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  1. #21

    Default Illinois & Missouri

    Thursday, October 16
    Start: Albion, IL
    Finish: Upper Peoples Creek campground (AC), Wappapello, MO

    Left Albion by noon heading west on I-64, then south on I- 57. At Rend Lake we took IL 154 towards Chester, on the Mississippi River. The rain system has moved on and dry weather is predicted for the next week, mid-day the skies cleared. We stopped at Fort Kaskaskia State Park for a Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail passport stamp. This was a small park, but had a campground, historic house and the earthen works of the fort. The fort remains are from 1759, built by the French to defend the town of Kaskaskia, settled in 1703. In the early 1800s it was the state capital for two years.

    We crossed the Mississippi River at Chester, then south to Trail of Tears State Park, north of Cape Girardeau. As expected they have a Trail of Tears NHT passport stamp. Their visitor center is very nice, lots of displays covering a variety of natural and cultural topics. During this trip we have been confounded by the variety of hardwood trees, so many different leave shapes. Their Fall Leaves displays was excellent.

    Fall Leaves display

    We ended the day with a drive through backcountry roads; MO C, to P, then Z, ending in Wappapello, MO. Missouri uses letters for their county highways, makes for some interesting combinations. They even use two letter combinations. Beautiful Fall evening, clear sky, stars and Canada Geese honking as they fly over the lake.

    Friday, October 17
    Start: Wappapello, MO
    Finish: East Lake campground (AC) at Stockton Lake, near Greenfield, MO

    Wonderful night and morning at camp. First stop was nearby at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in Puxico, MO. Their new visitor center is beautiful with great displays. I took their bird ID quiz on a computer kiosk and scored 27 correct out of 29! When it showed the bird, it also played their vocalization.

    Mingo NWR visitor center

    In Poplar Bluff we stopped at the Mark Twain National Forest office for another Trail of Tears NHT stamp. For most of the day we followed US 60 west through Missouri, taking us through the Ozarks, north of where we traveled through Arkansas at the beginning of this trip.

    Further along US 60 we reached Van Buren and the visitor center for Ozark National Scenic Riverways. They are celebrating their 50th Anniversary as a park site. Besides several large springs the area includes the Current River and the Jacks Fork River. Nearby is Big Spring, pumping out 288 million gallons of water a day.

    Big Springs, Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

    Heading up into the park site we drove to Alley Spring, besides a Spring their is also a mill, schoolhouse and store. This Spring doesn't gush out, but forms a pool and a portion is funneled towards the mill, producing a mere 81 gallons of water per day. During the summer and weekends the mill is open, most days the store is open and acts as a visitor center for the area. It was a perfect Fall day as we walked around the grounds.

    Alley Spring & Mill

    We worked our way back to US 60 and near Springfield we stopped briefly at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, the site of a Civil War battle in 1861. The exhibits in the visitor center are being redone, in their place were some large banners with a number of quotes from the time period from a variety of individuals and groups represented. There is also a 30 minute film and a five mile auto tour of the battlefield.

    The closest public camping was NW of Springfield at Stockton Lake, another nice Army Corp of Engineers (AC) site. This was their shoulder season so a site with electric was $9, or $4.50 for us. The evening was perfect for fixing dinner and enjoying a lakeside view.

    Passport Stamps
    Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail - Kaskaskia, IL
    Trail of Tears NHT
    Trail of Tears State Park, MO
    Mark Twain NF - Poplar Bluff, MO
    Ozark National Scenic Riverways
    Van Buren, MO
    Big Spring, MO
    50th Anniversary 1964-2014
    Alley Spring, MO
    Akers, MO
    Round Spring, MO
    Wilson's Creek National Battlefield - Republic, MO

    Mingo National Wildlife Refuge
    Ozark NSR - Passport 25th Anniversary

    Wildlife Viewing
    Turtles on a log

    White Pelican
    American Crow
    Turkey Vulture
    Great Blue Heron
    Great Egret
    Canada Goose
    Wild Turkey
    Last edited by Pmount; 10-19-2014 at 05:42 AM. Reason: Add millions to 288 gallons

  2. #22
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Central Missouri


    I'm hoping you get to connect with GLC while in that area, if you haven't already.

