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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., Oct. 7, 2008 — As the days grow short and the nights cool, nature is resplendent with shades of crimson, gold and orange. Missouri’s scenic highways and byways provide the opportunity to experience fall color in all of its glory.
More than a third of the state is covered by forests, with approximately 140 different species of trees and numerous varieties of multihued shrubs and ivies providing a rich tapestry of fall color, which peaks during the month of October.
The following are just a few examples of scenic “fall color” road trips across the state of Missouri this month.
Mid-Missouri and Along the Missouri River
Roughly 90 miles west of St. Louis, in the Missouri River Valley along Highways 94 and 100, Missouri wineries beckon. Eleven of the state’s fine wineries cluster along the banks of the Missouri River, where conditions are just right for the vineyards to produce their fruit.
White sycamores are among the foliage along Highway 100, which traverses east to west, from Washington to Linn along the Missouri River. Travelers will want to stop along the way at Hermann, a picturesque German settlement town, with a rich winemaking and riverboat history. Hermann provides a great place to stop for lunch or antique shopping. The annual Oktoberfest celebration celebrates the town’s German heritage and runs every weekend in October.
Highway 94, also known as Missouri’s Weinstrasse (German for wine road), follows the Missouri River from Jefferson City to Dutzow, just west of St. Louis. This two-lane highway winds through wooded hills and river valleys to the small towns of Defiance, Augusta and Marthasville. Towns along Missouri’s Weinstrasse are celebrated for their German and winemaking heritage.
Highway 94 also provides access to the Katy Trail State Park, a trail built on the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad bed. The trail provides 225 miles of excellent hiking and biking from St. Charles to Clinton.
The Ozarks, with its abundant forests and huge tracts of undeveloped land, offers majestic fall color displays throughout the region’s rolling hills.
Towering pines nestle Highway 19, a winding road that runs through the heart of the Ozarks from Cuba to the Arkansas border.
Highway 19 takes visitors through the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the first national park system designated for the protection of wild rivers. The park is made up of two of America’s clearest spring-fed rivers – the Current and Jack Fork rivers – which are among the most popular rivers in the nation for canoeing, float trips and fishing. A float trip down the crystal waters is one of the best ways to take in the beauty of fall color, with densely forested shorelines, limestone bluffs and more than 300 caves lining the rivers.
Highway 19 also passes Mark Twain National Forest, which encompasses 1.5 million acres, mostly within the Ozark Highlands, an ancient landscape characterized by springs, caves, streams and mountains. Visitors to the Mark Twain National Forest can experience the natural beauty of the forest from the Glade Top Trail or the Blue Buck Knob Scenic Byway.
The Glade Top Trail (Forest Roads 147 and 149) is a 23-mile scenic byway located in the Ozark Plateau, about five miles south of Ava. The region is well known for its dramatic fall color display. On October 19, the town of Ava celebrates the smoke tree’s brilliant red and orange fall foliage at its “Flaming Fall Review,” a festival with bluegrass music, home-style foods, pumpkin painting and a pie auction. Views from the Glade Top Trail include the Springfield Plateau to the northwest and Arkansas’ Boston Mountains to the south. White-tailed deer, wild turkeys, bobwhite quail and songbirds are abundant along the trail.
The Blue Buck Knob Scenic Byway (Missouri Routes 81, 76 and AP) is a 24-mile tree-lined route in Ozark Hill Country that travels past farms, pastures and woodlands. Stop along the way for a picnic lunch at Noblett Lake, where sugar maples, shortleaf pines, and black and white oaks create a colorful setting. A nine-mile trail offers hikers the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature. Horseback rides through the area’s rugged terrain are also popular. Anglers will enjoy fishing in the lake for bass, blue gill, crappie and catfish.
Highway 76 takes travelers from Willow Springs to Reeds Spring, just north of Branson, by way of the Mark Twain National Forest. The route travels through the Piney Creek Wildlife Area, which comprises 176,000 acres of rugged Ozark terrain filled with oak, maple, and shortleaf pine, as well as dogwood, hackberry, sassafras, redbud, serviceberry and Eastern red cedar. Wildlife at the Piney Creek Wildlife Area includes white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, black bear, fox, squirrels and raccoons.
Just seven miles south of Cassville on southwest Missouri’s Highway 112, travelers can drink in the rich fall color display at the Roaring River State Park, which covers more than 3,000 acres. The park’s 2.5-mile spring branch is separated into three fishing zones and facilities include a new lodge, swimming pool, cabins, motel, campground, restaurant, nature center and a well-developed system of hiking trails.
Sugar Camp Scenic Byway (Forest Road 197), located in the southwest corner of the state, is a two-lane gravel road traveling past woodlands densely populated with pines and oaks. The scenic byway offers travelers views of stream valleys, rocky bluffs and breathtaking fall color displays.
