The giant elephant-shaped granite boulders are the star at Elephant Rocks State Park. The coarsely crystalline red granite forms are popular with all ages. The park has a trail that winds through the rocks, which is an interpretive Braille trail. Abundant picnic areas and vibrant fall colors add to the park’s appeal. Elephant Rocks State Park is within miles of well known Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park and Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, Missouri’s highest point.
(Hwy 21, 3 miles north of Pilot Knob in Graniteville)
The park has thirty picnic sites and a one-mile (2 km) circular interpretive trail in the Elephant Rocks Natural Area. This trail is called the Braille Trail and is unique among Missouri state parks in being designed specifically for visitors with visual and physical handicaps. There are several spur trails which are not handicapped accessible. Each of these spur trails has its own unique feature. One spur passes through “Fat Man’s Squeeze,” a narrow gap between two boulders, leading hikers to the old quarry. Another spur goes through “The Maze,” a 100-foot (30.48 meter) section of scattered boulders. Within the maze is a semi-enclosed area called “The Devil’s Kitchen.”
Since no official census of the herd has ever been taken, the exact number of “elephants” inhabiting the park is unknown. Although the elephant rocks are continually eroding away, new elephants are constantly being exposed. Information collected on Dumbo, the patriarch of Elephant Rocks State Park, shows that he is 27 feet tall, 35 feet long and 17 feet wide. At a weight of 162 pounds per cubic foot, Dumbo tips the scales at a hefty 680 tons.
Just outside the park is the oldest recorded commercial granite quarry in the state. This quarry, opened in 1869, furnished facing stone for some Eads Bridge piers across the Mississippi River, and from 1880 to 1900, millions of paving blocks for the St. Louis levee and downtown streets came from this quarry. Other nearby quarries supplied granite for many major St. Louis buildings, as well as stone for the turned columns on the front porch of the Governor’s mansion in Jefferson City. Today, this granite is used primarily for monuments and building veneer.
Numerous picnic sites among the giant red boulders provide ample opportunity for family picnicking and exploration of the elephant rocks. Camping is not available in Elephant Rocks State Park, but can be found in several nearby state parks. Pets must be on leashes. Rock-climbing equipment is not to be used in the park.