    May I make a small correction, please? MO has state highways that are numbered, like any other state. On the highway, they are emblazoned with an icon that's the shape of the state. The roads with letter names, such as C, Z, ZZ, etc., are actually county roads -- maintained by individual counties. These are routes marked with a square around them, on the road itself. Therefore, Audrain County C would be different from Perry County C, etc. I used to take the county roads to get back to college from my fiance's house, though I'd use the US and state roads to get down there in the dark. (County roads can be treacherous, especially in the winter months -- black ice! -- where the state roads are the among the first to get sprinkled with salt.)


  3. #23


    Thanks for the clarification - I edited the post to make the correction. We noticed the repetition as we crossed the state. What was confusing is they also have the standard blue & yellow county roads, which were 'less' of a road than the lettered highways.

  4. #24
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Actually they are not county roads - they are "supplemental" routes - in other words, secondary state highways.

    I know the management doesn't like Wikipedia here, but in this case, this is a good explanation.

  5. #25

    Default Western Missouri & Eastern Kansas

    Saturday, October 18
    Start: Greenfield, MO
    Finish: Damsite campground (AC), near Fall River, KS

    Our first stop of the day was at George Washington Carver National Monument, near Joplin, MO. He was born into slavery in 1864 and eventually earned a Bachelor and Masters degree before becoming a professor at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, and so much more. This was a new site for me and one I was looking forward to visit. I have visited the Tuskegee Institute site several times and have admired his work. This is one of the very best visitor centers I have seen. Besides the 3/4 mile trail through the countryside and the exhibits about his life, the upstairs area is superbly designed for kids. A re-created pioneer school room and working scientific lab is used for group presentations. Additionally there a number of hands-on science-based activities for kids of all ages. While here I completed my Junior Ranger - The Scientist program. Anyone traveling with kids on I-44, just southeast of Joplin, should visit this site!

    George Washington Carver's boyhood home

    Science lab in visitor center

    While researching National Wildlife Refuges in the area we discovered a National Fish Hatchery nearby, Neosho National Fish Hatchery. The new visitor center building is striking, modeled after a mansion that stood there for years, but burned down in the 70s. This center is open 7 days a week, with limited hours on weekends. Besides good displays and a gift shop inside there are pools outside with the fish they are raising. One pool had full-size rainbow trout and the hatchery provided free food. The edges of the pond were lined with visitors feeding the trout, lots of splashing and beautiful colors.

    Neosho National Fish Hatchery

    Feeding Rainbow Trout

    From there we headed north on I-49 to Nevada - Missouri, then west into Kansas. Another new park site, Fort Scott National Historic Site, for me. This was a fort established in 1844 and then sold to the City of Fort Scott in 1855. During the Civil War Union forces leased the buildings from the city to establish a presence in this area. A number of buildings are original and some are reconstructed. Most of the buildings have exhibits inside. Another beautiful Fall day to walk the grounds. The site is adjacent to downtown Fort Scott with many early buildings still in business.

    Fort Scott NHS

    We continued west to Fall River Lake on US 400, to another Army Corp of Engineers campground for the night and another pleasant evening in camp.
    Passport Stamps
    George Washington Carver NM- Diamond, MO
    Fort Scott NHS - Fort Scott, KS

    Neosho National Fish Hatchery Sta.
    125 years of Fish Culture, Neosho, MO - Neosho NFH - July 12th 1888-2013

    Wildlife Sightings
    White-tailed Deer

    Turkey Vulture
    Blue Jay
    Great Blue Heron
    Red-tailed Hawk
    American Crow
    Brewer's Blackbird
    Canada Goose
    Western Meadowlark

  6. #26
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    You went by Joplin and didn't try to get ahold of me? Shame on you!

