State Park Marathon

It has been a while since we did a whole day of state parks and we were both in the mood to make some more progress toward seeing all 88 Missouri parks. After a quick breakfast we headed for our first stop which was going to be St. Francois State Park on route 67 north of Bonne Terre (Bonne Terre has the flooded mine which we will get to some day as well). As we got to where route 32 heads east to Bismarck we saw a detour sign since MODOT is replacing a bridge between Caledonia and Bismarck. You now have to go north a bit and then wind east to come into Bismarck from the north. Since we had to go north on the detour, we decided it would not be too out of the way to go to Washington State Park. This was cool because this park has several buildings built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in the 1930’s. The rustic stone and beam construction is quite beautiful plus a surprise was the petroglyphs carved in the dolomite by pre-historic Indians who lived in the area a millennia ago. Some were very faded but a few were very easy to see and showed up well in the photos. Below is a very clearly a thunderbird.

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After that we headed back to St. Francois park and while it is primarily a camping and fishing park with trails – most of the parks are like this – we had a great chat with the people in the park office after getting the stamp in our passport and some stickers.

Next stop was Sandy Creek Covered Bridge state historic site. It has one of four covered bridges left in Missouri. It is a Howe truss design originally built in 1872. This design was very common for covered bridges in the surrounding states as well. I knew the main reason for covered bridges was the roof helped prevent weather from damaging the bridge so they would last longer but I also found out that the covered bridge was like a barn so animals would cross with less fuss and it provided shelter form a sudden storm. This bridge was rebuilt twice with the last being in 1984 sixteen years after the state acquired it.

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After that stop it was a 15 mile trip east to the Mississippi where the gravesite of Daniel Dunklin who was the 5th Governor of Missouri is located. He is considered to be “the father of public schools” in Missouri. He was a shrewd businessman and had acquired a vast estate that the son managed to lose over time except for a one acre parcel where the historical site is. There is an interpretive sign and a small cemetery with the graves of Dunklin, his wife and two children. The site has a great view of the river and is right next to a small mansion that I suspect is built on the original property. I wonder how they like the site beng right next door. Fortunately for them I suspect not a lot of people visit.

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A nice view of the Mississippi River form the Dunklin site:

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We saved the best for last as we headed up the road a few miles to visit Mastodon State Historic Site. We drive by this every time we head to Chicago or go to Collinsville for Archon every year and we always say we should visit and we finally did. While there is a recreation area with various trail heads, we headed right for the museum since that is why we wanted to visit (as well as get the stamps in our passport). The museum is not large, but it has several excellent displays of animals and Paleo-Indian Clovis culture from the time of the mastodon fossils found in the Kimmswick bone bed just yards from the museum. These date back to around 14,000 years ago. The highlight is the reproduction of the mastodon skeleton (the original fossil skeleton is in the British Museum), but they also have a giant ground sloth and a dog sized beaver. It is all displayed a giant diorama like scene that is quite nice to study. There is also a short film with some of the history of the dig there. There was a small admission which we gladly paid considering the quality of the exhibits.

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The photo above is the reproduction of a giant ground sloth. He is a little meaner looking than Syd from the Ice Age films.

We did trek down to the bone bed but there was not much to see because after the excavation in the 1970’s they filled it in to preserve it and it is all grown over with brush. The exercise was good and we got to try out our new walking poles.

We have now visited 35 of the 88 parks and plan to do more this month yet. I hope that those of you who are locals will be encouraged to get out and see some of the great parks here in Missouri. If you are out of state, they are a good excuse to visit.

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