So… ever since moving to Louisiana, I have wondered how a little town in the south central portion of the state surrounded by seemingly flat farmland got named Sicily Island.

No longer! Our geology workshop cleared that up for me, and Gerry Click’s information was driven home when I began posting my observations from our field work on iNat. Just look at this map. Do you not see an island?!

IMGP9437 72-15
The J. C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA is the green area covering most of the western portion of the geological island you see between the Ouachita River Valley on the west and the flat farmland surrounding the town of Sicily Island and extending to the east pretty much all the way to the Mississippi River. The pink tear drops marked A and B are observations of plants I made at the St. Mary Falls and Rock Falls trailheads, respectively, and posted on iNaturalist.

I will not try to repeat the entire explanation Gerry gave for this rocky island, but it is an Ice Age formation. It is also one of the few places you can go in Louisiana to see lots of rocks, and it is definitely the only place you can go to see a 20-foot cascade!

Rock Falls
Bette Kauffman and Gerry Click enjoy the view from the top of Rock Falls in the J. C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA on the Rock Falls Trail.     (photo by Charles Paxton)

BTW, shortly after Charles Paxton took the above photo, Amy Ouchley made our day by standing IN the falling water!

Blooming trillium and red buckeye all over the place were among the many delights of the day. Both love a sunny slope, and the J. C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA has lots of them. And I can report with confidence that the trillium blooming here are a different species from the trillium that bloom a few miles north on the ULM Biological Station, Charles Allen Nature Preserve.

Trillium (Trillium
Trillium (Trillium sp.)

I can narrow it down to two species. Based on Charles Allen’s wildflower book, the only two possibilities for these locations are Trillium ludoviciana and Trillium gracile. I have long thought the trillum near Columbia were T. ludoviciana. But now that I have a point of comparison, I’m inclined to think that these are T. ludoviciana and the ones up near Columbia are T. gracile. And if that is so, I have a LOT of photos of trillium to re-label!

Hiking the J. C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA has been on our agenda for awhile. You might recall that we planned a family fun hike there a year ago and got rained out. I now understand why hiking those trails when wet and muddy would not be a good idea! They are challenging trails, rocky with some very steep stretches, but well worth the effort.

Kim Paxton and I are both working on species lists. I’m sure our birders Suzanne Laird and Roselie Overby will contribute as well. Thanks again to Gerry Click and all who came and made it another great workshop adventure for LMN–NE.

Now… how did a small town in south central Louisiana get named Sicily Island?

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