by Laura (Abernathy) Huffman
Missouri is teeming with scenic wonders, unique geologic features, and historic locations that elevate their value to all Missourians. Here is our list of five of those locations.
Missouri is abuzz with the news that the state is planning three new state parks- Ozark Mountain State Park, Bryant Creek State Park, and Eleven Point State Park. In the spirit of James Baughn’s 2008 blog article for the Southeast Missourian, Population 91 has also developed a wish list of future state parks, conservation areas, historic districts and roadside parks that we would like to see developed, or in some cases, re-developed, in the future. Several of the locations that we have listed are owned by private individuals- we mention them not to encourage trespassing or “land grabs” but to note that their uniqueness, scenic beauty, and/or historic backgrounds elevate their value to all Missourians. This isn’t an inclusive list- we will add more as we come across them, and we’d like to hear from you about the extra special places in your neck of the woods.
1. Moccasin Bend is a unique loop, or bend, of the Gasconade River in Pulaski County. The Gasconade has a reputation for being incredibly crooked and at The Narrows, on Moccasin Bend, the river almost twists back into itself. The strip of terra firma at this landmark is reportedly only .2 miles in width, but seven miles from point to point on the water. In the mid 1930’s five Ozarks resorts lined the riverbank along Moccasin Bend. By 1946 the area, under private ownership, was used as a wildlife refuge for deer and turkey- an instrumental role in Missouri’s efforts to reintroduce native wildlife that had seen dwindling populations. Dru Pippen (Missouri Conservation Commissioner 1947-1959 & 1961-1964) operated Pippin Place Resort, downstream from Moccasin Bend, and once described the Gasconade as “a wonderful run, [with] steep bluffs, gorgeous cuts, hairpin turns, and lazy eddies; hardwoods, softwoods, and dogwoods, hidden logs, protruding boulders that weathering has tumbled from adjacent cliffs, wild flowers and shrubs, birds and bees, four legged creatures quenching their thirst…”
2. Pippin Place Resort is one of two of Pulaski County’s hidden gems that invoke comparison to Ha Ha Tonka. At one time the resort boasted over 600 acres, downstream from Moccasin Bend, and a few short miles from Roubidoux Creek Conservation area, as the crow flies. Pippin Place’s Bartlett Spring was a popular camping spot with Gasconade visitors well before the resort opened in 1915. Construction cost were more than $50,000. The resort was equipped with the most modern of conveniences, including electricity and indoor plumbing, and a chef, John Brahnam, recommended by Duncan Hines. During the “Hollywood Years”, in the 1930’s, Joan Crawford & Douglas Fairbanks vacationed at Pippin Place. At least two Missouri governors visited the resort. Pippin Place soldiered on through the lean years, through the boom years of the building of Fort Leonard Wood, and its shine first began to fade after the passing of Dru’s wife, Eva, in 1962. The lodge building was gutted by a fire in 1984 “leaving the stone walls of the structure to stand alone in silent testimony to the splendor of a time when Pippin Place was one of the grand resorts of the Central Missouri Ozarks.”
3. Eden Roadside Park was once located along Route 66 near Hazelgreen in Laclede County. The roadside park took its name from Eden Resort, “Paradise in the Ozark Hills” that was located across the highway. Eden Resort was built in the 1920’s by Stanley M. Riggs and it served travelers and vacationers for fifty some odd years. Riggs donated the approximately an acre and a half land for the roadside park. In 2005 the Lebanon Daily Record described the park as “situated in a ravine, and steps were built down to it from the road. Besides a rock grill for cooking and a table, the park included an obelisk marker with a plaque…”. That marker, along with one erected in 1931 by Ladies of the G.A.R., commemorating the march of Union soldiers along the wire road during the Civil War, share the same fate as the park itself- gone. The roadside park itself was filled in with pavement to construct Interstate 44. With nearby Hazelgreen Access, and the storied Hazelgreen Gasconade bridge, this could be the perfect opportunity to recreate the roadside park, and save and feature the bridge to the many tourists who still flock to Route 66 destinations today.
4. The “ghost town” of Arlington, in Phelps County, at the confluence of the Gasconade and Little Piney rivers, is still visible from the westbound lanes of Interstate 44. James Harrison and his family settled the land in 1817, making it one of the oldest settlements in Phelps county. In 1899 Goodspeed publishers referred to the community as historic and noted that it had been in five counties, St. Louis, Gasconade, Crawford, Pulaski, and Phelps. At one time it was the county seat of Crawford county. It was a popular shipping point, both by river and rail in its time. The old railroad depot building still stands amongst private dwellings. In 1946 the Rolla Herald reported that the town, which had been owned by the Pillman’s since 1883, was sold to Rowe Carney for $10,000. Carney’s purchase included 120 acres of land, a 14 room frame hotel, several residences, a store building, a filling station, and six tourist cabins. Also in 1946 the same newspaper stated “the towering bluffs and insurmountable cliffs make ideal scenery.”
5. White House Ferry of the Gasconade River, downstream from Arlington, is situated on the boundaries of Phelps and Pulaski counties. Settled by John Duncan and named for the “home of the President across the Potomac from Arlington.” This ford was once an important river crossing of the Old Wire road and it is here that Union troops crossed the Gasconade during their retreat from Wilson’s Creek.