Saturday, July 2, 2016

Arrow Rock State Historic Site (Blog Hike #578)

Trail: (unnamed)
Hike Location: Arrow Rock State Historic Site
Geographic Location: northwest of Boonville, MO
Length: 1.6 miles
Difficulty: 3/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: June 2016
Overview: A lollipop loop atop a bluff overlooking the Missouri River.

Directions to the trailhead: In central Missouri, take I-70 to SR 41 (exit 98).  Exit and go north on SR 41.  Drive SR 41 north 12.6 miles to the second entrance for Arrow Rock State Historic Site on the right (the first entrance is for the campground, the second for the Visitor Center).  Turn right to enter the site, and park in the paved parking lot near the Visitor Center.

The hike: When most people think of Daniel Boone, they think of the Cumberland Gap, the Wilderness Road, and the settlement of Kentucky.  Yet in 1799 Boone moved to his final home in Missouri, which at that time was a sparsely settled wilderness that only became part of the United States in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase.  Boone’s sons Daniel Morgan Boone and Nathan Boone did much exploring and developing on the Missouri frontier, and their father continued to hunt and trap as his health allowed.
            When Boone died in 1820 at the ripe old age of 85, he was buried beside his wife Rebecca in an unmarked grave in Marthasville, MO, which is a town along the Missouri River just west of St. Louis.  In 1845, their remains were supposedly exhumed and moved to a famous cemetery in Frankfort, KY, although questions have arisen about whether the correct bodies were exhumed.  Cemeteries in both Missouri and Kentucky claim to hold Daniel Boone’s remains.  The town of Boonville, MO is named for Boone’s sons, who ran a salt business there in the early 1800’s.  The name Saline County, the county in which most of Arrow Rock State Historic Site is located, derives its name from the salt sources the Boones exploited for their business.
            Although Arrow Rock has ties to the Boone family, the area’s high bluffs overlooking the west bank of the Missouri River were well-known before the Boones arrived.  The phrase “rock of arrows” appears on a 1732 French exploration map of this area.  The name Arrow Rock comes from the fact that local Indians used rock from this bluff to make points for their arrows.  A ferry that operated here in the 1820’s gave travelers along the Santa Fe Trail safe crossing of the Missouri River.
            The town of Arrow Rock was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966, and in the same year Arrow Rock State Historic Site was established.  The town features several buildings that date to the 1800’s, and the historic site features a modern campground, a fishing lake, and a Visitor Center with some nice exhibits about the area’s history.  For hikers, the site features only one short trail, the 1.6 mile lollipop loop described here.  This trail offers a pleasant walk that explores the natural environment near Arrow Rock.
            The trail starts at a large brown trailhead sign on the east side of the parking lot.  The grass/dirt treadway descends moderately through the woods using a couple of broad switchbacks.  The trail is marked with plastic pale yellow rectangles nailed to trees.
At 0.1 miles, you cross narrow but paved Santa Fe Spring Drive and reenter the woods on the other side.  Although no signs indicate such, this point marks the start of the loop portion of this hike.  The return route will come up the road from the right, so you are hiking the loop clockwise.
            After paralleling Santa Fe Spring Drive for 0.1 miles, you cross another paved site road.  Notice the nice stone bridge to the right, which carries the paved road across the same stream the trail crosses on a wooden footbridge.  A moderate climb comes next, as you gain about 90 feet of elevation while climbing on a narrow dirt trail.
Climbing the bluff
            At 0.4 miles, you reach the top of the bluff that made Arrow Rock famous.  This bluff top is now occupied by a picnic area, which in turn is accessed by a paved site road that the trail follows for a short distance.  The park map indicates a scenic overlook here, but trees blocked any possible view on my visit.
Blufftop "overlook"
            The trail heads back into the woods as it assumes a southward course.  The next 0.3 miles pass through a rather undeveloped portion of the site, making for good birding opportunities.  I saw many common woodland birds here including cardinals, robins, sparrows, mourning doves, and woodpeckers.  I also encountered quite a few mosquitoes on the hot muggy morning I hiked here, so be sure to wear bug spray with high deet concentration if you hike here in the summer.
            0.7 miles into the hike, you pass through the cul de sac at the rear of the site’s campground.  The route now assumes a meandering course near the site’s southern boundary just downhill from the campground.  Some nice clusters of purple phlox blooming along this section of trail brightened my path.
            At 1.1 miles, the trail curves right to begin passing through a narrow strip of woods with the campground on the right and the site’s fishing lake on the left.  Some narrow spur trails link the campground to the lake, so feel free to explore the lake if you wish.  A lot of poison ivy lives beside the trail here, so take care where you step.
Fishing lake
            At 1.3 miles, you cross the main campground entrance road and reenter the woods on the other side.  The trail now begins following a slightly rocky old road.  One wooden trail footbridge sits atop old stone road bridge supports.  At 1.5 miles, the trail comes out at Santa Fe Spring Drive near the spring that gives this road its name.  Turn left and walk briefly uphill on the asphalt road to close the loop, then turn left to retrace your steps up the trail to the parking lot to complete the hike.

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