You can feel the Ozarks history in your bones as you walk in the footsteps of legends and stand in the echoes of yesterday, no matter what part of the Ozark Mountains you are visiting, be certain the history runs deep there. The Southeast Missouri Region is no different—from Ste. Genevieve, the oldest European permanent settlement west of the Mississippi River to Cape Girardeau, which bears one of the saddest chapters in American history, the Trail of Tears.
When visiting Cape Girardeau, you will want to explore the Trail of Tears State Park. American history has often been ugly and here you will gain a better understanding of the tragedy that took place, when nine (9) of the thirteen (13) Cherokee Indian groups were relocated to Oklahoma and forced to cross the Mississippi River during harsh winter conditions in 1838 and 1839 leaving thousands dead. The Trail of Tears State Park offers a sweet too—you get the feeling the land is stretching its arms out inviting you in to explore these beautiful mountains and the extraordinary waterways. For your convenience and enjoyment, the Trail of Tears Park offers shaded picnic sites, hiking and horse trails, fishing (in both the Mississippi River and Lake Boutin) and amazing views of both, the Mississippi River and the Ozark Mountains. The Trail of Tears State Park's location, right on the river, make it one of the best places in Missouri for viewing migratory waterfowl.
The Current River and Eleven Point River are both popular for floating in the Southeast Region of the Ozarks. If you're looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, one of these rivers may just be the ticket for you. Missouri's largest spring, Big Spring, flows into the Current River near Van Buren, Missouri. When floating the Current River, you may want to call ahead if you are using an outfitter service, as they are often booked up in advance.
The Eleven Point River is popular for both kayaking and canoeing. Here, you will float through the Irish Wilderness, a 15,000 acre walk-in only forest. Enjoy breathtaking views and nature at its finest.
White's Creek Trail winds through the Irish Wilderness to White's Creek Cave, approximately a twenty (20) minute hike from the Eleven Point River. White's Creek Trail is a 17.4-mile loop trail located near Fremont, Missouri and is generally considered a challenging route, it takes an average of 7 hours to complete. White's Creek Trail is great for backpacking, camping, and hiking. You will unlikely encounter many other people while exploring this trail. This trail is open year-round and is beautiful to visit anytime.
Other rivers that are great for floating are the Big River located in Bonne Terre, Missouri and the Black River located in Lesterville, Missouri. The Black River flows through the favorite swimming destination at Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park. The Black River is great for tubing and swimming making it a perfect getaway for the entire family.
Elephant Rocks State Park is also a popular tourist destination in the Southeastern Missouri Region. The park itself is located in Belleview, Missouri. The elephant-shaped giant granite boulders make Elephant Rocks State Park an unusual park. The elephant rocks were formed from granite and are giant boulders that stand end-to-end like a train of circus elephants. The rocks have created formations that intrigue the wisest of history buffs to the smallest of children. An easy way to see the rocks is from the Braille Trail (designed for people with visual and physical disabilities). The trail winds through the main area of rocks and an extension off the trail leads back to the ruins of an old railroad engine house (a remnant of the area’s quarrying and railroad history). Bring your family—and a picnic basket—for a fun day of exploring and enjoying the Ozark Mountains.