In my last blog, I showcased Lee Bluff in Madison County as one of the best panoramic views in Missouri. The view from below isn't too shabby either.
This valley along the St. Francis River is the kind of place that is worth visiting in every season.
These photos were taken from a spot colorfully known as The Fish Trap. A natural dam juts into the river, creating an obstruction that forces the water to flow around.
The dam is covered in potholes that collect and hold water when the river level rises and falls. It's not hard to imagine that unlucky fish would find themselves trapped in these pockets following a flash flood.
If any fish do get trapped, they wouldn't last long, as the area is patrolled by bald eagles and other aerial attack avians.
We may never know which pioneer or mapmaker came up with the name, but The Fish Trap was an appropriate choice. This landmark is the centerpiece of a long stretch of the river filled with rocky ledges and cascades.
Just like Lee Bluff, it may be hard to believe that this is part of Missouri. But that's fine. The tourist hordes can continue to invade Colorado or West Virginia while we Missourians keep these little natural wonders to ourselves.
The Fish Trap is reached from the same Forest Service road as Lee Bluff.
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.
Keep going for a quarter-mile beyond the last house and look for an ATV trail on the left. This is the trailhead for Lee Bluff, discussed previously. The main road continues straight ahead to The Fish Trap. Depending on your comfort level, you have the choice of parking here and hiking along the rest of the road, or driving all the way to the end (high clearance vehicle recommended).
Either way, the road meanders for another mile, going up and over a ridge, before ending at a campsite just before a creek. The Rock Pile Mountain quadrangle map shows this location as Bill Smith Hollow.
A faint quarter-mile trail leads south to the Fish Trap. This trail, however, is hard to find at first. From the end of the road, walk downstream (to the left) along the edge of the creek to a small but picturesque shut-ins.
Beyond this point, the creek forks into two channels. Here the trail should be easier to spot as it crosses one branch of the creek to an island, and then back again (if the water is too deep, it may be necessary to bushwhack through the woods above the creek before rejoining the trail). Follow the rest of the trail to the St. Francis River and The Fish Trap itself.