The byway travels through Roaring River State Park; Onyx Mountain Caverns, which features 35-foot-high onyx formations and an underground river; and Table Rock Lake, wildly popular for its fishing, boating, camping, golfing and hiking.
Route 106 travels east to west from Ellington along Deer Run State Forest through the Ozark National Scenic Riverways to Summersville. Deer Run State Forest is a heavily timbered area of primarily oak and pine trees. Hunting, fishing, hiking, primitive camping, sightseeing and photography are enjoyed during all seasons of the year, but the area is especially beautiful during the period of fall foliage.
Six miles west of Eminence on Route 160 are the Alley Spring and Alley Mill, located in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways along Jacks Fork River. Alley Spring is an Ozarks history museum with a one-room schoolhouse and an old country store. The picturesque area provides a great place to stop for lunch or a lazy afternoon of fishing. On October 11 and 12, Alley Spring hosts “Haunting in the Hills,” a special fall event that celebrates the lives of those living in the Ozarks during the 1800s. The event features traditional crafts and games and demonstrations of “chores” as they would have been done centuries ago.
Some of the most scenic views in the Ozarks are found in southeast Missouri along the stretch from Potosi to Taum Sauk Mountain along Highways 8 and 21. The fall colors are notorious at Taum Sauk Mountain, located on Highway CC (accessed from Highway 21). Taum Sauk, situated within the St. Francois Mountains, is Missouri’s highest point at 1,772 feet above sea level. Its topography is unique in that it does not come to a traditional peak, but is instead, a flat ridge. The St. Francois Mountains were formed as a result of ancient volcanic activity, and are thought to be one of the few areas in the world never to have been submerged by ancient seas.
Highway 21 also travels past Belleview Valley and Arcadia Valley. Belleview Valley is located near Elephant Rocks State Park, where huge granite boulders stand end to end like a train of circus elephants and feature a trail marked by Braille.
Arcadia Valley, home to the cities of Arcadia, Ironton and Pilot Knob, was a camp for Union soldiers during the Civil War, and today, offers a glimpse into the war’s history. Stop by Arcadia Valley’s many quaint shops or sample tasty fare from its local restaurants. The nearby Black River is a favorite destination for float trips, swimming and fishing. Hiking, biking and camping near the river are also popular.
Highway 160 journeys past the Eleven Point River on the trip from Doniphan to Branson through the heart of the Ozark Mountains. The pristine Eleven Point River, which runs primarily through the Mark Twain National Forest, offers some of the most breathtaking views in the Ozarks. Protected by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, the river is fed by the world’s 10th largest spring, Greer Spring, and is an excellent site for hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Its waters can be more difficult to navigate than the Jacks Fork or Current rivers thanks to occasional Level II rapids.
Northeast Missouri/St. Louis Area
Cruise along the banks of the Mississippi River on Great River Road (Route 79) which stretches between Mark Twain’s hometown of Hannibal to the north and St. Peters, situated just northwest of St. Louis, to the south. The beautiful Mark Twain Lake offers boating, camping, equestrian activities, hiking, fishing and hunting. On October 17 and 18, at the lake’s Indian Creek Campsite, campers are encouraged to decorate their sites for Halloween, promising some positively spooky fun.
Travelers to the St. Louis area may also want to head down to the Pickle Springs Natural Area, approximately seven miles northeast of Farmington off State Highway AA, accessed from Missouri Highway 32. Pickle Springs Natural Area is a breathtaking gorge consisting of forest, sandstone knobs, arches, canyons and cliffs. The area has a two-mile hiking trail that is packed with one-of-a-kind sights.
Kansas City Area
Scenic drives near the Kansas City area are found on Highway 45 along the Missouri River. Travelers can take Highway 45 northwest through historic Weston, past Lewis and Clark Village to Sugar Lake, which is said to get its name from the sugar maples growing on its banks. Weston is a quaint community that was once the second largest port on the Missouri River. The town is home to many unique shops and restaurants. Tours of the town’s historic buildings and homes are available, as well as walking tours of the town. Weston celebrates its Apple Fest the first weekend of October and the Weston Irish Festival the second weekend.
Hiking and outdoor recreation near Kansas City are available at Big Buffalo Creek Conservation Area, a mostly forested area in Sedalia; Maple Woods Natural Area, a mature maple and oak forest known for fall color displays in Gladstone; Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area, an area featuring glades, woodlands, native grasses, ponds and forested hillsides in Blue Springs; White Alloe Creek Conservation Area, a hiking area adjoining the Parkville Nature Sanctuary; Bluffwoods Conservation Area, a largely forested area with scattered grasslands near St. Joseph; and Knob Knoster State Park, which features an impressive fall color display and wildlife unique to the Midwest.
For more information on Missouri, go to www.VisitMO.com or call 800-519-4800 to order a free 2008 Official Missouri Vacation Planner.