after Missouri native, Mark Twain, the Mark Twain National
Forest is located in 29 counties across southern and central
Missouri. Our St. Francois Mountain section is known for its
clear spring-fed rivers and streams, lakes, rocky bluffs,
pastoral views and shaded trails. The forest gets a variety
of visitors through the year including spring and fall, when
color changes the forest. In the spring, serviceberry, redbuds
and dogwoods paint the winter landscape in pinks and whites.
In the fall starting mid September, the oak hickory forest
transforms from greens to yellows, peaches, reds, burgundies
and dark purples. The height of fall color is usually mid-October.
Directions to the recreation areas within the magnificent
Mark Twain National Forest follow each description.
Except where posted otherwise, hunting and fishing with a
valid Missouri license is permitted on National Forest lands.
Bicycles and mountain bikes are generally permitted on trails
but may be prohibited, such as in designated wilderness areas.
Motorized vehicles may be used only on open Forest roads or
designated ATV trails. There are designated trails for ATV
required) at Sutton Bluff Recreation Area. All other use
of motor vehicles is prohibited.
following wilderness and recreational areas in our region
are located within the Mark Twain National Forest complex
are directed and controlled by the USDA Forest Service.
camping opportunities. For
more information on camping and permits, please see the USDA
Forest Service website here.
Mountain Wilderness Area and
wilderness was named for the highest peak in the area, Bell
Mountain (elevation: 1702) and was designated by the United
States Congress in 1980 as a federally protected and preserved
area which “generally appears to have been affected
primarily by the forces of nature with the imprint of man’s
work substantially unnoticeable…” Popular for
experienced hikers and equestrians, there are 9027
acres with tall peaks, Shut-in Creek and a spring-fed stream
with several gorges along its course. Gnarled blackjack
and post oak, black hickory, and a few winged elms are found
in the harsh environment of the granite glades within the
Wilderness. Pileated woodpeckers, wood thrush and ovenbirds
are abundant. White tailed deer, wild turkeys and squirrels
can be found. There
are 14 miles of designated trails established for hikers and
equestrian use within the wilderness.
Bell Mountain Wilderness Trail, is concurrent
with a section of the Ozark
Trail for about one mile, then splits and turns northward
to the summit of Bell Mountain peak. Joe’s creek
cuts deeply into the west slope of Bell Mountain; clefts and
boulders form the basic landscape. The area is rugged and
suitable for experienced hikers only. Be prepared with
adequate supplies and water. A separate two-mile trail
begins on the east and leads to the top of Lindsey Mountain.
is allowed within this federally designated wilderness area.
at State Route A & 32.
Bluff Recreation Area
motorcycles with permit)
Bluff is named for R. G. Sutton, who settled this valley in
Reynolds County along the west fork of the Black River in
1888. Three generations of Suttons farmed the river
bottoms below the impressive bluff (see right). Sutton Bluff
is a wonderful place for hiking, picnicking, mountain biking,
swimming and bird watching. The Black River curls around
the 35 campsites that are available
and the Ozark
Trail passes nearby. Water and toilet facilities
are also available at Sutton Bluff Campground. Located
between Lesterville and Centerville, MO off of Highway 21.
Enter Forest Road 2233 at the Forest Service sign, turn there
and go 7 miles, then turn on Forest Road 2236. The campground
is another 3 miles.
Conservation Area and Trails
This clear blue 100 acre lake was formed by
impounding Crane Pond Creek with an earth fill dam at the
upstream end of a “shut-ins” or narrow gorge cut
in the granite bedrock. Picnic along the lakeshore,
fish from the gentle banks, canoe the waters and hike the
coves. Fish for largemouth bass, channel catfish and
panfish. Crane Lake is one of the most beautiful small
lakes in the area with a 12 mile hiking and biking trail around
the lake, picnic areas, and great fishing.
Crane Lake (North loop) and Crane Pond (south loop)
trails are peaceful. The south loop trail connects to the
Marble Creek Section of the Ozark
Trail. Hiking Hwy E to Crane Pond Lake Road. 14 miles
from 21 and 221 in Arcadia via 21 South, "E" East
and County Road 131
Recreation Area and Trail
Visit the peaceful oasis of
Marble Creek Recreation Area where you can relax among the
deposits of pink dolamite native to the St. Francois Mountain
range. Swim in an the old mill pool where the creek that now
rushes 20 miles through the rugged mountains, was once harnessed
to power an old grist mill. A reminder of the past, the concrete
remains of the grist mill dam and building foundation, although
crumbling, are still visible. Prior to 1935, the colored
dolamites were mined as "Taum Sauk Marble" used
in the building trades. Enjoy picnicking or go wade-fishing
for smallmouth bass and panfish. Go hiking, biking or horseback
riding! The trailhead for the Marble Creek Section of the
is here, beginning an 8-mile trek leading to Crane Lake. From
Highway 221 and 21, go south on 21 then turn east at Hwy E
and travel for 15.5 miles.
Bluff Lake Recreation Area and Trail
The largest lake in the Mark Twain National Forest serves
anglers, campers, picnickers, hikers, bicyclists and swimmers.
Fish year round in this 440 acre lake stocked with large mouth
bass, redear sunfish, bluegill, crappie and catfish.
Picnic or swim at the 54,000 sq. foot sand beach. At
Chapel Hill Beach there is a concession stand, changing rooms,
flush toilet, water fountains and showers. There is
also a small play area near the beach. Additionally,
there are canoes and paddle boats available for rent when
the beach is open. Council Bluff
Trail is a 12-mile loop along the lake shore providing hiking
and mountain biking opportunities. The Trace Creek section
of the Ozark Trail
is located just west of the recreation area. Waterfowl
hunting is permitted on the lake and there are upland game
opportunities as well. 24.5 miles From Hwy 21 and 221
- Go west on Hwy 32, turn left at MO-C, turn left at MO-JJ,
then slight right at Council Bluff Rd/CR-635. If beginning
on Highway 49 in Reynolds County, turn right on Hwy 32, then
left at MO-DD, take right on MO-C, then right at MO-JJ to
Council Bluff Rd.
Recreation Area and Trail
Back in the 1920s this area was mined for silver and tungsten
ore. Although long since played out, the remnants of
two old abandoned mines are present at the site. Located
on the banks of the St. Francis River, Silver Mines is near
Millstream Gardens where whitewater enthusiasts from around
the world bring their kayaks to enjoy the challenges of the
river in March, during spring high water. There is a
one-mile long trail along each side of the river. From Turkey
Creek Picnic Area, a 1.2 mile trail to the north leads to
Millstream Garden Conservation Area, managed by the Missouri
Department of Conservation. Camping is also available
at Silver Mines. From Ironton take Hwy 72 east to Hwy D. Go
about 3 miles south on D to paved Forest Road 2510. You'll
see the Forest Service sign.