In 1852, Daniel Harmon Brush and two associates bought 360 acres of land along the Illinois Central Railroad to build a town that would service the area’s burgeoning coal industry. It was no mistake that the name of the town, Carbondale, was inspired by coal mining. The strategic placement of the town near the railroad led to the city’s rapid expansion. Within two years of its inception, there were 1,150 people calling Carbondale home. In 1869 Carbondale’s largest institution, Southern Illinois University was established. In those days, the school was known as Southern Illinois Normal University. Today, SIU has an enrollment of 19,000 students, making up over 75% of Carbondale’s population.
Carbondale is not only home to a major institution of higher learning and a thriving business community, but the region is also a haven for nature lovers, offering scenic hiking trails and outdoor activities. The Touch of Nature Environmental Center is a prime example. The Center provides outdoor learning experiences such as the Annual Maple Syrup Festival in February and an Eco Yoga Coed Retreat in January. Carbondale is also home to Green Earth, Inc., which maintains six nature preserves that total 220 acres.