One of my favorite Ozark destinations is the what the locals call “The Irish Wilderness.” The area is located within the Eleven Point Ranger District near Alton, Missouri. The area is part of the Mark Twain National Forest. Geographically, this is extreme south central Missouri. The major waterway in the area is the Eleven Point River.
This section of the Ozarks is as unspoiled as it gets, and I think that’s part of the charm for me. So many sections of the Ozarks are under development. It is nice to still have a section that can show visitors the true beauty of the Ozark Hills.
The area is very hilly, and has lots of sink holes, caves, and natural geological wonder. The area changes elevation a lot. Be ready to do some serious hicking.
The Irish wilderness is full of oak trees, black walnut, dogwood, and persimmon trees. It is a true disiduous forest. White-tailed deer, squirrel, coyote, bobcat, raccoon, rabbits, and the gray fox are common. Occasionally a black bear will use the area. There are also a variety of birds such as eastern wild turkey, hawks, owls, turkey vultures, herons, pileated woodpeckers, and many small song birds. Rattlesnakes, copperheads, and the eastern cottonmouth can also be encountered within the Irish.
There is an 18 mile long trail through the area, called the Whites Creek Trail. It is a wonderful way to experience the area. Other attractions include the Whites Creek Cave, Bliss Springs, and Fiddler Springs. Whites Creek Float Camp is also worth checking out, if you like to float. On the western side of the Irish Wilderness is the Eleven Point National Scenic River.
If you like to fish, the Eleven Mile is know for good smallmouth fishing. I have seen as big as 3 lb smallmouth. Channel Catfish are also available. There are many places in the area to get a fishing license. The nearby city of Pocahontas is a major trade center for the area around the Eleven Point. Public campsites are available at Davidsonville Historic State Park southwest of Pocahontas.
The area became famous when a Irish priest, named Father John Hogan, led a group of Irish immigrants to the area in the mid 1800’s. The group sought to develop a settlement that would be free of the oppression of urban life in St. Louis, Missouri. It was a great idea in theory, but poor in practice. Soon after the settlement was established, and the area named, the Civil War errupted in Missouri. The area became a hide out for many Union and Confederate troops, as well as bandits called “bushwackers.” The mystery of the area is made complete by the fact that the settlers completely “disappeared” by the end of the Civil War, never to return.
We’ll talk again soon,
Traveling the Ozarks
Ray Province is a retired minister and owner of the Celtic Ozarkian, a website that chronicles life in the ozarks. He is an IT programmer by trade, and also freelances in SEO, Website development, and social bookmarking services. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or @celticozarkian on Twitter.