"Land of the Golden Hills"
Pike County is
located about an hour's drive north of St. Louis and lies between the
Mississippi River and the northeast plains of Missouri and was called the
"Land of the Golden Hills" by early French explorers. The eastern
region that borders the Mississippi is dominated by the Lincoln Hills, an
area that resembles the rugged and forested hills of the Ozarks with steeply
sloping uplands and prominent knobs and ridges dotted with limestone and
shale outcroppings. The Great River Road MO-79 through this region has been
designated the Little Dixie Highway of the Great River Road, a National
Scenic Byway, as it travels over the bluffs and visits the river towns of
Clarksville and Louisiana.
first European settlers arrived in the early 1800's in the northeast part of
the county near the Salt River valley and established a trade economy with
the Fox and Sauk tribes. Tensions with the tribes grew in the days leading
to the War of 1812 and Great Britain encouraged the natives to attack the
American settlers. Although forts were built to protect the settlers most
fled to south to St. Louis for the duration of the war. After the war, the
settlers returned and began building permanent settlements.
and Clarksville were the first towns to be established after the War of
1812. Louisiana was settled in 1816 just north of Noix Creek and south of
Salt River along the Mississippi. In the same year Tennessee, Kentucky, and
Virginia immigrants established Clarksville as a Mississippi River port.
Pike County was established in 1819 being partitioned from St. Charles
County and it included land extending up to the Iowa border and was
eventually further partitioned into nine counties and parts of six others.
Pike County was named for Zebulon M. Pike who was known for his 1805
exploration of the Mississippi River headwaters, his later explorations of
the Missouri, Osage, and Arkansas Rivers, and for Pike's Peak in Colorado,
which he recorded in 1806. Louisiana was named the county seated but in
1822, the Missouri Legislature moved the county seat to the Bowling Green,
which was more centrally located.
began taking over the prairie beyond the hill country near the river.
Manufacturing developed as factories were built. River commerce grew as the
wharfs along the river were filled with products. In 1816, James Stark
settled in Louisiana and planted apple scions that he brought with him from
Kentucky and this evolved into one of the largest nursery businesses in
America. Railroads began to
replace river traffic when the Chicago & Alton Railroad reached Pike
County in 1871 and the St. Louis & Hannibal Railroad reached Bowling
Green in 1876. Interstate trucking gained importance with the completion of
the Mississippi River Bridge in 1928.
still plays a vital role in the economy of Pike County but tourism is
gaining importance as visitors realize what an interesting place the region
is to visit. In 2002 the Highway 79 from Clarksville north to the Pike and
Ralls Counties border was designated the Little Dixie Highway of the Great
River Road. The region offers impressive views of the Mississippi from the
tops of the limestone bluffs and Victorian era streetscapes in Louisiana and
immigrants from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia brought with them their
culture giving the area the nickname Little Dixie. A burgeoning artist
colony has revitalized both Louisiana and Clarksville, which the artists
celebrate twice a year with the 50 Miles of Art event. Antique shops and
great restaurants round out the experience of these two river towns.
are great birding opportunities as the region is part of the Mississippi
Flyway, which is used by nearly 40% of North American waterfowl during their
annual migrations. Clarksville bills itself as "the eagle viewing
capital of the United States" and holds the popular Eagle
Days festival (photo right) every January. The 30-mile byway is small by
byway standards making it a great choice for a day trip or for an extended