by | May 1, 2020

Fall in love with Missouri’s waterfalls

Waterfalls evoke images of distant lands. Angel Falls of Venezuela. Victoria Falls in Africa. The mighty waterfalls fl owing into fjords of Scandinavia. Those that come to mind stateside are likely Niagara, Yosemite or Yellowstone. The serenity of fl owing water crashing over the rocks below is a powerful sight that never fails to fascinate.

Waterfalls tend to be a more seasonal affair in Missouri, where karst topography and signifi cant rainfall can make for some gorgeous, if briefl y lived, sights. But rugged rocks and wooded hills make for spectacular scenery, if one is inclined to seek out these waters. Here are fi ve Mis-souri waterfalls worth finding.


It’s fitting that Missouri’s tallest waterfall is located on the state’s highest peak — Taum Sauk Mountain. But you’ll only witness Mina Sauk Falls falling after wet weather. Time your visit right and you’ll see Taum Sauk Creek dropping more than 130 feet over a series of rock ledges. The view requires some effort, either a 3-mile loop from the top of Taum Sauk State Park, or a much longer trek from other nearby trail-heads. For the ultimate adventure, backpack down to Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park (also voted our readers’ favorite swimming hole in Rural Mis-souri’s 2002 Readers’ Choice Awards).
Directions: The shortest (and most popular route) is a 3-mile loop from Taum Sauk State Park.


In the heart of the Ozark Nation-
al Scenic Riverways, Little Rocky Creek tumbles 40 feet down into a serene pool tailor-made for wading, splashing and swimming. It’s a great place to beat the summer heat, and although Rocky Falls is secluded its charms are well-known to Missouri-ans from picnickers to photographers. It’s a popular stop (and welcome sight) for families who want to enjoy nature’s granite water park. A hiking trail also takes travelers to nearby historic Klepzig Mill, which boasts a set of impressive shut-ins.
Directions: From Eminence, take Highway 106 east to Highway H. Turn south (right) and follow Highway H to Highway NN. Turn left and follow almost 2 miles to Shannon County Road NN526. A parking area is located less than a half-mile from the turn.


What’s the recipe for one of Missouri’s most unique places? Sandstone, limestone and a lot of water make Hickory Canyons Natural Area exactly that. After wet weather, a waterfall winds its way down a mossy rock ledge on a half-mile, out-and-back trail. Natural wonders don’t cease at trail’s end. The area is home to almost 700 species of plants, liverworts and mosses. Some of the fl ora were common in Missouri more than 12,000 years ago during the last Ice Age.

Directions: From Farmington, go east on Highway 32 to Highway C. Go north about 3 miles and turn left
(south) on to Sprott Road (gravel). Head west for about 1.75 miles.


Billed as Missouri’s largest continuously fl owing natural waterfall, Grand Falls lives up to its name. Located in Joplin, it’s also one of the state’s most accessible. Shoal Creek makes a short trip downward — 12 feet — compared to other falls in the Show-Me State, but it does it across a 163-foot ledge of rock, creating a fishing and photo destination mere minutes from town.

Directions: From I-44 West, take Joplin exit 6 for Route 86 South. Go one block to the roundabout and exit at the first right heading west onto Glendale Boulevard. Follow approximately 1.5 miles. Turn left (south) on Jackson and cross immediately after the bridge, turn right (west) on River-side Drive. Follow for 1 mile.


As it is with many natural features in this rugged region of Mark Twain National Forest in southwest Missouri, some of the best views require extra effort. The secluded Long Creek Falls in the Hercules Glade Wilderness Area bear this out as it’s restricted to travel by foot and hoof.

The 7-mile Long Creek Trail is rugged and particularly wet after rainfall. Visitors are advised to pack water and prepare for rough country and biting insects. Your reward, alongside panoramas of Ozark hills, glades and forests, is pure remote splendor. All told, Hercules Glade contains 32 miles of maintained trails and limitless opportunities for adventure — just be sure to follow special restrictions associated with wilderness areas.

Directions: The wilderness is accessible from State Highway 125 to the east, Blair Ridge Road (just off 124) to the south and Broken Back Bridge Road (County Road 160-200) off High-way 160 to the west.

Respect the potential dangers around waterfalls. Be sure to check accessibility of trails before traveling, as some recreation areas are closed.

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