“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.” – John Lubbock
The mining industry in the Southeast Missouri Lead District has been a big part of Missouri’s economy for more than 280 years.
The St Joseph Lead Company was founded on March 25, 1864. The Company bought the Bonne Terre lead mine and 950 acres in Bonne Terre, MO, in1864. By 1923 the company had 250 miles of underground railroad running under Flat River, Leadwood, Desloge, Rivermines, and Elvins, cities in Missouri.
Then in 1923, the Federal Mill No. 3 became the property of the St. Joe Lead Company and with improvements they made it into the largest mill in the world. St, Joe kept it operational until 1972. In 1975 the company donated the complex and surrounding property to the state of Missouri. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources took possession in 1976 and named it St. Joe State Park and in 1980 it was designated as Missouri Mines State Historic Site.
Inside the mines old powerhouse is a museum and you can see the Midwest’s finest mineral collections. There is information about the history of the area’s lead mining and actual machinery that was used in the mine is on display.
There is off road vehicle trails in the park and features four lakes, two swimming beaches, equestrian trails, hiking and bicycling trails, water trail and picnic sites. There are also two campgrounds capable of accommodating campers with ORV or horse trailers.
My grandson and I attended the 157th Anniversary Battle Of Pilot Knob Reenactment. I tip my hat to the organizers, reenactors, vendors, participants and security. Everything went smoothly and if there was a glitch I didn’t notice it.
The Battle of Fort Davidson was fought on September 27, 1864, near the town of Pilot Knob, MO. Major General Sterling Price commanded the Confederate troops against Union troops commanded by Thomas Ewing Jr. The Confederate divisions of Major General James Fagan and Brigadier General John S Marmaduke drove Union troops, commanded by Brigadier General Thomas Ewing Jr. and Major James Wilson, out of the Arcadia Valley to Fort Davidson. The Confederate troops led three separate attacks against the fort and were turned away. On the final attempt General William Cabell’s Confederate brigade was able to cross the moat but failed to enter the fort and retreated.
That night Ewing, after much consideration, decided to abandon the fort. He ordered his men to blow up the fort’s magazine which enabled Union troops to slip past the Confederate troops guarding the escape routes without being detected. After the unsuccessful attack Price made the decision not to attack St. Louis.
The Missouri State Parks system added the Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site in 1968 and on February 26, 1970 the park was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The dead were buried in a mass grave and it is marked by a granite monument. It was estimated that the Union troops lost 213 lives and the Confederates lost between 500 to 1,000 lives. There is a Visitors Center located in the park. Inside you will find a research library, a fiber optic display, and artifacts including Ewing’s sword. The American Battlefield Trust has been involved in the preservation of 41 acres at the site.
Fall has arrived here in Southeast Missouri. Breakout the pumpkin spices, the hoodies and the chili recipes. Let the bonfires begin!
Farmers will begin the removal and storage of their crops. The sky will be filled with the “honking” of geese as they begin their journey to their winter homes. We will soon awaken to cool crisp mornings with frost on the pumpkin. The countryside will become painted with bright yellows, oranges and reds. Mother Earth will show off her artistic abilities. Her forest creatures will be obsessed with gathering and storing their winter food.
Folks will turn to folklore to try and predict the upcoming winter weather. There are two particular methods that are popular in my area.
The persimmon seed. People will look for the ripe fruit and then they will remove the seed. They will split the seed open to see what shape, called a cotyledon, is hidden within. It is said that if the shape is that of a fork we will experience a mild winter. If it is the shape of a spoon we will have an abundance of snow and if it is that of a knife we will have a cold blustery winter so the saying “cut like a knife”.
Another popular legend is the “wooly worm”. The wooly worm is a caterpillar made up of 13 segments representing the 13 weeks of winter. The browner the worm the milder the winter. The blacker it is the harsher the winter. The number of black segments represent how many weeks of bad winter weather we will have.
Unfortunately there is no scientific evidence proving either method works.
Here in the Midwest we are fortunate to be able to experience all four seasons. Here in Missouri there are times you can experience all four seasons in one day. We all have our favorite seasons for one reason or another but as for me I am delighted that the fall season has begun. I can smell the chili cooking and the smoke of the bonfire.
It was another hot day in Southeast Missouri. I had the evening off so I decided to head out to the Bismark Conservation area.
The area is made up of 1,188 acres that surrounds the 220 acre lake, DiSalvo. It is the headwaters of the St Francis River. There are good numbers of bass, bluegill, channel catfish and crappie.
This particular day I went chasing channel catfish. It is hot and the humidity was punishing, two ingredients of pop up thunderstorms. It sprinkled on me a couple of times. There was a thunderstorm skirting to the south. Lightning and thunder.
