Exploring Missouri: Road Trips through the Show-Me State
By Kimberly Graf. Published on January 14, 2021
Missouri is an often-overlooked state that is brimming with natural wonders, small-town charm, and an old-fashioned way of life. It's the gateway to the west, and it's a perfect balance between the hardworking people of the Midwest and the rustic ways of the south. It's the home of the Great American author Mark Twain, and he often wrote about the landscape here. Any road trip through this place is a beautiful experience, and you'll probably meet some very interesting people along the way!
Missouri's Water Mills
Missouri has an astounding number of watermills. It's one of the state's most quaint features. You can find them all over the southern part of the state, and most of them have been turned into museums and recreation attractions. Here are just some of the beautiful mills you can visit in the Ozarks!
We'll start at the most northern mill on our trip, the Dillard Mill State Historic Site in Davisville, Missouri. This is one of the most well-preserved mills in the state. Built in 1908, this used to be a fully functioning gristmill – a mill made for grinding grain into flour. Now, you can walk around the site to your heart's content. The park provides the perfect opportunities for fishing, hiking, and other outdoor activities.
An hour and 40 minutes to the south is Alley Spring and Mill in Eminence, Missouri. This mill was crucial to the community that lived here – and was built up around it – because it provided bread to all the residents. This isn't even the original building; it was built in 1893! Here, you can take a tour of the mill and check out the beautifully untouched river of Alley Spring.
Forty minutes down to Winona, Missouri will take you to the Falling Spring Mill. The river that powered this mill powered two others, and even has a waterfall! You'd be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful place in the Mark Twain National Forest – and that's saying something. There's also a historic log cabin here to explore!
Our last mill is Dawt Mill, just outside of Tecumseh, Missouri. You're going to want to travel and hour and 40 minutes south again, but the drive will be through beautiful forests filled with greenery and wildlife. Dawt Mill is a historic place, a beautiful mill, and a resort! Here, you can experience all types of water recreation, a wonderful hotel, and even nightlife! It's the perfect place to end this four-hour drive through the Ozarks!
Natural Wonders of Missouri
This drive is just over 4 hours and takes you through some of the most amazing sites in the state! The Grand Gulf state Park in Thayer is one of the most beautiful things the Missouri wilderness has to offer. It's a collapsed cave system that you can climb all over and explore. The walls of the canyon this created are 130 feet tall, making it memorable and amazing to witness.
It's an hour and a half down to Van Buren, and a site called Big Spring. This was the first state park in Missouri, and it's part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, a unique way to explore the area. The Big Spring is a fast-flowing river of clear water made from snow run-off high in the mountains. Take some time to appreciate the beauty of the water. There's also a campground, picnic area, and lodge as well as cabins where you can stay. Take some time to appreciate the natural beauty of one of America's biggest, fastest-flowing springs.
It's an hour and a quarter down to the Mingo National Wildlife Refuge. This is a unique place in Missouri, as it's a swampy, riparian area where the water and the land blend beautifully. This park covers thousands of acres, and has some set aside for hunting, fishing, and enjoying the wildlife. This place is full of photograph opportunities and recreation, making it a perfect place to visit and take in the sites! There's plenty to do at Mingo, you're likely to spend hours doing it all!
When you're finished at Mingo, you're going to want to head to Belleview. It's an hour and forty minute drive, and at the end of it is the Elephant Rocks State Park. This place is simply amazing! There are giant granite boulders that appear like elephants, lined up like they're marching away! Geologists and scientists can't quite explain the rock formations in this park, so it's an interesting thing to go and see while you're in the area!
Missouri is a land of enchanted backcountry wilderness, natural formations that are breathtaking and vast. If you're going to be in the area, any trip through the Ozarks in the southern part of the state is absolutely worth it, no matter what time of year you happen to be there!