Pop quiz: The following photo was taken in which state?
This is Millstream Gardens along the St. Francis River, between Fredericktown and Arcadia. Here the river cascades down Tiemann Shut-ins in the middle of a huge canyon. During the winter and spring, when the water is high, Millstream Gardens could easily stand-in for a mountain stream in Colorado. Later in the year, when the water level drops, the area turns into a serene garden.
Tiemann Shut-ins is a popular place for whitewater rafting and kayaking when the water level is high enough. It's not for the faint of heart:
Rock formations like the "Shark's Fin" lie in wait for inexperienced kayakers:
When I visited in early April, the river was filled with screaming kayakers. These fools -- er, I mean, thrill seekers -- could be heard from a long distance away as they barreled down the rapids. It almost sounded like a water ride at Six Flags. This ride, however, is 100% natural and collects no admission charge.
For those preferring solid ground, Millstream Gardens provides a scenic trail that overlooks the river. It starts at a parking area and picnic pavillion above the head of the shut-ins and follows the river downstream.
Don't miss the unusual tree that stands guard over the river below the pavillion:
It's also possible to hike down to the water's edge. The river stage was quite high when I visited, but that's not much of a surprise considering the extreme weather this year:
Millstream Gardens was once part of a private tourist attraction featuring horse-drawn wagons. It's now owned by the Missouri Department of Conservation. A trail connects the conservation area with National Forest land at Silver Mines Recreation Area, located downstream.
If you're looking for Colorado scenery without driving to Colorado, Millstream Gardens provides a cheap alternative.
From Cape Girardeau, take Highway 72 northwest through Jackson, Patton, Fredericktown. Beyond Fredericktown, continue on Highway 72 for roughly 7 miles and look for a gravel road on the left with the Millstream Gardens Conservation Area sign. Take this road into the conservation area and follow the signs for the River Access/Picnic Pavillion. From the parking area, look for the Trailhead sign and follow the trail as far as you want.
Name: Millstream Gardens
What: Whitewater shut-ins
Where: Madison County, Missouri
Owner: Missouri Department of Conservation (614 acres)
Designation: St. Francis River Shut-Ins Natural Area
Links: Conservation Atlas, Rural Missouri