Visitors Guide to
Missouri's Lincoln Hills
Lincoln, Pike, Ralls, and Marion
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. Clarksville is just 70 miles north of St.
Louis along Highway 79. The natural beauty of the area, the specialty shops,
the unique shops occupied by working artisans practicing their traditional
skills, the restored riverfront district that is the only downtown business
district in the state of Missouri that still faces the Mississippi River
make Clarksville an ideal place to visit.
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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
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
is host to a large number of museums, historic houses, river
related attractions, shops, and events that make it a top destination of
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 showcases
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.
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."
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.