Missouri Mines State Historic Site

Missouri Mines State Historic Site, Park Hills, MO.

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.

Millstream Gardens on an Autumn Day

I headed to Millstream Gardens in Madison County about half way between Fredericktown and Arcadia, Missouri. It is connected to Silver Mines Conservation Area via a trail that runs along the St. Francis River. It’s part of the Mark Twain National Forest. I was to meet a friend and his daughter. We met up around noon. They have a paved trail accessible by wheelchair that goes a mile down the trail to a scenic overlook.

We had a perfect day for a hike. We headed out down the trail. It is an easy hike to the overlook named Cats Paw. Not sure how it got its name but it didn’t disappoint as you an see by the photo below.

We decided to take a trail down to the river. Now this part would be considered hard. Steep and rocky and we had to climb over rocks but it was certainly worth the effort. The scenery was breathtaking. Mother Nature’s beauty at her finest. When they have the kayak races here in the spring the water is usually up quite a bit from the spring rains. I stood there trying to envision the kayakers trying to maneuver their yaks through this swift water around the big boulders that littered the river bed. I think I will lave that up to the professionals.

We didn’t want to leave. It was so peaceful sitting there on the rocks listening to the water rushing past the boulders. We reluctantly started our way back to the parking lot and our vehicles. It is a damn good day when you can share an experience like this with friends. It was a grand day.

Following are a few of the 127 pictures I took. I hope you enjoy them and can feel what we felt being there beside the river. We will definitely be going back for sure. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.

The Changing of the Leaves

St Francis River in Silver Mines Conservation Area near Fredericktown, MO.

“I hope I can be the autumn leaf, who looked to the sky and lived. And when it was time to leave, gracefully it knew life was a gift.” – Dodinsky

The temp today was supposed to be in the 60s today and if it wasn’t it was close. I was to meet a high school friend and we were going to kick back and enjoy an autumn day. We met up around 10 a.m. both of us needing a “do nothing” day. Silver Mines is the kind of place where one can do that. It offers so much in the way of nature that it is impossible for someone who loves nature to leave without their spirit fully charged.

We had just camped here the week before. We got a lot of rain Sunday night and the river level had came up. The water is usually very clear but today it was stained. The leaves were starting to change to their autumn colors. By this weekend I think they are going to be in their full autumn colors.

There are so many things you can do. Kayaking, fishing, hiking and camping. Daily picnic sites are available. The trails on both sides of the river are rocky and rough. I would rate them as hard. You can make a loop but you have to cross the damn to do so. It can get pretty crowded on the weekends so I limit my visits to the week days where you are pretty much by yourself. Flash floods can be a problem in the spring.

We headed home around 3:30. On the way out I saw the camp ground hosts. They told me the powers that may be notified them that they were going to close the gates November 7 for winter. They have already turned the water off so if you camp in this last week be sure to bring some water with you.

Camping at Silver Mines

St Francis River, in Silver Mines Conservation Area near Fredericktown, MO

On October 18, a good friend of mine met me at the Silver Mines Conservation Area. This area is named for the abandoned “Einstein Mine” where in 1870 was used to mine silver, tungsten and lead up until 1946 when the mine was closed. The area is known for its Precambrian granite and felsite rocks.

After a brief visit we began setting up camp. I had brought my Bushnell one man tent and Clarry opted for a hammock and tarp. I was amazed with the hammock setup. Clarry had it down to a science. When he was done setting up it looked very inviting. It was only his third time at setting it up. The temps got down into the upper 30s and he discovered some things he would do differently the next time.

After breakfast we decided down the dam on the St Francis river. It was built when they were mining the area. The trail actually goes across the dam to get to the other side of the trail and we thought about trying it but we were going to have to wade to do it and we decided against it.

We talked to another camper who had done it and he told us about two graves on the other side marked by two wooden crosses and the mine entrance was on the other side too but it had been closed off. The trail was pretty rocky and in places you had to climb over big rocks and because of my ankle not being fully healed we didn’t walk the entire trail and headed back to camp. When back at camp we sat around the campfire talking and we had a surprise visitor.

It was a great time. Trees were just starting to color and in another week should be in full color. We pretty much had the place to ourselves. We did meet a gentleman there who came all the way from Chicago to a camp a couple of days. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. It would be hard not to feel at peace with yourself while you were here. If you are looking for a place to camp where you can enjoy nature I highly recommend Silver Mines. It is located near Fredericktown, MO off highway D. In the spring when the river level is up they have kayak races.

Beauty of Nature

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.

Morning Spent With a Friend

My childhood friend Mark had contacted me about doing some fishing. His sister-in-law had given us permission to fish her private lake.

We agreed on meeting at 8 a.m.. Unfortunately the weather man was forecasting a very hot day. Believe it or not he actually got it right. The heat forced us to give it up by 11 a.m..

Fortunately in that 3 hours the bass and panfish did a great job of keeping us busy. We opted on our fly fishing gear and it was a good choice I thought. We managed to catch several nice size pan fish and a few small bass.

I chose a yellow popper and Mark chose a popper like fly I believe he called “perch assassin”. The fish liked them both. Now if you have never fly fished before I am here to tell you that even a small fish feels like you hung Moby Dick.

All in all it was a good morning even with the heat. Good company, peace and quiet and a lot of action. We are already planning another fishing adventure. Maybe some all night catfishing.

Tent or RV

My one man tent.

“Without the intense touch of nature, you can never fully freshen yourself! Go for a camping and there both your weary mind and your exhausted body will rise like a morning sun! – Mehmet Murat ildan

Two popular methods of camping are Glamping Camping and Tent camping. Glamping camping, also known as glamorous camping, involves camping with the luxuries of a home or hotel ie RV. Tent camping is a primitive form enjoyed by those who want to get closer to nature.

