The rest of the photos for this day are linked here>
Heck of a name, right? I found this place on Google Earth, trying to locate a place to camp somewhere between Henderson and Joplin where we are going to visit my son tomorrow. Hot. Right now it is hot, about 90 degrees or so with 65 percent humidity. On a Saturday afternoon, we are sitting comfortably air conditioned in the MoHo, waiting for a bit of evening coolness before we take a bike ride around the campground.
When I picked this park, I had no idea what in the world the name meant, but after today, hiking the “shut-ins”, I now know it is a place where hard rock narrows the river to a wild canyon, eroded boulders forming plunge pools and natural slides just made for summer play. Even though it is September, the park was full of people playing in the river. We watched families cavorting among the rocks and watched a young boy, terrified and stranded high above a rushing torrent, slide down safely into his father’s arms.
Our hike on the Shut-ins trail, however, took us far from the noisy kids deep into the oak-hickory woods surrounding the Black River. It was hot, but still good to get out and walk 2.5 miles or so in an environment totally new to us. There were lots of lizards, no snakes, but turtles both in the water and on the trail. Occasionally there was a breeze, just a bit of coolness to blow away the gnats whirling around our faces. It was fun, really it was.
The visitor center here at the state park is new, only completed in 2005 after a break in the Taum Sauk dam sent 1.3 billion gallons of water raging through the park, scouring the landscape and destroying everything in it’s path. The Black River Center is constructed from stone and wood and houses truly interesting and informative exhibits about the park geology, vegetation, animals, and the history of the flood. More than 1.5 billion years of geologic history is exposed here, including several varieties of rhyolites from volcanic activity. I am from an area of recent volcanic activity in the west, with no idea that volcanic rocks existed anywhere in this part of the world.
I took advantage of the free backpacks that the center allows campers to check out, and mine was a “tree” backpack, with several tree identification books, magnifiers, a couple of pair of binoculars, kerchiefs, and coloring crayons, of all things. The flip chart hardwood tree identifier was perfect and I managed to identify a few trees at least.
As the evening comes, the sky is clear of clouds but still a bit murky, whether from haze or humidity, I can’t tell. Because we didn’t have a reservation, our site is in the equestrian portion of the park, used for overflow camping, and we have a large area to tie our horses, and a manure pit across the road. May sound a bit strange, but it does give us a very open space to camp, with a night sky that is pitch black except for the stars.