The area known as the Arcadia Valley, 80 miles south of St. Louis, offers travelers some of the most scenic and diverse landscape in Missouri. From spring-fed rivers rushing through lush valleys to mountain trails through the wilderness, outcroppings of granite 1.5 billion year old to historic Civil War sites, and bustling campgrounds to peaceful bed and breakfast inns. The Arcadia Valley is a great area for a day trip, a relaxing weekend and a summer vacation.
Here are just a few ideas for a “trip to Arcadia."
- Giant, billion-year-old granite boulders stand end-to-end like a string of circus elephants at Elephant Rocks State Park, north of Ironton. In the 1800s, miners carved their names into these massive rocks. The park has a self-guided trail that winds through the boulders and past long abandoned mining operations – it includes Braille signage.
- Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is a very popular for swimming, camping and hiking. The “Shut-Ins” were formed over millions of years, by the cascading waters of the Black River. There are equestrian camping areas and horseback trails within the park.
- The Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Pilot Knob, was built in 1862. It was used as a Union hospital during the Battle of Pilot Knob. It contains the original pews and bell.
- Fort Davidson State Historic Site in Pilot Knob, preserves the site of the 1864 Battle of Pilot Knob, a major Civil War battle. A visitor center is located next to the remnants of the earthen fort.
- Baylee Jo’s BBQ & Seafood Grill in Ironton, has a black bear skin and a moose head on the wall. The secret to their fantastic barbecue is the cherry wood used in the smoker. All meats are slow smoked and served with sides made in-house. This is a true example of down-home barbecue. A favorite: all-you-care-to-eat shrimp on Friday evenings.
- The Black River is a glistening jewel of a stream; one of the Ozark’s clearest rivers. Outfitters shuttle you to a spot on the river and send you on a leisurely float back to your vehicle. Bearcat Getaway Campgrounds, in Lesterville, has canoes, tubes, rafts and all the supplies you’ll need; plus they have campsites, a store and live entertainment (most spring-summer weekends). There are many canoe outfitters serving the area; check the Missouri Canoe and Floaters Association for information on every floatable stream and outfitter in the state.
- Wilderness Lodge, a rustic resort on the Black River, can be your base camp for floating and day trips to regional attractions.
- Antiques and collectibles are plentiful in the Arcadia Valley; you don’t have to look far to find a treasure in Pilot Knob, Ironton and Lesterville. Bert’s Corner in Ironton, features antiques and handcrafted Missouri furniture.
- At Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, a trail leads from Missouri’s highest point (1,772 feet above sea level) to Mina Sauk Falls, the state’s tallest wet-weather waterfall; it is spectacular after a rain. The views are awesome all the time.
- In the town of Arcadia, Nostalgic Place Bed and Breakfast, in a circa 1889 home, offers weary travelers three guestrooms with private baths. Plain and Fancy Bed and Breakfast in Ironton occupies a 1908 farmhouse. The Parlor Bed and Breakfast, also in Ironton, is in a stately mansion built in 1901. Their three guestrooms each have a private bath, with a jetted tub. All three inns serve a full, hot breakfast.
- At the Millstream Gardens Conservation Area, east of Ironton, the St. Francis River has cut a rugged swath through the pink granite boulders of this lovely valley. The swirling waters are a playground for kayaks, canoes and swimming.
- The Iron County Courthouse in Ironton was built in 1861; it was the prize during the Battle of Pilot Knob. The courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Victorian gazebo on the front lawn is a good place to just sit a spell.
- In a restored 1941 railroad depot, the Iron County History Museum contains an extensive collection of artifacts and photos.
There is a lot more to see, do and experience in Missouri’s Arcadia Valley; it will surely require repeat visits. For a interesting look at the area, read this Road Trips article.
Missouri . . . Enjoy the show.