Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Ozark Trail in Missouri

The Ozark Trail in Missouri
Ozark Trail Trail Marker

This has been a difficult review and a long time in the making.  I have been going to sections of the Ozark Trail for years.  The Ozark Trail (OT) is the preeminent destination for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and primitive camping in Missouri.  It is intended to reach from St. Louis to Arkansas. Over 350 miles (563 km) of the trail have been completed as of 2008, and the estimated length when finished will be at least 500 miles (805 km). When joined to the Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas, the full hiking distance from end to end will be at least 700 miles (1,127 km), not including a large loop through the St. Francois Mountains in Missouri.
I haven’t hiked the entire Ozark Trail but I have been to a lot of it.  The OT bypasses many of Missouri’s finest outdoors locations along its meandering path South/Northward.  The Northern most point of the OT begins at Onondaga Cave State Park in Leasburg, MO.  The Onondaga Cave is right next to the confluence of the Meramec, Courtois, and Huzzah rivers.  I’ve done a lot of canoeing on these rivers and they are perfect for a hike/camp/canoe trip!  The cave is also a must see.

Onondaga Trail Head:
Traveling south from Onondaga cave you will pass the Huzzah conservation area, we saw a lot of Turkey’s in this area.  Continue on and you will be walking on a moderately difficult trail that follows old fire roads and ridgeline trails and will continue to hike up and down the hills intersecting the rivers at several points and even having to cross a shallow section to continue.  This beautiful area has campgrounds, floaters, caves, and a plethora of flora and fauna to enjoy.  I stopped at Bass resort and picked up my canoe that was left there the day before and canoed Huzzah, Courtois, and Meramec rivers back to my car at Onondaga Park. 
Skipping a section of trail from Bass resort to Berryman loop that I haven’t done we will continue at the Berryman Loop section of the OT.  This section is, I’m sure very lovely, and I regret not having seen it yet. It looks like this section could be done in a day. 

Berryman Loop:
The Berryman hiking trail in central Missouri traverses 24 miles through a variety of scenic Ozark countryside. It winds through timbered stands of oak, pine and bottomland hardwoods - climbing switchback fashion, from low bottoms to high cherty ridges. Interesting flora and fauna abound in the old fields, glade-like rock outcroppings and deep forest. Trail users are insured a measure of solitude and quiet, as motor vehicles are prohibited on the trail. Mountain bikes are permitted on the trail. The trail starts at Berryman Campground, the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp of the same name from 1937 till the onset of World War II. The camp was jointly operated by the U.S. Army and the Forest Service and had a resident force of 300 men. Several old barracks foundations and an old well are the only remnants of the camp itself but many roads and pine plantations in the area are enduring reminders of the good works done by these men. 

Skipping a large southward section of the OT, which I haven’t yet been to, from Berryman Loop to the North side of Council Bluff Lake.

Council Bluff Lake:
This beautiful man-made lake is on the site of a town that used to exist before the dam was built.  A trail runs the perimeter of the lake and adds some miles to the OT.  There is a sand beach and campground on one side of the lake.  Good fishing and beautiful scenery this area is a jewel of central Missouri surrounded by Mark Twain National Forest and near Viburnum, MO.  The largest lake in the Mark Twain National Forest serves anglers, campers, picnickers, hikers, bicyclists and swimmers.  Fish year round in this 440 acre lake stocked with large mouth bass, redear sunfish, bluegill, crappie and catfish.  Picnic or swim at the 54,000 sq. foot sand beach.  At Chapel Hill Beach there is a concession stand, changing rooms, flush toilet, water fountains and showers.  There is also a small play area near the beach.  Additionally, there are canoes and paddle boats available for rent when the beach is open.  Council Bluff Trail is a 12-mile loop along the lake shore providing hiking and mountain biking opportunities.  The Trace Creek section of the Ozark Trail is located just west of the recreation area.  Waterfowl hunting is permitted on the lake and there are upland game opportunities as well.  24.5 miles From Hwy 21 and 221 - Go west on Hwy 32, turn left at MO-C, turn left at MO-JJ, then slight right at Council Bluff Rd/CR-635.  If beginning on Highway 49 in Reynolds County, turn right on Hwy 32, then left at MO-DD, take right on MO-C, then right at MO-JJ to Council Bluff Rd.

