Pike County, Missouri
The little river town of Clarksville
has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. Located on the banks of the
Mississippi River, Clarksville is the southern anchor of one of
America’s newest scenic byways - the Little Dixie Highway of the Great
River Road. A revitalized downtown business district that boasts being
the only downtown business district in the state of Missouri that still
faces the Mississippi River features antique shops, specialty shops, and
shops occupied by working artisans practicing their traditional skills.
Every winter the town becomes on of the prime eagle watching sites in the
Middle Mississippi Valley.
Founded in 1817 by
immigrants from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia, the town is named after
either George Rogers Clark, a Revolutionary War hero, or his younger
brother, William, of the Lewis and Clark expedition fame. In the years up
to 1879 Clarksville became a busy river port and was once called Appletown by the rivermen because so many apples were shipped from the
town. The arrival of the railroad in 1879 shifted the economic emphasis
from the river and Clarksville entered a golden age with many improvements
being made to the town.
Like many small towns
in rural America Clarksville’s economy began to deteriorate. In the late
1980’s a group of artists and businessmen began a project, Main Street
Clarksville, to rehabilitate the downtown business district. Due to their
efforts buildings were bought and rehabilitated, and the downtown area was
placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1991. Main Street
Clarksville also made a conscience effort to attract unique businesses to
the area that complemented each other and that offered goods that are
distinctive, of high quality, and that visitors can’t get anywhere else.
An active recruitment program during recent years has brought a number of
creative people who have relocated to Clarksville and helped enlarge its
artistic community. A walking tour of Clarksville booklet containing
information about Clarksville historic buildings and churches is available
in most shops.
In the winter of
2004, the Missouri Department of Conversation recognized the Clarksville
area as the most outstanding locale for nature tourism in the state. Just
north of Clarksville and located on the Mississippi Flyway is the Ted
Shanks Conservation Area with 6,705 acres of wetlands that attracts
waterfowl and other birds during the spring and fall migrations. This site
features primitive camping, boat ramps, and a staffed office with nature
exhibits. Adjacent to Clarksville’s riverfront is Lock and Dam #24 that
attracts an abundance of bald eagles during the winter. The World Bird
Sanctuary in St. Louis, Missouri has called Clarksville "the eagle
viewing capitol of the United States" and visitors can easily spot bald eagles
from Riverfront Park. Every January the
town hosts its two day Eagle Days
(photo left) with live eagle programs, spotting
scopes, and a variety of other activities about our national symbol.
addition to its location on the the Little Dixie Highway of the Great
River Road, Clarksville is also the anchor of a state scenic byway that
starts just south of downtown and winds it way on Route W to Paynesville
and then onto Route WW through Edgewood to US Highway 61. Cyclists can
enjoy great views on a new 10-mile bike trail that parallels Route 79
and the Mississippi river between Clarksville and Louisiana. Clarksville
is the setting for a number of annual events. In January visitors flock
to the town’s two-day Eagle Days celebration that features live eagle
programs, spotting scopes, and a variety of other activities about our
national symbol. Applefest in October pays
tribute to the roles apples played in its past and the semi-annual Studio and
Gallery Tour has professional artists opening their studios, galleries,
and retail spaces.
is just 70 miles north of St. Louis along the Great River Road. The
natural beauty of the area, the unique shops and artisans, the restored
riverfront district, and its special events make Clarksville an ideal
place to visit.