Visitors Guide to
The Bootheel Region of Missouri
of the Middle Mississippi River Valley
 

 
including
Dunklin, New Madrid, & Pemiscot Counties
   
The Missouri Bootheel is the southeastern most part of the state of Missouri, extending south of 36°30’ north latitude that forms the boundary between Missouri and the rest of Arkansas. The area gets its name because its shape in relation to the rest of the state resembles the heel of a boot. While much of southeastern Missouri lowlands extending as far north as Cape Girardeau considers itself to be in the Bootheel region, the county of Pemiscot and portions Dunklin and New Madrid counties are the only counties that lie in the area that forms the Bootheel shape.

The inclusion of the Bootheel in Missouri has been credited to John Hardeman Walker, a landowner and influential citizen of southeast Missouri. Walker immigrated to the New Madrid area from Tennessee in 1810. After the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811 and 1812, many of the area's residents left, but Walker stayed and acquired more property for his cattle-raising enterprise. When Missouri applied for statehood in 1818 the original petitions fixed the boundary between Missouri and the Arkansas Territory at 36°30’ latitude which was an extension of the boundary between Kentucky and Tennessee. Walker and his associates realized this line would place their lands under the jurisdiction of the Arkansas territorial government. Walker, who preferred the area, and his holdings, to be under the protection of Missouri state laws, successfully lobbied in Missouri and Washington D.C. for inclusion of the Bootheel within the boundaries of Missouri. The Bootheel includes land east of the St. Francis River until it reaches the 36° latitude. The inclusion of the Bootheel adds approximately 980 square miles to the total area of Missouri.

The biggest single event and the one that the area is known for is the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811 and 1812. Two quakes struck the region on December 16, 1811, with a speculated magnitude of 8+ on the Richter scale. The effects of the shocks are said to have rung church bells as far away as Detroit, Washington D.C. and Charleston, South Carolina. On January 23 and February 7, 1812, two others major earthquakes of speculated magnitudes of 7+ followed. Eyewitness accounts of the initial two powerful quakes said that the land sank 50 feet in some areas, gases spewed from cracks in the earth, and the Mississippi River, damned by an uplift, flowed backward for two days. The earthquakes left permanent changes on the landscape. The effects of the earthquakes caused the Federal government to initiate its first disaster relief effort. The governor of the Louisiana Territory, William Clark of the Corps of Discovery fame, asked for federal relief for the "inhabitants of New Madrid County." The Federal government responded by issuing New Madrid Certificates, entitling displaced landowners to new acreage in Louisiana Purchase territory. All the settlers leaving was one of the major factors in John Walker’s rise to prominence. These great earthquakes are well documented in the New Madrid Historical Museum near the riverfront.

New Madrid has a rich history when it comes to the Civil War. In August of 1861 exiled Governor Claiborne F. Jackson issued a proclamation declaring Missouri a free republic and dissolved all ties with the Union. The biggest involvement during the Civil War for the community was the battles for New Madrid and Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River from February 28 to April 8, 1862. Island No. 10. was heavily fortified and blocked all river traffic. New Madrid was the last major Confederate stronghold in Missouri. In keeping with the strategy to gain control of the Mississippi River, Brigadier General John Pope, commander of the Union Army of the Mississippi, and Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote were ordered to attack Island No. 10 but first New Madrid had to be captured. Once Pope’s forces reached New Madrid the Confederate evacuated to Island No. 10 and Tiptonville, Tennessee. Union forces would dig a canal in just 19 days that enabled their gunboats to bypass Island No. 10. The Union then surrounded the Island and on April 8 Confederate Brigadier General William W. Mackall surrendered Island No. 10 to Foote. In addition to exhibits on the Civil War that can be found in the New Madrid Historical Museum, New Madrid and local historians have joined together to produce a brochure featuring a driving tour through the community pointing out the community’s Civil War-related sites.

The Bootheel of Missouri lies in the flood plain between the Mississippi and St. Francis rivers. Prior to the 20th century, it was mostly unsettled swampy forestland but because of the Mississippi River the area was covered with fertile silt deposits. Beginning at the end of the 19th century developers began cutting down the forests so that only 15% of the forestland remains. The cleared land was ideal for agriculture which is the predominant way the land is used for today. Visitors can still see what the area once was like by visiting the many conservation areas that dot the Bootheel.

