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Don't adjust your monitor: This really is Missouri

Posted Tuesday, October 30, 2012, at 11:35 PM

I know what you're thinking about the photo above. This scene couldn't possibly come from Missouri. This must be some mountain vista in West Virginia or another place far away.

No, it really is Missouri. The water is the good ole St. Francis River in Madison County, not far from Fredericktown.

Lee Bluff, a 300-ft tall cliff, is the setting for this panoramic view.

The bluff overlooks a sharp bend in the river. It's almost too much to capture, even with a wide-angle camera lens.

From here, St. Francis River continues south, flowing through a series of pools.

Black Mountain (elevation 1,502 ft.) looms in the distance to the northwest. On this particular fall day, the mountain was more red than black. The name actually has nothing to do with the color. According to the Ramsay Place Names File, the mountain was named for a pioneer family.

Other nearby mountains, including Arnett and Marlow, were also named for early landowners. However, I haven't yet been able to find the origin of Lee Bluff. It's a rather mundane placename for such a spectacular scene, one of the best views in all of Missouri.

Scanning the horizon, not one cell or radio tower is visible. Indeed, except for some ATV tracks along the river's edge, the entire view is devoid of any signs of human activity. That's a rarity for this part of the country.

Because of the remoteness, Lee Bluff is not an easy destination to reach. But it's well worth the effort.


[Google map]

From Cape Girardeau, take Highway 72 west through Jackson and Patton to Fredericktown. Follow the Highway 72 bypass around Fredericktown. At the roundabout, take the second turn to stay on Highway 72 west. Go straight through the stoplight near Wal-Mart and then turn left for the US 67 south onramp. Follow the freeway a short distance to the next exit for Route E.

Turn right on Route E and drive 5.3 miles to Route O. Turn left on Route O and follow this road for almost 5 miles until the pavement ends. Continue straight on County Road 425. After crossing a low-water bridge, the road forks. Bear right on County Road 408. After driving past a farm, the road becomes narrower and rougher. Some maps show this as Forest Road 2064. Keep going for a quarter-mile beyond the last house and look for an ATV trail on the left. Park on the side of the road where convenient (approx. GPS coordinates are 37.45327, -90.45072).

Hike up the trail a short distance to a junction and campsite. Take the left fork as it quickly climbs the steep hill, meandering around downed trees. Follow the trail to the highest point, then bear right to descend a rockly slope a short distance to the crest of Lee Bluff.

Note: Forest maps show that the bluff itself is private property just outside of the Mark Twain National Forest. I didn't see any "Keep Out" signs and the trail seems well traveled, but I can't make any guarantees. See the Rock Pile Mountain topographic quadrangle map for details.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

You do such a great job of bringing visual treasures to my eyes. I probably won't ever be able to get out to these very special places, but thanks to you I am able to do so vicariously. Thanks.

-- Posted by Observer1 on Wed, Oct 31, 2012, at 6:14 AM

Beautiful pictures but why would you think people would have a hard time believing that is Missouri? Quite a bit more of Missouri looks like that or even more scenic. And you've either never been to West Virginia or your memory is failing you because those are mole hills compared to the scenery there.

-- Posted by Data48 on Wed, Oct 31, 2012, at 8:33 AM

Just finished the annual pilgrimage to Bell Mountain Wilderness Area which is northwest of Belleview, north of Arcadia & Ironton. They are going to have to enlarge the parking lots, or people will be parking on the roads...

-- Posted by Hugh M Bean on Wed, Oct 31, 2012, at 9:38 AM

I hiked this area 20 years ago and had long since forgot where it was actually at. I believe it had a different name then. Thank you for reminding me of a great spot!

-- Posted by rodgerdodger on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 11:20 PM

Never been to the top but I have floated that stretch of river for years often camping on that sand bar below. The bluff itself is wonderful. Ahh.... I am ready for summer and a canoe!

-- Posted by beamis50 on Sat, Nov 16, 2013, at 7:50 PM

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The webmaster of seMissourian.com and its sister newspapers, James Baughn has lost track of the number of websites he manages. On the side, he maintains even more sites, including Bridgehunter.com, LandmarkHunter.com, TheCapeRock.com, and Humorix.
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