Big Piney River Recreation Corridor Informatiion

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Big Piney River | Rolling Heath School | Sandstone Spring | Stone Mill Spring | Miller Cave

Big Piney River

The Big Piney River is a clear and scenic river that winds through the northeast portion of Fort Leonard Wood. Because of its high water quality and spectacular bluffs, the river is home to a diverse number of plant and animal species. Many of these species comprised a once vast Ozark ecosystem. The geology of the river bluffs tells the story of countless generations of Native Americans who hunted, fished, and grew corn along the Big Piney. Still later, the foundations of historic farmhouses and silos speak of the resiliency of northern Ozark culture.

Together, the natural and cultural history of the Big Piney offers the Fort Leonard Wood community exceptional recreational and educational opportunities all within a short drive, canoe trip, or hike. Existing facilities include the Piney Valley Golf Course, Happy Hollow Picnic Ground, Stone Mill Spring, and the Canoe River Access. Recently, a group of archaeological sites, historic structures, trails, and overlooks have been restored, created, or made accessible to enhance the overall Big Piney experience. These include Rolling Heath School, Big Piney Overlook, Sandstone Spring and Trail, Miller and Freeman Caves, and the Stone Mill Spring Trail. The Big Piney River Recreational and Interpretive Corridor begins at Stone Mill Spring and winds south to Miller Cave – a distance of 11 km.

Rolling Heath School

Rolling Heath School is located on the Big Piney River 0.4 km northeast of the golf course bridge. The school served the river community from 1912-1941 and has recently been restored for use by nature, historical, and civic groups. Photographs inside the Rolling Heath School show students from World War I to 1935. Two display panels contain photographs describing the archaeology and stabilization of Miller Cave. From Rolling Heath, guided and self-guided tours can be conducted to various natural and cultural sites along the river.

Sandstone Spring

The Big Piney Overlook and Sandstone Spring are located near the spillway just south and west of the golf course bridge. The Big Piney Overlook is situated on an old bridge abutment built during World War II. Sandstone Spring flows out of the bluff into the Big Piney River. Both sites contain benches. The trail winds along the bluff above the Big Piney and ends at Rolling Heath School. A new trail unites this trail with the Sturgis Heights area.

Stone Mill Spring

Stone Mill Spring, Stream, Trail, and Overlooks are located in the Stone Mill Spring Recreational Area. From the parking lot, the Brannon Dogwood trail runs north along the bluff through a native pine stand and a climax oak-hickory forest. The view from the bluff is one of the most spectacular on the fort. A series of benches mark the way to the final overlook above Stone Mill Spring. The Spring empties over 18 million gallons of water a day into the Big Piney and is named for a historic mill that began operation in the 1830’s.

Miller Cave

Miller Cave is located south of the golf course and Canoe River Access on FLW-N near Training Area 61. Investigations in the 1920’s by the St. Louis Archaeological Institute of America, and in the 1990’s by Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Division, reveal that Miller Cave was used as a Native American habitation site from 7000 BC to AD 1300. The most recent work at Miller Cave included stabilizing the cave floor and the installation of a rope rail and stairs for easier access.

The best way to reach the Big Piney area is to take the Piney River Road before Sturgis Heights or take FLW-25 before the Boy Scout Campground and East Gate. Any questions regarding the natural and cultural resources within the Big Piney Corridor can be directed to the Natural Resources Branch, Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Division, DPW, at (573) 596-2814.

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