Just south of Council Bluff Lake the OT splits and one side runs southwest and the other southeast.  The Southeastern side (St. Francis Mountain range) is my favorite section of the OT, there you will find Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, Mina Sauk Falls, Devils Toll Gate, Johnson Shut ins, Goggins Mountain, Bell Mountain, and many other wonderful sites.

Bell Mountain to Taum Sauk Mountain:
There are several sections of this trail that are difficult.  Elevation changes and feral hogs await you.  I spent months exploring this region of Missouri and still haven’t seen as much as I would like.  Bell Mountain Wilderness Trail, is concurrent with a section of the Ozark Trail for about one mile, then splits and turns northward to the summit of Bell Mountain peak.  Joe’s creek cuts deeply into the west slope of Bell Mountain; clefts and boulders form the basic landscape. The area is rugged and suitable for experienced hikers only.  Be prepared with adequate supplies and water.  A separate two-mile trail begins on the east and leads to the top of Lindsey Mountain.
The 33-mile Taum Sauk section of the Ozark Trail is considered by the Ozark Trail Association to be one of the finest trails in Missouri.
Polished granite plaque at Missouri high point Taum Sauk reading "HIGHEST ELEVATION 1772.68 MSL VERIFIED MARCH 23, 1991 MISSOURI: MISSOURI ASSOCIATION OF REGISTERED LAND SURVEYORS"  Check out the lookout tower while on Taum Sauk.
Mina Sauk Falls, the highest waterfall in Missouri, is on Taum Sauk and can be visited by hiking a rugged trail that makes a 3-mile (4.8 km) loop from the highpoint parking area. These falls normally have water cascading over them only during times of wet weather. At other times they are reduced to a trickle or less.
Johnson Shut ins, what can I say to describe this beautiful wonder?  Johnson Shut ins has it’s unique features due to black river running into a hard rock called rhyolite.  The river washed away other rocks and transformed the area into a natural water park.  Slides, deep pools, and rhyolite outcrops make this a popular tourist destination.  This one you really must see to understand.  I would spend every day of summer here if possible.
Tower Taum Sauk Mountain

Bell Mountain

Mina Sauk Falls
Johnson Shut ins
Johnson Shut ins
Johnson Shut ins

Bell Mountain:
The wilderness area now has a total of 9,027 acres (36.53 km2). Bell Mountain is located within the Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger District of the Mark Twain National Forest, south of Potosi, Missouri in the United States. The wilderness lies in the Saint Francois Mountains and it was named after its highest point, Bell Mountain (elevation: 1,702). The Bell Mountain Wilderness is one of eight wilderness areas protected and preserved in Missouri. The area is popular for hiking as there are 12 miles (19 km) of trail, including a section of the Ozark Trail.
Bell Mountain Wilderness is part of a large parks-and-wilderness area which includes Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, and several conservation areas.
Skipping a very large section of the OT.

Bell Mountain

Powder Mill Trailhead:
I checked out a small section of the OT while canoeing the current river.  The OT intersects Current River near this trailhead and is worth a look.

Peck Ranch:
The refuge (fenced portion) of the Area is temporarily closed due to the elk reintroduction project
This area is predominantly forest with nearly 1,500 acres in glades, along with old fields, savanna, cropland and some wetlands. Facilities/features: primitive camping, picnic areas, firearms range, viewing deck, two deer/turkey blinds, one intermittent stream and four Natural Areas (Grassy Pond, Goldenseal, Stegall Mountain and Mule Hollow).

Wappapello Lake:
Recent damage to T hwy may limit access to some sections of the OT as it goes through Wappapello region.
Lake Wappapello is a reservoir on the St. Francis River, formed by Wappapello Dam Created in 1941, this 45,000-acre lake is located 120 miles south of St. Louis, Missouri. Its primary purpose is flood control though it has evolved into a recreational area with ample opportunities to boat, fish, swim or camp. The fish population of the lake include white and largemouth bass, crappie, and bluegill. The reservoir lies overwhelmingly in Wayne County, but its southernmost reaches (near the dam) extend into northern Butler County. Lake Wappapello State Park lies on the southwestern side of the lake. -Section before and after Berryman Loop

Thank you,
Chris Clark

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