We are continuing our journey westwards. Now crossing the Mississippi River over the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge at Cape Girardeau...the river is just everso slightly wider than when we first saw it in Itasca at its birthplace...the bridge is nearly 4,000ft long...over 1.2kms.
It is the first of October and we are now in Illinois having left Kentucky......but we didn't stay for long....20 minutes later we cross into Missouri. We stopped for lunch at Cape Girardeau....as we were preparing to set off, I was greeted by a voice asking..."So what number are you?"....it turned out that the voice belonged to Doug Marsh another Earthroamer. He had previously been the proud owner of ER94. We exchanged some information and it was nice to hear of someone else's experiences roaming around North America. He and his wife had also bee "full timers" up until recently. Leaving the town behind us we continued westwards and then slightly north heading towards The Ozarks. But first we had time to take a slight detour to Bollinger Mill.
The amazingly well restored Bollinger Mill and covered bridge.
In early America, a water-powered mill usually led to the creation of local townships. In Missouri, the cool, clear streams of the Ozarks were ideal for water-powered mills and farmers would camp with their entire families near the mill while waiting to have their grain ground into meal and flour. These gatherings often became the social focus of an area. Bollinger Mill State Historic Site provides a glimpse into this 19th-century way of life. After receiving a Spanish land grant, George Frederick Bollinger led a group of families from North Carolina to this area and in 1800 began construction of a mill and dam on the Whitewater River. The mill quickly became successful and by the 1820s, a road linked Bollinger Mill with surrounding communities. Bollinger himself became well known, entered politics, and served as a senator in Missouri's first general assembly.The mill and dam, originally constructed from logs, were rebuilt in stone in 1825 and this limestone foundation and dam are still visible today. When Bollinger died in 1842, his daughter, Sarah Daugherty, and her two sons continued to operate the popular mill.
We continue west. We are heading now for Johnson Shut-Ins in Mark Twain State Forest. It is Saturday and being late into the campground we are very lucky that the volunteer on the gate is prepared to let us take the last spot available which is classified as a disabled site....great level location and close to all the facilities...the park looks almost brand spanking new. In December 2005, the nearby Taum Sauk Reservoir, a hydroelectric power station, breached, sending 1.3 billion gallons of water down Proffit Mountain. The water, carrying tons of trees, debris and boulders, scoured the mountainside and destroyed or extensively damaged facilities in the park, including the campground. It also altered the landscape of the valley and the East Fork of the Black River in the park. This event changed the park forever and has become part of the history of Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park. It took five years of painstaking work to recover and rebuild.
The new Black River Visitor Center @ Johnson Shut In's.
The signature feature of the park is the "shut-ins" with its spectacular chutes and waterfalls confined within the canyonlike gorges of the East Fork of the Black River. It is one of Missouri's most outstanding examples of a "shut-in" and is the principal feature of the 180-acre Johnson's Shut-Ins Natural Area. A walkway leads to an observation deck overlooking the scenic pothole shut-ins and gives great views of the shut-in and valley....we had come here to photograph.
It's Sunday morning and.....where did everyone go? Mass exodus....by 10am the site is almost empty. As we camped in a disabled spot the previous night we need to move....but now we have the choice of pretty much anywhere we want in the whole campground.
Having relocated we set off on our bikes to the excellent visitors center. The Black River Center is a great place to stop on your way into the park. You can watch videos on "A Billion and a Half Years in a Nutshell," "The Power of Water," "Rebuilding Johnson's Shut-ins,". Interactive exhibits include "Songs of the Shut-Ins Song Birds" and "The Johnston Family History." You can also see exhibits explaining "Water Life of the River," "How the Shut-ins was Formed," "Glade Life" and "Landscape of Voices.". We pick up some information and hiking maps for the area and some slow wifi that affords me the opportunity to download the UK "Sunday Times" newspaper for the first time in a little while....so that's the afternoon taken care of then...nice to sit and chill in a now very quiet campground!
Following morning we are up and away early. We want to get into the shut-ins before anyone else, so we can set up our cameras to get some good shots. In the end we have almost 2 hours to play without interruption...the occasional hiker comes past but they are all quick to take that "memorable photo" on their smartphones and then move on. Very few make the journey down the rock face by a goat track to the river...for me anyway that was where the best views and shots were to be taken.
The Blonde getting into position for a special shot...
....and a couple of "special" shots....
After photographing in the shut-ins we head out on the track that continues in a 3 mile loop eventually arriving back at the visitors center. Part of this loop is on the Ozark Trail. This trail is an ongoing project that when finished will offer an 800 mile trail through some of the most beautiful countryside in the Mid-West, starting in downtown St. Louis and ending on the Arkansas border with Missouri. The rugged 35-mile Taum Sauk Section of the Ozark Trail runs through the heart of the ancient St. Francois Mountains. Some of the most scenic areas lie within Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park. This rocky trail winds through mountains of oak-hickory forest, dotted with shortleaf pine trees, bluffs and rocky glades....it would have been great to walk some sections of the trail here, but time was now pressing, we only have two weeks now before we need to be back in Denver.
The Blonde - This is stunning! Johnson's Shut-ins, Missouri. A beautiful morning and a couple of hours playing by the water. I hope I have something good to show for this....what do you think?
Having spent a couple of hours at the Shut-ins, me clambering over rocks for the waterfalls and David sitting patiently waiting for me, listening to his music, we take a little loop hike from here further along the river and back to the visitors center. Some of the signs were very clear about what should happen should there be another flood....but running up 200 steps!!
So then...signs are there to be read and abided by, and taken seriously....not to be laughed at!!
David was running out of gas. He hadn’t drunk his coffee, he’d had no breakfast and we had no water with us (BIG mistake...what were we thinking!). I know that feeling. So we had an early lunch in the very nice picnic area close to the visitors center - all relatively new again as this was also washed away by the reservoir breach in 2005. We are so glad we took advice from our dear friend Susan back in Boulder who told us to come here...she had spent much of her youth playing in and around this area, it would have been idyllic.
On on now to Elephant Rocks. The formation of this extraordinary herd of elephants began during the Precambrian era about 1.5 billion years ago. Molten rock, magma, accumulated deep below the earth's surface. The magma slowly cooled, forming red granite rock. As the weight of the overlying rock was removed by erosion, horizontal and vertical cracks developed, fracturing the massive granite into huge, angular blocks. Water permeated down through the fractures, and groundwater rounded the edges and corners of the blocks while still underground, forming giant rounded masses. Erosion eventually removed the disintegrated material from along the fractures, and exposed these boulders at the earth's surface. I’d seen some fabulous HDR photos of this place taken with a great evening sky. I wanted that! But the sky was not co-operating, people were walking right in front of the camera and talking too loud, the ‘elephants’ were too fat for the lens. I had a bit of a meltdown.
We wandered further into the park and found some more interesting rocks and some autumn colours and nice reflections. I played here for a while and calmed down. The rocks have created formations that intrigue geologists, are popular with history buffs interested in the past quarrying, and fascinate children who love to climb on and between the boulders.
There's evidence of an old quarry here with drill holes, hooks and angular blocks along with a railway line. We end up with some quite interesting shots....and we are now starting to see the turning of color of the leaves as Autumn is approaching....time for some lunch and then we must move on.
The Bear was not too happy with the position of some of the rocks...trying to break up the herd!