Mother Nature was presenting me with one spectacular show. I watched intently. The wind picked up and I enjoyed feeling it upon my face. So relaxing.
The fish weren’t cooperating. They had very little interest in the bait I was using, shrimp, hotdogs and night crawlers. At dark the bullhead catfish started to show interest in the shrimp. I ended up catching 3 bullheads before I had to give in and call it a night.
It turned out to be a great evening and it was much needed. Mother Nature was spectacular and gave me some great shots and I had it all to myself.
Fishing provides that connection with the whole living world. It gives you the opportunity of being totally immersed, turning back into yourself in a good way. A form of meditation, some form of communion with levels of yourself that are deeper than the ordinary self.” – Ted Hughes
My childhood friend David Tripp drove in from Texas for a visit. Now that only meant one thing; fishing trip. We decided to invade Engler Park in Farmington, MO and try our luck at fishing for trout in Giessing Lake.
Temp was supposed to be near 50. It would have been nice if someone would have told Mother Nature. David opted for a fly rod and I grabbed my spin cast. I tied a yellow Glo-ball/bait with a quarter ounce split shod and a bobber about 2 feet above the Glo-ball.
It started out really slow with no bites. I had been sitting there for what seemed like 3 months and couldn’t capture the interest of not one trout. Wow! I have never been skunked on this lake before. My reputation is at stake! After about 20 minutes of sitting there freezing my arse off, BAM! Trout on. The fight was on. This fish was having no part of this. I finally landed him.
I released him back into the lake, and cast my line back out. I had got my hands wet while freeing the trout back into the water. Yeah I know not real smart. It wasn’t long until I couldn’t feel my fingers and kept checking to make sure they hadn’t fell off. BAM! Number 2 was now on the end of the line and about 40 minutes later I landed number 3.
As I sat on my stool the wind was showing no mercy. I had begun shivering and they could hear my teeth chattering three counties away. Earthquake! False alarm. It was just the ground moving from my shivering body. Reminded me of that song “I feel the earth move under my feet….”. My dad always said I didn’t have the sense God gave a turnip and at this point I was beginning to think he was right. Finally after what seemed like an eternity I was able to land number four.
My friend David caught three and got them to the bank where they managed to slip the hook. Good for him he didn’t have to get his hands wet releasing them.
All in all, even though I felt like I was a popsicle, it was a good day. I love to watch David work a fly rod. As I sat there in the cold my Mom’s words from when I was a young un came back to haunt me, “Now make sure you dress warm.” Why didn’t I think of that?
The Missouri Department of Conservation just launched their 2020 winter trout program in Southeast Missouri lakes located in Farmington, Jackson and Perryville. They along with Perry County Sportsman Club and the MDC purchase the trout that are used to stock these lakes.
Farmington stocks Giessing Lake located in Engler Park. Giessing was stocked with approximately 1200 trout and several lunkers were added in the mix to make it interesting. Catch and release is implemented until February 1 at which time an angler can keep 4 a day.
December 6, I finally was afforded an opportunity to try my luck at hooking a few of these beauties. I was chomping at the bit to try my new fly rod and reel out.
It is only a 2 acre lake but there is plenty of action for the trout angler. I started the day with my fly rod and reel. I found that my walking boot really interfered with my casting. I was definitely not on my game but then again I had just got off my crutches 2 days before. I threw everything I could think of at them and just watched them swim by the fly showing no interest at all. I worked until the wind made it impossible to cast and decided to go to plan B.
I opted for my spin cast and a yellow glo-ball. On my very first cast I hooked one. The fight was on. If you have never hooked into one you are missing the fight of your life. I ended up catching four. It was windy and cold but still a good day to be at the lake.
“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach of us more than we can learn from books.” – John Lubbock
Camping has become very popular for many Missourians. Camping venues, state and private, fill up rapidly on the weekends and some places are booked weeks in advance. They bring everything from RVs loaded with all the conveniences of home to the simple tent. Whatever makes them happy.
At the age of 66 I still prefer tent camping. I have been known to just roll out a pad and sleep on it. The simpler the better. I have a one man tent and a 3 man. I use the one man for one nighters and the 3 man for extended nights in one place.
There are so many choices for campers in Missouri. There are 41 state parks with over 3600 campsites. From lakes, rivers to trout parks there is a campsite waiting for you. Fun for the whole family. mdc.mo.gov
You can also find an abundance of privately owned parks throughout the state. Campers have so much to choose from in the state of Missouri.
The above pic is a spotted bass that I caught on the St. Francois River. It was a tad over 24 inches. Using the App Fishing Scale it put the fish at 8.5 pounds. I returned it to the water only to find out later that the state record is 7 pounds 8 ounces. Yep it was one of those days. Now on to my day on the Big River.
