During the winter of 1838-39 nine of the thirteen Cherokee Indian groups being relocated, crossed the Mississippi River at what is now known as Trail of Tears State Park. The visitor center tells the tale of the thousands who died on the forced march. You will get the opportunity to get a taste of the grueling trek they endured, as well as experience the majestic views of Lake Boutin and the Mississippi River. In 2013, Missouri was named "Best Trails State" in America by national trails magazine. Trail of Tears State Park received the most votes as best trails in Missouri. Therefore, these must be the some of the best trails in the country. Through this race you will get to experience all the park has to offer. From the Lake Trail, that winds along the shoreline of Lake Boutin, to the Peewah Trail located in one of the most rugged of Mississippi River hills. This course is may cause you to leave your own 'trail of tears'.
For those interested in camping we will have limited spots in the Special-Use Camping Area. These will be reserved through race directors on a first come, first serve policy. Cost-$10/person. In addition there are 2 other campgrounds within the park. For fees and reservations go to http://mostateparks.com/campgrounds/trail-tears-state-park
Within 30 miles there are numerous hotels. If we can work out a group rate we will post.
Sheppard Point Trail
Sheppard Point Trail is located on the southeast end of the park and features sharp ridges, steep ravines and a distinctive forest type with an Appalachian flavor. Trees such as American beech, cucumber magnolia and tulip poplars envelop the hollows and valleys while oaks and hickories line the ridges. The understory has a rich growth of ferns and a rare parasitic plant called beech drops has been found. The trail ascends to the top of a ridge and heads toward the Mississippi River. Steep inclines provide impressive views from the edges of the ridge. The trail drops off the ridge and loops down to a valley and back up a steep incline to Sheppard Point. This spot is on top of an impressive bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and is a great place to view eagles, especially in the winter. The trail has rugged terrain and is steep in places.
Nature Trail is the shortest trail in the park but is well worth the walk as it loops up the ridge behind the visitor center. Visitors have spotted white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbits, gray squirrels and box turtles while hiking along this easy trail. There are lots of tulip poplar and pawpaw trees located along the trail. The pawpaw is also known as the Missouri banana tree with small dark flowers blooming as early as February and the green, oblong fruits in the fall. Wildflowers such as pennywort are abundant in spring and large areas are covered by ferns. Poison ivy, ticks and snakes may be encountered while hiking.
The picturesque Lake Trail winds along the shoreline of Lake Boutin and then loops around the basic campground, crossing valleys and ridges. Remnants of old homesteads may be seen with evidence of clearings, old roadbeds, a man-made pond and barbed wire fencing through trees. In some places, there is evidence of rows of tulip poplars that were planted by park staff in the 1960s in an effort to reforest old farm fields. A rare plant – the pennywort -- may be found on the trail early in the spring. A short section of the Lake Boutin Campground road is used for the trail loop.
Peewah Trail explores Indian Creek Wild Area, a 1,300-acre area located in one of the most rugged areas of the Mississippi River hills. The Mississippi River, along with Indian Creek and small tributaries, dissect the surrounding loess-covered hills, creating a maze of ravines and side hollows. Majestic hardwood forests of white oak, tulip poplar and hickory cover the hills. Floodplain forests along Indian Creek contain large sweet gums and willows, while junglelike areas thick with wild grapevines abound within the lowlands. Spring wildflowers bloom in abundance along the ridges and deep within the hollows. Nearby, majestic limestone bluffs tower above the river.
Local time: 7:28 AM
Visitors can follow this trail into one of the most remote parts of the park and experience a sense of solitude devoid of the sights and sounds of everyday life. The trail consists of two loops with a short connector trail between the two. The east loop traverses the ridges of the area and runs atop the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. A short spur leads to an overlook of the Mississippi River for a 1.5-mile round trip from the main trailhead to the overlook. The yellow trail runs along the Mississippi River bluffs for a period before dropping down into a valley with several creek bed crossings. The bottomland along the creek is full of wildflowers in the spring and also contains giant cane. This area is subject to backwater flooding depending upon the water level of the Mississippi River, and portions of the trail may be under water at times. The trail has a steep climb out of the valley back up to the ridge top. At this point, white connector 1 connects to the trail’s west loop for a longer hike.
The west loop traverses several valleys and ridges and showcases a variety of forest types. There are sections of dry cherty soils with lots of oaks and hickories as well as bottomland areas with large sycamore and sweet gum trees and an abundance of ferns. Damage from a 2003 tornado can still be seen in the open areas. These areas are slowing regenerating with new plants and trees. Steep drainages empty rainwater into Indian Creek and flash flooding may occur. Some backwater flooding can occur when the water level of the Mississippi River is high. At times, a small portion of the trail may be under water.
White connector 2 divides the west loop and provides access to a backpack camp. Groups of seven or more must camp in this area. The camp contains no improvements or water. No open fires are allowed; backpacking stoves must be carried to the campsite for cooking. Backpackers should notify park staff of any intentions to camp there.
Peewah Trail can be slippery during wet conditions. Hikers may encounter ticks, poison ivy, briars and downed trees as well as see white-tailed deer, turkey, eagles and snakes. The Overlook Road gate will be closed daily at the assigned times.