Lookout tower areas provide great scenery while floating & camping


By Bob Frakes

I was asked the question, “Is there a good place to combine a camping, canoeing and lookout tower experience?” 

I have my favorite campground, canoeing stretch and tower area in mind.

Let me begin by pointing out to those who are interested in the lookout towers, there are several good resources to use anytime you might be heading out, and this would apply to camping and canoeing also. 

I contribute to two sites: Chris Polka’s Google Map (tinyurl.com/mofiretowers) and Ron Kemnow’s (RonKemnow.weebly.com at US/Missouri). 

Lookouts can at times not be findable, even from nearby. You can always use these resources to see what might be around and how to reach them.

I have canoed from Baptist Camp to Owl’s Bend on the Current River and Eminence to Two Rivers on the Jack’s Fork many times. 

When younger, I enjoyed the twisting and turning below Baptist but as I aged I came to enjoy the stretch from Akers or Pulltite to Round Spring the best. 

As far as campgrounds, I have camped on the river as well as above Eminence at a private campground, and Cedar Grove, Akers, Pulltite, and Round Spring. 

I would have to give Round Spring the nod as my favorite and serves as a great location to tie the three together.

First, let’s look at the lookouts. Just above Round Spring is the Shannondale Lookout. It is a classic Aermotor LS-40 design and provides a view of “Shannondale Chute” from the lookout. 

You can see a short stretch of Highway 19 to the south and conversely can see the tower from Highway 19 as you come into Round Spring from the south. 

The footings from the previous wooden tower are pitched over the bluff edge to the west. The Shannondale location is a high area surrounded by the “Sunklands,” so on a clear day with field glasses you could see Montauk, Hartshorn, Summersville, Flat Rock, Eminence (now gone), Coot Mountain, and Himont (now gone).

Unfortunately, the tower is often closed now but I have provided a good “Shannondale Chute” picture in case. 

Easy to get to is Flat Rock Lookout west of Alley Spring and you can check out the springs while going by. 

Also, there is the view of Coot Chute from Coot Mountain Lookout. This is another tower you can see from the river, if canoeing. 

If the gate below Coot is closed, you can park and enjoy a nice walk. Montauk Lookout just north of beautiful Montauk Park is often open. 

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You can do the Elk drive and if very lucky see a mountain lion as I did in August 2011.

Hartshorn is close but hard to get to and climb, with the ladder up the side. Lots of options located there for active or historic sites.

The canoe run from the north coming into Round Spring has Cave Spring and Pulltite Spring. It has “Sinkin Creek” and its warmer waters running in. 

We pulled in there once and a fellow had a dog that would retrieve a rock thrown into the river. He was determined to please! 

The highlight of that stretch for me was always to two views of Shannondale Tower. 

After a quick peak, the river turns right at the tower up on the bluff before turning again under it. You can also look back and see it, but canoeing while looking back may not be a great idea.

Why Round Spring Campground? Well, the sites run up the hillside so you can camp down there or up there. 

It has hot showers. The spring itself is a fun walk and the picnic area is really nice.  

During certain times of the year the locked and gated Round Spring Cave is open and park rangers give guided tours. 

It is fun to just walk down to the canoe launch, especially at night with the moon shining. The spring runs in just above and on one trip I persuaded a first-timer to wade in right there telling them, “The water is warmer here than most areas.” 

I got a long “warmer?” look. They were glad I was joking. I was amused to see people sticking their toes in. You might as well just get wet!

Another treat are the wild horses of the Current. We have been fortunate to see them several times.

Finally, there is the footbridge from Round Spring Campground to Carr’s Canoe. You can walk out over the river and note the high water washes and fish getting a break from the river current behind the bridge footings. 

I always enjoy looking upriver to the landing at Carr’s as this was the takeout point for my first canoe trip 50 years ago. 

Many of life’s enjoyable activities provide anticipation, participation and reflection. 

It is always fun for me, at 70, to reflect on all the fun camping, canoeing and towering that Missouri has provided me. 

(Questions or comments? Bob Frakes can be reached by email at frakes2@ mvn.net or by phone at 618-244-1642.)

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