Last week I made the drive to visit family in southeastern Missouri and to hike a few places while there as well.
Southeast Missouri is a part of the Ozark Highlands which extend into five states. In Missouri, they extend from St. Louis to Arkansas.
Mountains, karst features, pristine rivers, underground springs, and deep forests make up the landscape.
The Mark Twain National Forest extends down into southern Missouri and my family lives near a section of it.
The forest was officially opened in the 1930s. It consists of 1.5 million acres in 29 counties in Missouri. Officially, it covers 3 million square acres.
There are over 750 miles of trails in the forest. I had my sights set on exploring a section of the Eleven Point River that is in the forest. The river is 138 miles in length and its name comes from the 11 points where it can be accessed.
In 1968, a 44.4 mile stretch of the river was named the Eleven Point National Wild and Scenic River. It was one of the original eight rivers chosen to be part of the United States National Wild and Scenic River system.
This fact got me interested in visiting, and one of the access points was not far from my family’s home. To make things more interesting, a place in this section of the river was called the “Narrows.”
The Narrows gets its name from a narrow strip of land between the river and a creek that flows into it. Also in that location is one of two underground springs that flow into the river. Add in the beauty of a national forest, it was a must see and hike for me.
That’s exactly what I did.
It was a beautiful and warm fall day in Missouri when I hiked at the Narrows. My son-in-law wanted to accompany me so off we went to explore this wild place. We drove to the trailhead and took off down the old, wooded road that served as the beginning of the trail. The trail was about 4 miles in length and considered moderate. (Later, I would question this rating).
We were up on a high bluff that provided fantastic views of the valley below. There were rock outcrops and rock formations on both sides of the trail. The national forest was to the right of us for awhile and the fall colors were displayed beautifully in the leaves. We soon came to an overlook of the river and of one of the underground springs: “Blue Springs.”
We were pretty high up and there was a fence around the area for which I was most appreciative. It was a nice view of the river. We continued walking down a big hill, talking all the while about the beautiful landscape around us. We eventually came to the bottom of the hill.
There we found “Frederick Creek” and a trail that led us alongside. We also came across the second underground springs, “Morgan Springs.” The springs were located right about where the creek joins the river. The water was swirling and bubbling as the spring flowed downstream. And, of course, right in front of us was the Narrows.
The narrow strip of land was full of trees and plants. A perfect spot for many birds and various amphibians.
At last we were standing where the waters came together and I got my first look at the Eleven Point river. It was gorgeous. Clean and clear and the deepest shade of blue that I had ever seen in a river. The surface of the water was sparkling from the sunlight’s reflection. It was one of the nicest rivers I have ever seen.
We lingered by the water’s edge for awhile and then made our way back on the trail. We passed some nice campsites and then climbed back up the big hill and returned to the parking lot.
It had been a great hike.
To get to this place: From Doniphan, Missouri, take Highway 160 west for four miles to Highway 21 South. Turn left on Highway 21 and travel two miles to Highway 142 West. Turn on 142 and travel 19 miles. The trailhead will be on your right just before the bridge that crosses the river.
A quote for your week: “My favorite places on Earth are the wild waterways where the forest opens its arms and the silver curve of the river folds the traveler into its embrace.” — Roy MacLean, writer
Until the next trail,Susan