Visitors Guide to
Missouri's Lincoln Hills
Located north of St. Louis along the Mississippi River is geological formation known as the Lincoln Hills. Over hundreds of millions of years the bedrock buckled into a series of hills about 60 miles long and 15 miles wide. During the last ice age the Lincoln Hills region was not affected as much as glaciers pushed down through northern Missouri and flattened the landscape. Streams and rivers then cut deep valleys into the hills to create a rugged terrain that has geological and biological traits so similar to that of southern Missouri that the region is often called the Northern Ozarks. One of the best places to experience the many unique natural features of the Lincoln Hills is at Cuivre River State Park (photo left,) one of Missouri's largest and most rugged.
The Lincoln Hills run through four northeast Missouri counties: Lincoln, Pike, Ralls, and Marion. The area is largely rural with its communities comprised of agricultural centers and river towns. The largest and most well known is Hannibal. Hannibal lies in a broad valley cut by Bear Creek between the limestone bluffs of Lover's Leap and Cardiff Hill. Once a bustling river town with its lumber barons and cigar factories, Hannibal now caters to those looking to learn more about its most famous citizen: Mark Twain. The town is host to a large number of museums, historic houses, river related attractions, shops, and events that make it a top destination of visitors.
The railroad changed life along the Mississippi River in the mid 19th century. The agricultural bounty of the area was transported to a number of towns along the river for shipment south in steamboats and needed goods were brought in. With the arrival of the railroad, towns like Elsberry arose almost overnight while most of the river towns faded into oblivion. River towns like Clarksville and Louisiana survived by making the best of both modes of transportation. The Little Dixie Highway of the Great River Road, one of America's newest scenic byways, runs through Clarksville and Louisiana. This area has become the home of a new artist colony, which includes glassblowers, furniture makers, and potters. These artists showcase themselves with their semi-annual 50 Miles of Art event. The historic downtown districts have reinvigorated themselves by becoming the homes of art and specialty shops, antique stores, and restaurants. The Salt River runs through Ralls County and got its name after settlements were established at the salt springs near what are now Saverton and Spalding Springs in the early 18th century. Salt was manufactured by evaporation over open fires, and shipped to market at St. Louis by canoes down the Mississippi. Flooding became a problem for the farms of the 20th century in this river valley. To solve this problem the Clarence Cannon Dam was built. Completed in 1983, the dam created the 18,000-acre Mark Twain Lake which is great for boating and swimming. 36,000 acres of natural lands surrounding the lake have been set aside for recreational activities such as camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, and bird and wildlife viewing.
The Lincoln Hills lies along the Mississippi Flyway with nearly 40% of American waterfowl traveling through the area during their annual migrations. The Conservation Areas like Ted Shanks C.A. and Prairie Slough C.A. that dot the bottomlands provide excellent places for stopovers as well as habitat for a number of other birds. Bald eagles are attracted to the locks and dams along the Mississippi and Clarksville bills itself as the "the eagle viewing capital of the United States." One of the most popular events in the region is Eagle Days" (photo left) held every January on the banks of the Mississippi River in Clarksville just below Lock and Dam #24. " Elsberry, located on the margins of the bottomlands separating the Mississippi River and the Lincoln Hills is considered the "Duck Hunting Capitol of the Midwest." Each town in the region is proud of its historic heritage and the past is being preserved by a number of historical society's, many of which operate small museums. Most communities and attractions in Missouri's Northern Ozarks are within an hour and a half's drive or less of metropolitan St. Louis and are well worth a day trip. The amenities of the region also make it an excellent choice for an extended stay.