Copyright 1991, by Bob Soetebier
If you get the chance, and are planning on taking a short trip
south of St. Louis, be sure to make it a point to stop off at St.
Francois State Park which is just 3 miles n. of Bonne Terre, MO. Take
I-55 south. At Festus, continue south on Hwy. 67... [NOT Hwy. 61].
The Big River forms the s. border of the park and there is an
excellent 2.7-mile trail (beginning from the e. end of the campgound)
called the "Swimming Deer Trail." There is a little uphill climbing
on the trail, but mostly moderate incline... not too hard.
The first half of the trail follows the bluffs overlooking the Big
River. [Great blufftop views!] Upon the return part of the loop it
passes through what my wife and I nicknamed the "Craggy Gardens" with
many interesting rock outcroppings. There even is an excellent
example of an old mine shaft along the trail, too. You can't miss it:
Just look for the circular fenced-in area on a slight rise immediately
adjacent and to the right of the trail.
The park also has another excellent 2.7-mile trail: "Mooners'
Hollow Trail" which starts from the picnic area on the left at the
base of the big entrance hill (just before the creek bridge.) This
trail follows the creek -- in the Coonville Creek Wild Area -- passing
through a wide variety of flora communities. There are a couple of
steep climbs on this trail, though, but it is well worth it!
If it has rained within 3 or 4 days, either of the trails would be
pretty muddy, and you might end up sliding down an incline on your
rear... so, keep that in mind if you go.
There are plenty of camping sites at the park, and the water looks
good enough (pretty clear, and fairly shallow in spots, but with some
deep holes) for swimming/dipping in (at your own risk, of course!)
It's also a favorite of canoeists to paddle this portion of the Big
Underlined items in trip account link to additional related info about
the points of interest.]