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SIOUX CITY | For more than 100 years, people have marveled at the beauty of Stone Park nestled in the Loess Hills in the northwest corner of the city.
The park combines wildflowers, prairie, rugged woodlands, secluded ravines, wildlife and hilltop vistas of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Nationally recognized as an urban wildlife sanctuary, it's home to wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, coyotes and red foxes, as well as a variety of birds and rare butterflies.
In 1912, a Stone family heir gave about 400 acres to the city for a park. The city then acquired another 400 acres from another Stone family member. The park now covers just under 1,600 acres in both Woodbury and Plymouth counties.
Since the land was designated a park, it has provided a wide range of activities and memories for visitors.
Others are drawn to what is now Stone State Park, at 5601 Talbot Road, to look for indigo buntings and bluebirds, prairie flowers and rare butterflies or more elusive animals such as red foxes.
Visitors could find more exotic animals in the Stone Park Zoo, which operated in the early part of the last century. The zoo featured anteaters, bear, badgers and small primates.
In the early 1920s, both the Boy and Girl Scouts built camps, which have since closed and relocated. The Salvation Army once ran a youth camp.
By the 1930s, the city didn’t have the money to pay for the park’s upkeep. On July 25, 1935, the city gave the park to the state. During the Great Depression, Civilian Conservation Corps crews set up camp in the park as part of national public work relief projects.
From 1935 to 1939, up to 200 men built the ranger’s home, the rustic Stone Lodge, storage buildings, roads, the east and west entrances and the brick pillars at those entrances
Last August, Stone State Park expanded after more than $300,000 was raised to purchase properties north and south of the site. The nature areas included a 55-acre addition to the Spirit Knoll Preserve just north of the park, while two additions totaling 52 acres were added into the park on the south border.
Today, visitors can use 30 campgrounds, three picnic shelters, two cabins and miles of trails for horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. The park is operated by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.