Arrow Rock State Historical Site
Arrow Rock, MO
dates of stay: June 30 – July 4, 2017
Sites 44 and 45.
Winter solstice has come and gone and while we may not be able to see it the days are getting longer leading us right back to our favorite season: camping season. As I sit with my computer covered in my flannel blanket and watch the snow fall out my window, I am reflecting on camping trips of the past.
This past July we visited a new state park that I think is worthy of visiting again so I thought I would spend some time reminiscing about Arrow Rock State Historic Site.
I first visited Arrow Rock State Historic Site the summer of 2016 when I started the Centennial Passport. I am not sure what I was expecting the first time I visited Arrow Rock but it certainly was not an entire little town along the Missouri River. The town of Arrow Rock is rich with historical relevance to the westward expansion and the Sante Fe Trail to name a few. And a bonus, this historical site has a beautiful camping loop.
Arrow Rock is conveniently located just north of Interstate 70 between Marshall MO and Booneville MO. The first observation we made on our trip there was just how quickly we arrived, in fact it took us only an hour and half. Traveling with us on this trip was the Todd’s but we also had other friends in the campground.
In our research of Arrow Rock and things we should do while we were there, two things bubble up: J. Huston Tavern and The Lyceum Theatre, J. Huston Tavern is the oldest continuously serving restaurant west of the Mississippi with nearly 200 years of service to the public. Historically this tavern, which started as a family home, boarding house, served meals to traveling settlers and local citizens. Today, it continues to serve two meals a day to travelers and locals. Reservations are highly recommended if you plan to eat at J. Huston Tavern. I tried so hard to get reservations and the wait list was the best I could do.
Thankfully, my phone rang on the way to Arrow Rock telling us they could fit us in at 6:00 p.m. the night of our arrival. We were so excited! At dinner time the menu is streamlined; they serve fried chicken and country ham with all the fixings family style. Our meal was delicious! Everything, from the fried chicken to the potato salad to the mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and even the buttermilk biscuits, was amazing. We left full and carrying giant to-go boxes.
Before you leave J. Huston Tavern take a moment to look around. We did not realize the restaurant was more than a restaurant and we did not look around. Later we learned about the restored kitchen and bedrooms upstairs so we had to make a second visit during the crowded lunch service.
After a large meal, we did a cursory walk around the town. The roads are flanked by cobblestone drainage ditches. Store fronts have boardwalks with large porches that provide shade from the summer son. First impression of the town of Arrow Rock, I felt like I was in the little town that Mark Twain was in when he wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. What I did not know at the time is that in fact in 1973, Arrow Rock was the setting for a Mark Twain musical staring Johnny Whitaker (any other Family Affair fans out there?), Jeff East, and Jodie Foster.
On our first morning at Arrow Rock we got up early and went for a hike. We found a trail head to the Pierre A Fleche trail was at the end of our campground loop that looked to take us around the entire camping area. Somehow we managed to get ourselves off the trail. We lost the trail down by the original spring but we took a gamble by climbing a steep bank and found ourselves in the primitive camping loop. It may not have been the trail we were suppose to follow but we had a nice hike and by the time we made it back to the campground we were ready for breakfast.
Mid-morning we set out with the Todd’s to do a bike tour of Arrow Rock. The campground is less than 1/2 mile to town but the way to town requires biking on the blacktop highway. There was very little traffic and the vehicles we did encounter were very gracious to us. The entire town is about 8 blocks long and four blocks wide. We followed the self-guided tour. We visited the Shelby Log Cabin, the Masonic Lodge, the Lyceum Theatre, Courthouse, the Calaboose (jail), and the gun shop. We also visited several buildings with historical significance to the black community of Arrow Rock.
I should note that the Lyceum Theatre comes highly recommended. Each year they host a traveling performers group that preform several Broadway worthy productions at a fraction of the ticket price. When we were visiting Mama Mia was showing but we could not get tickets to the show. The 2018 schedule is out and you can find shows like: Mary Poppins, Crazy for You, Footloose, The 39 Steps, Souvenir, A Comedy of Tenors, Honky Tonk Angels, and A Christmas Carol. If you are planning a trip to Arrow Rock in 2018, or any other year, make sure you plan early and get your tickets to the Lyceum. I will give you an insider tip: J. Huston Taven is open every single day the Lyceum has a performance.
History lessons are not contained to the city limits. The Arrow Rock Ferry Site is a short hike/drive from downtown. The Sappington Cemetery State Historic Site and Boone’s Lick State Historic Site are two other historical relevant points of interest very near to Arrow Rock all worthy of day trip visits. The nearby town of Blackwater is also another great day trip destination during your visit to Arrow Rock. Blackwater is home to the Iron Horse Hotel and Restaurant, the Blackwater Telephone Museum (which was not open during our visit), a Calaboose, several antique shops, beautiful gardens and a train depot.
Another attraction in nearby Booneville MO is Warm Springs Ranch. Warm Springs Ranch is a breeding facilities for the Budweiser Clydesdale horses. Advance tickets are required and advance planning to get tickets is a must. We were able to secure 6 tickets but on two separate days. We took the Guided Walking Tour and we were able to talk to the horse handlers, see the harnesses, a 1903 beer wagon, the luxury semi trucks, we watched the grooming of a Clydesdale, and we we able to meet a brand new foal. Tickets cost $14 per person and you will spend 1 1/2 to 2 hours on the ranch.
We enjoyed our time exploring the town of Arrow Rock and the local community. We also enjoyed our time in the campground. Wayne spent some time fishing in Big Soldier Lake. He successfully caught some bass and tried out his new Whopper Plopper lure. Fishing came to an abrupt end when Wayne lost his fancy lure and my cousin’s lure landed in his finger and had to be cut out.
When we checked into the park we had the most amazing attentive campground host we have ever had at a state park. The host helped us with recommendations for local activities, fishing, and hiking.The shower houses were the cleanest in any state park we have ever been to. Unfortunately, they left during our stay to move to a new location. The new host arrives on site but were not ready to resume host duties. This caused a delay in cleaning the shower houses as well as there was no ice or firewood. to purchase.
Our sites at Arrow Rock were huge. They were very long and the mature trees provided great shade. We had lovely neighbors who played the guitar and serenaded me to sleep in the afternoons. I enjoyed it so much I ask them to consider camping with us for the rest of the camping season! When making our reservations, Allen and I carefully selected our sites. Insider tip: this campground is set up to have two campground host but only has one. That leaves one full hookup site to be rented by guest. It is worth it to plan ahead and book this one site if you can.
Overall, we found this to be a lovely place to visit. We loved the small town and the activities. We loved the sites. Arrow Rock State Historic Site felt like we were visiting a community an that community welcomed us with open arms. They even had a Fourth of July pot luck dinner at the campground the afternoon of the holiday.