  7. #27
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default That happens to us several times each year!

    George, you ought to try living in Las Vegas.... We've had family and friends visit Las Vegas dozens of times over the last 10+ years and they never contact us. I usually discover that they have visited by reading other people's posts or even their own posts on social media.

    Just part of living in a place that attracts visitors....


  8. #28


    To glc- our travels plans are so fluid we seldom know where we wil be the next day and never have a thought of time. Would have been fun to meet at Neosho NFH.

  9. #29

    Default Western Kansas

    Sunday, October 19
    Start: Fall River, KS
    Finish: John Martin Reservoir State Park, near Hasty, CO

    You know you are driving the back roads of Kansas on a Sunday morning when it took over two hours to find a local restaurant for breakfast. Even as we drove along the north edge of Wichita there were only chain restaurants, and most of those not open for breakfast. We ended up having a very good meal at The Diner in Hutchison, KS, worth the wait. We had fixed our hot beverage (coffee/tea) in camp and a light snack anticipating a wait, just turned out to be longer than expected.

    Continuing west through the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, the visitor center was not open on Sunday and it appeared their winter residents had not arrived. We missed their Fall Festival by a day, looked like a fun event from the listing of activities on their web page.

    Finally arrived at Fort Larned National Historic Site, last new site in Kansas for me. This fort is considered one of the guardians of the Santa Fe Trail (1821- 1880). The fort was established by the army as a military outpost in 1859 for protection and to act as escort for those using the trail. It was also a key post in the Indian Wars from 1859 to 1869. The initial mud and adobe buildings were soon replaced with the buildings you see today, built with local sandstone.

    Fort Larned NHS

    While walking the fort grounds we were joined by a very friendly dog who stayed with us all the way to the car. He continued to follow us as we left the site. We stopped the car and was going to call back to the fort to see if they knew about the dog. Before we could call a local rancher stopped to see if we needed help, he assured us the dog was from the area and would be OK.

    Tour companion

    Continuing west to the a Colorado border we saw more hawks perched on fence posts and lines, when available, than cars between Wichita and Garden City.

    Once we arrived in Larned, KS we began seeing signs for the Santa Fe Trail, it had come in from the northeast. Ruts from the trail can be seen at Fort Larned. While at the fort I picked up the Junior Ranger booklet for the Santa Fe Trail which I will complete and turn in further along the trail. At the Kansas - Colorado border a DAR chapter has placed a marker commemorating the trail, in addition to the information on the front each edge is inscribed with the respective state.

    Kansas - Colorado border, DAR marker for the Santa Fe Trail (taken on a sunny day)

    Camping in W KS and E CO is challenging. No matter how much I checked my All Stays camping app nothing was convenient to where we wanted to stop. Luckily we had picked up an hour crossing into MST so continuing west to the state park on US 50, near Hasty was our best option. As expected this was a very nice park, just more expensive than we had been paying along the trip. Another beautiful Fall evening in camp, including listening to the yips and howls of nearby coyotes - we are back West!

    Passport Stamps
    Fort Larned National Historic Site - Larned, KS
    Santa Fe NHT - Fort Larned NHS, KS

    Letterboxes - 1

    Wildlife Sightings
    Coyote - heard

    American Kestrel
    Mourning Dove
    Red-tailed Hawks
    Great-tailed Grackle
    Canada Goose
    Brewer's Blackbird
    Western Meadowlark

  10. #30
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default You missed stopping at the Kansas Cosmosphere?

    One of our most memorable days on the road was spent in Hutchinson, Kansas at the Rainbo Bakery. You missed a really great Americana experience!

    And did you know, you passed right by the "...Yep. Second biggest collection of US space artifacts outside of the Smithsonian, and second biggest collection of Russian artifacts outside of Moscow...."

    Great story about your "tour dog" -- I've met other such creatures -- just showing you around his neighborhood.


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