The Timeless Ozarks of Missouri A Springtime tour of the show-me state

The southern states of the USA are as diverse as they are charming. In April 2016, I toured the "Show Me" state, taking in the nostalgia off Route 66, Elephant rocks, waterfalls, and wildlife. The road trip even included a skip across the Missouri River to Illinois providing great views of the Missouri sk

The best view of St. Louis is from across the Missouri River in Illinois!

One of the best views of the famous St. Louis Arch is from another state--Illinois! Just across the river is Malcom Martin Memorial Park sitting next to the still active Cargill plant. The park is not easy to find, but the effort is rewarding.

Malcom Martin Memorial Park hosts a webcam at the top of the viewing ramp; turn and wave and then visit the website to see yourself in front of the arch!
Missouri Mines State Historic Site occupies Federal Mill No. 3 in Park Hills, Missouri

Visible from State Highway 67, and accessible via State Highway 32, the Federal Mill No. 3 is an imposing sight on an otherwise flat landscape. From a distance, the mine looks like any other industrial-era complex. The historic site is managed by the Missouri State Parks, and visitors can walk around the complex as well as visit a museum on site.

Remains of the Federal Mill No. 3 Site at Historic Mines State Park, Missouri

From lead mining to 250 million year old rocks, I headed north passed Ironton on State Route 21 toward Elephant Rocks State Park. Named for a row of gigantic pink granite boulders perched atop a hill--mimicking a line of elephants at a circus show--Elephant Rocks State Park is a natural exhibition show of Missouri's amazing geology. The park was historically important as a source of granite.

A "train" of pink granite boulders are part of the park's collection of "elephant rocks"--boulders formed over 250 millions years of geologic processes.
"Elephant" rocks and views from the plateau, and a view through a glasses window at the remains of the old quarry firehouse; the quarry (bottom) has become its own ecosystem supporting a variety of wildlife

An eccentric dot on the landscape of south is the Ha Ha Tonka castle--the remains of a mansion built by 1900's wealthy Kansas city businessman Robert Snyder’s mansion. According to the State Parks, Snyder died in 1906 shortly after Scottish masons began construction in one of the state's first automobile accidents. His sons finished the home only to have it gutted by fire in 1942; in 1976 vandals torched the water tower. The castle and associated structures and private lake are now under the care and management of the Missouri State Parks.

View from the lower terrace looking west; the restored water tower sits to the left.
Ha Ha Tonka Castle from below and with private lake fed by underground spring; the lake supports a wide variety of wildlife including poisonous snakes.

From Ha Ha Tonka, we drive south through the rural farmlands of Missouri for a sobering look at how improvements in freeway construction and the use of bypasses take their toll on small towns. This includes the famous Route 66.

The Hazelgreen Bridge on Route 66 over the Gasconade River was closed to traffic, indefinitely, on December 18, 2014.
Service stations no longer accessible from the the new freeway were eventually abandoned. Of course, you can still visit the diner on Route 66 at St. Roberts for a classic root beer float.
View of the valley next to the Big Piney River from the Miller Cave Complex, a significant cultural resource with human habitation dating to 7000 BC.

The next stop is the Miller Cave Complex, the only cave system on Fort Leonard Wood military base open to the public. The primary entrance to Miller Cave is located in a bluff approximately 150 feet above the Big Piney River. Miller Cave is particularly poignant as archaeological research and studies found evidence the cave was used as a Native American habitation site from 7000 BC to AD 1300.

Miller Cave Complex (top); a soldier sitting on the edge of the rock formation overlooking the Big Piney River 150 feet below (bottom left); An old water mill on the Big Piney River at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri (bottom right)

Further south around the southern tip off the Fort Leonard Wood sandwiched between Flat Rock State Park and Rocky Creek Conservation Area is Alley Spring & Mill. The first mill was built in 1868, and a post office was established, named after a prominent local farming family, Alley. A general store and schoolhouse followed to support the local community. Today, the location serves as a favorite picnic and family gathering spot with the locals.

The Red Mill at Alley Spring near Eminence, Missouri.

One can't truly say they have visited the Ozarks without a visit to the Rocky Falls Shut-in. This magical spot, just around the corner from Alley Spring, is another stunning example of the earth's geologic formations and processes still at work. Here the rock is rhyolite porphyry formed as molten rock deep within the earth and that flowed onto the surface about 1.5 billion years ago. Rocky Falls truly represents the great secret the inhabitants of the Ozarks have kept for millennia--time in the Ozarks truly has no meaning!

Rocky Falls Shut-in, Eminence, Missouri

Cindy Eccles is an anthropologist who contributes to privately-held domestic and international white papers on ethnic minority violence and civil unrest trends. In her spare time, she finds peace and solace behind the camera capturing moments in time occurring on planet Earth. Her goal is that the images will inspire appreciation, tolerance, and mutual respect for all inhabitants and creations on planet Earth. You can find more of her work at her website by following the below link.

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Cindy Eccles


All images taken by the author, Cindy Eccles; all rights reserved.

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