It was just another glorious day on the Big River in Missouri. Bright blue sky with a touch of those puffy white clouds and temp in the mid 70s. I was floating a stretch of Big River that I love to fish. I put in at the Mammoth access and float to Merrill Horse access. It is a beautiful stretch of river with great smallmouth fishing. It has areas of shallow fast moving water followed by slow moving deep water and limestone bluffs. I usually see deer and there are a pair of Bald Eagles that I usually see around the bluffs. The fishing has always been pretty decent and plenty of spotted bass, largemouth bass and smallies.
That day I was having great success with a Rebel Wee Craw. I caught 6 smallies that were 13 inches and better. I had just went through a pretty narrow swift stretch of water that emptied into a shallow wider area of water but still fast moving. There was a place at the edge of a weed bed that swirled into an eddy. I maneuvered the yak where the bow was pointing upstream. I placed the Wee Craw right on the edge of the weeds when BAM! something hit it hard. I set the hook and the fight was on. I could tell it was a nice fish. It was pulling line but the bad thing was I was floating backwards downstream and couldn’t see what was behind me but on a good note I was still in the center of the river. Things were going good then it went to hell in a hand basket. I had got caught in an eddy that was pulling me into the bank and spinning the bow of the yak down river. By some miracle I got the bow headed back upstream but that was the end of the miracles. I was parallel to the bank in about three feet of water. I got it beside the yak and my heart started beating a hundred miles an hour. Hooked on the Wee Craw was the biggest smallie I had ever hooked. It dwarfed the 24 inch spotted bass I had caught. I completely blew my attempt to lip it. I was better than that. Well down under the yak it went and there in the water on the other side was a tree about 16 feet long with all its limbs. The smalli3 could its way to freedom and without hesitating the smallie began weaving through limbs until the line stopped pulling and after three tugs broke my line and disappeared into the waters of the Big River. I could hear it laughing. All I could do is sit there and slap my rod tip on the water over and over like a five year old child. I was devastated.
The image of that smallie is etched in my mind. It looked like one of those big samllies you see in the Bass Pro Shop tanks. Only if I hadn’t have blown trying to lip it. I made a rookie mistake even though I was a seasoned veteran. I had ran out of miracles. Yeah it was one of those days. One of those days I will never forget.
For those of you unfamiliar with smallmouth bass in Missouri Ozark streams it takes a samllie five years to reach 12 inches, seven years to reach 15 inches and nine to ten years to attain a length of 18 inches. Presently very few live more than seven to eight years. Missouri has a length limit of 15 inches on small mouth.
What would I have done if I had landed it? Put it on the board and took a measurement, took a picture, ok several pictures, then returned it to the water so it could finish living out its life. That’s the way I roll. I may have not landed that smallie that day but I will always cherish the memory.
“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. ” E.B. White / Letters of E. B. White
At 66 years of age I still prefer primitive camping in my one man tent. I prefer to leave the conveniences of the modern day world at home. Right, wrong or indifferent if I am going to take a camper filled with the luxuries of home then I would rather stay home or just stay in a motel.
I set up camp on my property in Frank Clay, Missouri. It is 12.65 acres filled with oak, hickory, and walnut with patches of sassafras and cedar sprinkled in. There is abundant wildlife, deer, squirrels and turkey.
It is so quiet and peaceful you can hear yourself think. It is my safe place when I can’t go to the river. It is another place I can go to rid my mind of all the negative energy that I let in. Only positive thinking allowed.
The sun is starting to sink in the west so I get busy setting up camp. Once done I start a fire so I can get started preparing supper.
Sweet taters, corn on the cob and Cornish hens. No finer eating than food prepared in Dutch ovens. Once done cleaning up it is time to sit and relax around the campfire.
As I sit in my chair reflecting on my day I hear the lonesome bawl of a hound in the distance. There is a chance of rain in the forecast. There is a cloud bank in the west. I can just make out the sound of distant thunder. Lightning is visible as it dances among the clouds illuminating the night sky. What a glorious light show to see. Absolutely breathtaking.
As I become engrossed in the show Mother Nature has so graciously provided for my entertainment I lose track of all time. A breeze begins to move down the ridge into the valley and arouses me from my thoughts. The lightning and sound of thunder is closer. I can smell the scent of rain carried in by the breeze. Rain is close.
The wind begins to blow hard across the woodlands I quickly go to work putting my fire out and securing anything that might blow away. J wind is blowing hard enough my tent looks like it is dancing.
I can feel the mist from the rain against my face. I crawl into my tent and settle in not knowing what to expect from the approaching storm. The first raindrop lands on my tent and is soon followed II many more. My tent is being pelted by the rain that is now a downpour but the wind has slowed. I can only hope that it stays dry inside the tent. I love to listen to the sound of the rain upon my tent. I don’t know how long I lay there listening to the rain before Mr Sandman came to visit.