RVs are loaded with the amenities of home. AC, satellite tv, electricity, running water, bathroom and shower. One can get almost anything they want in a RV to meet their desires.

Tents on the other hand just provide one a place to sleep and shelter from inclement weather. There are many types of tents to choose from and come in several sizes. Some are for warm weather camping and there are four season tents that can be used all year. Mats and air mattresses can make sleeping on the ground more comfortable. They can be pitched almost anywhere.

The camper has to choose whatever method fits their desires. Personally I like to keep it as simple and primitive as possible. At the ripe old age of 66 I prefer tent camping. I feel closer to nature and when camping I don’t want any distractions from outside luxuries. I cook on a campfire using cast iron Dutch Oven and skillets like the pioneers carried on their wagons for cooking. I also make Cowboy coffee.

I have a one man tent that I use on float trips, back packing and short camp outs. I have a three man tent I like to use for week long campouts and a hammock with a net and rain fly. I haven’t got a chance to try it out so the verdict is still out as to whether it will work for camping.

Camping is one of those activities you either love or hate. If you love it there are a multitude of places you can camp. State Parks, National Parks, private campgrounds and gravel bars on the river. Both methods of camping have their pros and cons you just have to decide which one is right for you. Happy Camping!!

Return to Fly Fishing

First Catch on New Orvis


“Even a blind hog will find an acorn once in awhile.” Unknown

I destroyed my right foot over 40 years ago and the doctor put it back together the best he could. When I walked, there was a considerable amount of pain and it steadily got worse. I was forced to abandon fly fishing around 1990 because of the pain.

I bought my first fly fishing set up in 1976. I was hooked, no pun intended. I was devastated when I walked away from it.

In 2020 I met doctor Sloan who said he could fix it and I eagerly agreed on the surgery. I had a chance to pursue fly fishing again.

I bought a new Orvis Encounter combo. As soon as the doctor gave me the green light, because it was winter, I headed to a near by lake. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t land that first fish.

Yesterday I tried another area lake but the fish Gods weren’t in my favor. Since I’m not a quitter I returned today bound and determined to get that first fish.

The day started out a little better. I got some strikes and hung two but didn’t get them in. I guess I wasn’t holding my mouth right.

Then it happened. I had one on. I got it in and got a picture. It was official! I began doing “Snoopy Dog” dances all around the lake, yes even though it was no Moby Dick. I can tell you one thing. A 66 year old fat man doing “Snoopy Dog” dances is not a pretty sight. The word “repulsive” comes to mind.

All in all it was a good day. The “no fish” curse had been broken! I gained confidence and everything was grand in Wayne’s World.

Recreational Fishing

Smallmouth Bass

“If Fishing is a religion, fly fishing is high church.” – Tom Brokaw

Recreational fishing is the nation’s second most popular outdoor activity after jogging. Each year nearly 1 in 7 Americans grab their rods and reels and head to the water giving chase to different species of fish.

From 2011 to 2019, freshwater fishing population grew 11%. Anglers 16 or older spent $48 billion a year on equipment, licenses, trips and other fishing related items. This in turn supported 828,000 jobs in this country. Recreational fishing in some rural areas helped support entire communities. In 2010 $1.45 billion was generated by anglers for fisheries conservation efforts. Fishing is also responsible for putting smiles on the faces of children. That is something you can’t put a price tag on.

Rainbow Trout

Speaking from my own experience, fishing is therapeutic and cheaper than a psychiatrist. The peace and joy I get while fishing is priceless. It recharges the spirit and calms the soul.

I fly fish, tight line fish and fish with limb lines. I enjoy them all but fly fishing, I think, is the most rewarding.

I enjoy catching all the species of fish but trout and bass fishing are my favorite. Even if you get skunked and catch nothing it isn’t a wasted day. The solitude you find from fishing is a reward in itself.

Pumpkinseed

If you have never got to experience fishing I encourage you to do so. Most state’s conservation departments have programs that teach the basics and help beginners to get started. For the seasoned angler I encourage you to take a child and introduce them to the world of recreational fishing.

Gone Fishing!!!!

Silly Me

Well how do I say this? We had night time temperatures of 10 and highs of 30. Now if someone would stop and use the gray matter between their ears they would think, Damn the lake has to be froze over. 

Everyone but me that is. Oh no. I spent Saturday installing a new mirror on the passenger side of my truck. Well when I finally finished I decided I was going to reward myself with a little trout fishing.

Now if you look closely at the lake pictures you can see an area of disturbance from the wind and the smooth areas are ice covered. When I first pulled up my heart sank then I saw that spot of unfrozen water in the Northeast corner of the lake. 

Luck was with me. No one was there. I guess others had used the gray matter between their ears. I felt better when two more anglers showed up. 

Little did I know that the ice wouldn’t be my only obstacle. The wind was blowing 10 to 15 mph with 25 mph gusts. Fly fishing was out so I broke out the ole spin cast. Now what you have to understand is that there is a Disc Golf course around this lake. 

Here I am sitting there minding my own business trying to catch a trout when “swoosh” right above my head. Incoming! Hit the deck! Well the frisbee managed to land on the ice and not in the water. It slid all the way to the bank and they were able to retrieve it. They apologized, blamed it on the wind and moved on. I saw 3 more hit the ice.

I was able to catch 4 trout. My foot I had surgery on was beginning to really hurt so it was time to go. Do you know what it does to a fisherman when they have to leave and the fish are biting? I can tell you this much, it ain’t “purty”.