Monday, April 20, 2015

Missouri Highpoint: Taum Sauk Mountain and other State Park Adventures

Another day, another highpointing trip in the books.  This time I brought along a good friend of mine J and his dog Juneau.  J is always dependable for an adventure and we decided to bag the Missouri highpoint but along the way also hit one of the state parks that I had been eyeing.  I had been living in Missouri for a number of years and over that time had gotten out to several of the state parks in the area and I was really impressed.  The state parks here are some of the best in the country from what I have seen. 

The plan was to head out to Johnson's Shut-Ins state park for some hiking and then to make our way up to Taum Sauk Mountain State Park to conquer the mighty state Highpoint for Missouri. This one is really a drive up but we chose to take a bit longer of a hike so that we could see more of the park and get to spend some more time hiking. 

Missouri State park Photos
On the trail at Johnson's Shut-Ins

We started off with a quick trip to Johnson's Shut-Ins state park which was incredibly cool.  The description from the park website is below and does a much better job of describing the water and rock formations than I could do.
The park is named after the "shut-ins" where the rushing waters of the East Fork of the Black River are "shut-in" by the hard volcanic rock. Over 1.4 billion years ago, violent volcanic eruptions created hard rhyolite bedrock forming the knobby shapes of the St. Francois Mountains. As the rhyolite cooled, it cracked in many places, creating pathways for flowing water. Over millions of years, water eroded the cracks into narrow channels. Scoured by water-born sand and gravel, the channels grew deeper and wider. The eroding action of water continues to shape these rocks into the potholes, the plunge pools below small waterfalls, and the chutes that form wild, natural waterslides that delight visitors today.
This part of the park is the main attraction that drives people here and it is absolutely worth the trip.  Kids and pets alike would have a blast swimming and playing in the pools created by the river surrounded by waterfalls and  adults would have a great time too.  Truly something for everyone.  I also found the hiking trails to be well maintained and user friendly.  I highly suggest taking a look at their website and taking a trip down there if you are in the area.  It is also literally attached to Taum Sauk Mountain State park so if you are looking for a side trip with the Taum Sauk Highpoint it is a great trip to take.

Juneau and I at the Summit
After leaving Johnson's Shut-Ins we made the trek over to Taum Sauk Mountain State Park to bag our Highpoint (really the reason for our trip).  We planned on heading to the highpoint and then taking the Mina Sauk Falls trail (3 mile loop) around the park. The highpoint itself is really accessible with just a short hike of less than a mile to the "top". The summit is almost indistinguishable from the surrounding area but it has a nice granite monument to the fact that it is a state highpoint.  We made our way to the top and took a few photos to document the fact that we had been there and then started the hike around the Falls Trail.  The hike was nice, and not necessarily scenic but  it gave us something else to do.  The one thing we were disappointed by was the fact that the Mina Sauk Falls were actually dry, as in no waterfall at all, it is advertised as the tallest falls in the state but apparently only holds that distinction after heavy rains or earlier in the spring so it you are planning a visit in the fall prepare for no water.  If I were to do it again I would forego this hike and spend more time at the nearby Johnsons Shut-Ins, or at the next park that we happened upon. 

After leaving Taum Sauk, while we were on our way home we saw a few signs for Elephant Rocks State Park.  After how impressed we were with some of the other state parks in the system we decided to check out this one as well and were just as impressed.  This park is small but it was really cool to see the rocks jutting out of nowhere.  It all seemed very out of place for in the middle of the Ozarks in Missouri.  In fact the type of granite that the "Elephants" are made out of is only found in two places in the world, the other being on Pikes Peak in the front range of Colorado.  (which I have also had the pleasure of visiting, you can read about that trip  here)  The park features a mile long trail that is designed for visually impaired people with Braille signposts dotted along the paved trail.  Those wanting to venture outside are also encouraged to head into the middle of the park and climb in/around the many Elephant boulders scattered around.  We were there nearing sunset and that added to the dramatic views of the rocks as the sun was setting around us. 
J and I exploring Elephant Rocks State Park
Overall, the Actual highpoint itself is not remarkable and in fact the Taum Sauk State Park isn't anything special but getting out there to visit some of the nearby parks is quite a trip and comes highly recommended.  Enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment