Stone State Park

Celio Perez of Sioux City, 16, left, and Rachel Ruiz, 18, share a conversation at Stone State Park in Sioux City on Monday. With the arrival of the Labor Day weekend, the summer season at the park is nearing the end.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY | With the arrival of the Labor Day weekend, the summer season at Stone State Park in Sioux City is nearing the end.

The holiday marks a rough transition from summer to fall in the minds of people, and Stone State Park shifts to a changing usage, park Ranger Kevin Pape said. That means the number of hikers picks up with the departure of bugs and trail overgrowth, while "the leaf watchers" come in October, particularly if it's seasonably warm, Pape said.

"If it is an Indian Summer day, the place just crawls with people. You can't find picnic table or parking spot. It is crazy. It is all weather-dependent," Pape said.

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Stone State Park

Kourtney Merrick of Winnebago walks with her son Coleson Aldrich, 2, at Stone State Park in Sioux City on Monday.

Jennifer Elliot, of Sioux City, loves having the 1,600-acre state park on the west edge of Sioux City near the Big Sioux River that forms the border with South Dakota. She said the park with Loess Hills bluffs is a great getaway. 

Elliot finds contentment by roasting s'mores, listening to rustling trees and having deer visitors outside tents when waking in mornings.

"It is right in your back door and it offers a lot of activities," Elliot said. "It is a unique area you don't expect in Sioux City."

Pape said there is definitely a change in how the park is used after Labor Day, the traditional end of summer for families. Pape said once kids return to school, the park is less likely to be used by families and more by retirees. Camping spot and cabin rentals slow down.

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Stone State Park

Stone State Park Ranger Kevin Pape says "the leaf watchers" come to the park in October, particularly if it's seasonably warm.

Usage of Stone State Park, which marked a 100th year in 2012, is highest in May and June. Pape said a fall boost comes in late September and early October, as green leaves change to the yellows, oranges and reds.

Elliot goes to Stone State Park with her family and also in leading a Cub Scouts group. Elliot goes several times per year, enjoying the summertime to hike trails and camp in a tent, but said, "I have historically used it more in the fall."

The fall months are when Elliot will use the park into December, to have Scouts learn to identify plants and animal tracks, plus using an open fire to prepare hot chocolate after hiking. She likes that the park doesn't have as many weekend campers in the fall.

"It is more quiet and scenic in the fall. In the fall, you are enjoying the scenery, the changing of the leaves colors, learning about the changing of the seasons," Elliot said.

Karen Quirk lives in the city just east of Stone Park, and has used the recreation outlet since 1959. She primarily has used the trails -- first equestrian, then later multi-use for bikers and hikers -- for her horses, most recently riding Inky in the park.

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Stone State Park

People take in the view at Stone State Park in Sioux City on Monday.

"I will use it until (the trail) is closed with ice conditions," Quirk said.

"Fall is my favorite time of the year. You have the falling leaves and that is always great, the crunch of leaves under the horse hooves and the crunch of acorns...It is kind of a magical time of the year. It is cooler and has less bugs."

Pape pointed to a fall park event on Sept. 30, when as part of National Public Lands Day volunteers are sought for a project. He said people will undertake cutting out the invasive honeysuckle plant. For more information, call 712-255-4698.

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County and education reporter

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