tell you about the side trip we made on the way home...to the Port of Muskogee.