Taum Sauk Mountain State Park is located about 9 miles southwest of Ironton, Missouri and stretches across approximately 7,500 acres. The park is located in the St. Francois Mountains in the Missouri Ozarks. These mountains were created nearly 1.5 billion years ago when hot ash, dust, and gasses from volcanic eruptions settled and cooled, forming rhyolite at the surface and granite beneath. Erosion has slowly decimated the mountains which are now covered in forests of oak and hickory. The rest of the landscape is rich with glades, savannahs, prairies, and flatwoods.
The park gets its name from Taum Sauk, a chieftain of the Piankashaw tribe. Legend states that his daughter, Mina Sauk, fell in love with a young Osage warrior. Their love was forbidden and once discovered, the warrior was executed at the top of the mountains. Mina then threw herself down the mountain, committing suicide. Nature formed the Taum Sauk Creek and Mina Sauk Falls to wash away the blood. Today, crimson flowers grow along the river and waterfall. Many natives believe that these colors signify the tragedy that occurred so long ago.
Taum Sauk Mountain rises up to 1,772 feet above sea level and is the highest point in Missouri. The Taum Sauk Mountain overlook is only a short walk from the parking lot and is handicapped accessible. There are also displays which detail the history of the area. A lookout tower is available to further appreciate the landscape since the forest is so dense that oftentimes the view can be hindered. From there, the Mina Sauk Falls Trail may be tackled. This trail is 3-miles long and will lead visitors to Mina Sauk Falls. The falls is the tallest wet-weather waterfall in the state, dropping 132 feet over several rocky ledges and down into a rock filled pool at the base. The Taum Sauk Creek, with its crystal-clear waters, flows the entire length of the park.
At the base of the falls, the Mina Sauk Falls Trail becomes the Ozark Trail. Even further down is Devil’s Tollgate, an eight-foot wide passage which stands at 30 feet high. The Ozark Trail will lead to the Highway N trailhead to another park, Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. The rugged, yet scenic Taum Sauk Section of the Ozark Trail crosses several mountains which include Bell Mountain, Proffit Mountain, and Goggins Mountain. A guide is available to help identify the different mountains and their valleys. The trail also leads to several drainages such as the Padfield Branch and the East Fork of the Black River. This area of the Black River has a footbridge to cross.
Taum Sauk Mountain State Park is teeming with plants and wildlife. Along with the untouched, dense forests, the park is home to such plants as Sunflower, Little Bluestem, and Rattlesnake Master. These plants survive in the glades, remnants of the once volcanic area. Carefully controlled burns maintain the woodlands. The area is also home to a wide range of animals. Raccoons, whitetail deer, red cardinals, and red foxes are among the creatures that roam the area.
Along with hiking and backpacking trails, Taum Sauk Mountain State Park offers areas for picnicking and camping. The picnic area is a great place to relax after a long hike, underneath the shade of trees. The park has 12 designated campsites, each complete with drinking water and a vault toilet. There is also a special-use area that is available for non-profit youth organizations to learn about nature and the park.
The park is open year round, with distinctive seasonal climates. Summer nights can dip to 70 degrees Fahrenheit while days can be humid and reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The weather becomes cooler and less humid around September/October. The fall foliage is brilliant with orange, yellow, and red colors. Winter brings approximately 24 inches of snow at temperatures of 20 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Spring is a rainy season with temperatures between 32 and 60 degrees. The falls are best viewed during wet weather, when the waterfall is at its strongest. Spring and fall seasons are preferably since during the rest of the year, the falls are reduced to a trickle.
For more information about the park, you may call 573 546 2450 or visit them at online at http://mostateparks.com/taumsauk.htm. The park may also be written at c/o Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park HCR 1, Box 126, Middlebrook, MO 63656.