The communities of the region offer a number of events throughout the year including musical events, several fairs including the annual Delta Fair which is the largest fair in the area, and art exhibits. greatriverroad.com invites visitors to explore this unique region of Missouri.
GUIDE TO THE COMMUNITIES OF THE BOOTHEEL REGION OF MISSOURI
  New Madrid, New Madrid County
New Madrid sits along the banks of the Mississippi River at the north end of a horseshoe bend in the Mississippi River. The community is one of the first American settlements west of the Mississippi and boasts a rich and colorful history. New Madrid is best known as the namesake of the strongest earthquake in recorded history. Two quakes struck the region on December 16, 1811, with a speculated magnitude of 8+ on the Richter scale. New Madrid was the site of an extended battle in the Civil War for control of the Mississippi River in 1862. The history of New Madrid can be explored at the New Madrid Historical Museum in the downtown district. The town is now protected from the Mississippi River by a system of levees. The levee just south of the downtown area provides scenic views of the Mississippi River as well as recreational opportunities. Nearby is the Hart-Stepp House Art Gallery, housed in the oldest home in New Madrid, and featuring the work the area's most talented artists.
  Kennett, Dunklin County
Kennett is the largest town and commercial hub of the Bootheel Region of Southeast Missouri. In 1862, during the Civil War, Dunklin County adopted a resolution to secede from the Union. The county became known as the "Independent State of Dunklin." Up until that time Kennett had been steadily growing. When the war ended, however, the town lay in ruins and Kennett had to be almost entirely rebuilt. Economic recovery didn’t start until the arrival of the railroad and the beginning of the Little River Drainage District around the turn of the 20th century. The project, finished in 1927, created dikes, dams, and levees that turned 2 million acres into fertile farmland suitable for growing soybeans, wheat, corn, rice, and cotton. Portions of the virgin swamps and bottomland forests have been preserved in the area at several wildlife areas where the remaining cypress-tupelo swamps, open marshes, flooded timberland and flooded rice fields attract waterfowl that migrate along the Mississippi River Flyway.
  Malden, Dunklin County
Malden is located in northern Dunklin County on a sand ridge between the lowlands of New Madrid County and the foothills of the Ozarks Mountains. Early settlers to the area engaged in hunting and trapping with few farms along the ridge. The town was incorporated in 1878 and became a city in 1889. Visitors interested in Malden’s history will find plenty of information at the Malden Historical Museum. Malden became an integral part of World War II and the Korean War. In 1942 the War Department constructed the Malden Army Airfield which provided a basic aviation training course. Visitors wishing to explore this aspect of Malden’s history can visit the Malden Army Airfield Preservation Society located in the town’s airport. Malden’s newest attraction is the Bootheel Youth Museum which features 22,000 square feet of hands-on exhibits for kids of all ages that explore the worlds of history, math, science, human relations, natural resources and the arts. Located west of town is Morris State Park situated on Crowley’s Ridge.
   
For Travelers Heading Up River
  The Mississippi Meets the Ohio River Region
After the Mississippi River passes St. Louis it begins to change character. When the Mississippi River meets the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois it is halfway on its journey to the sea. It is here that the brown muddy water of the Mississippi begins to mingle with the clearer water of the Ohio. Without the locks and dams the Mississippi begins to wind and curve so much so that the distance by water from Cape Girardeau to the Gulf of Mexico is twice the distance as a crow flies. The region where the Mississippi River meets the Ohio River is an area of transition in several respects both in terms of the flora and fauna but the culture begins to take on that of the Deep South. The Meeting the Ohio region of the Middle Mississippi River Valley offers it visitors a wide variety of options of activities to do and sites to see. Whether you’re looking for historical or cultural sites or a place to enjoy nature you’ll find it in this part of the country.
For Travelers Heading Across the River
  Bootheel Missouri
The Missouri Bootheel is the southeastern most part of the state and is composed of the counties of Dunklin, New Madrid, and Pemiscot. Explore what the region once was like at the area’s many conservation areas. Learn the history of New Madrid, the great earthquakes of 1812-13, the role the town played in the Civil War, and the town’s history at several museums and historic sites in the town. Get a great view of the Mississippi from New Madrid’s riverfront. Other regional history can be found in museums in the towns of Kennett and Malden.
  The Great River Road in Northeast Arkansas
Northeastern Arkansas along the Mississippi River offers its visitors a variety of attractions. The downtown districts of Blytheville and Osceola have distinctive architecture in their downtown districts. The small communities of Manila and Earle have county museums covering the history and culture of the region. At Sans Souci Landing visitors can get a great up close view of the Mississippi River. Nature lovers will find plenty to do at Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge.
  Crowley's Ridge Parkway in Northeast Arkansas
The counties of Clay, Greene, Craighead, Pointsett, and Cross comprise the upper two thirds of the Crowley's Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway. Crowley's Ridge rises as much as 200 feet above the vast flatland of the Mississippi River Delta and is characterized by upland hardwood forests, farmland, orchards and a variety of recreational and historical resources. Four state parks lie along the parkway which passes through the St. Francis National Forest. Cultural attractions can be found in Jonesboro, home of Arkansas State University. Many of the regions communities are host to small museums that interprets the area’s history.
   
FEATURED ATTRACTIONS ALONG THE GREAT RIVER ROAD
Hunter Dawson State Historical Site Wapanocca
National Wildlife Refuge
Parkin
Archeological State Park
Fort Pillow
State Historic Park
     






 
  Regional Guides
to the Middle Mississippi River Valley
 
       
  Meeting of the Great Rivers
National Scenic Byway
Ste. Genevieve &
French Colonial Country
Gateway to the West
St. Louis & St. Louis County
        
 
   Meeting the Missouri
Historic St. Charles County
The Lincoln Hills Region
Northeast Missouri
   
 
  The Tri-States Area
Iowa, Illinois & Missouri
The Mississippi River
Meets the Ohio River
   
  greatriverroad.com Home Page
Your index to over 800 informative pages covering the Middle Mississippi River Valley.
  At greatriverroad.com we strive for accuracy.
If you have any corrections, suggestions or information
you would like to see contact the webmaster.
For advertising information contact marketing.
Copyright 2001-2011
greatriverroad.com - Elsah, Illinois