How many times have you traveled down a highway or road on your way to go shopping, visit friends or relatives, take your family to one of Missouri’s parks for a day of rest and recreation or in my case, looking for the perfect fishing spot?
As you stay focused on your mission you see a roadside sign stating that there is a historical marker or historic attraction or some other interesting point just ahead.
As you pass by the sign or exit you make a mental note that someday, when you have more time, you will stop to see what that sign is all about.
One day on my way to do some fishing on the St. Françis and Big rivers I saw the exit sign for Valles Mines and I remembered a small advertisement about the Lost History Museum located there.
I was curious on what history was lost, so I thought that I would put my fishing trip on hold for a few minutes and find out. When you get off Highway 67 and travel down the one-mile strip of Valles Mines School Road you also travel back in time for about 268 years.
And this travel in time was eye opening.
Valles Mines is one of the oldest settlements in Missouri. This small village offers an abundance of activity.
Besides the Lost History Museum there are over 3,700 acres that a person can explore by either using the over 5 miles of mountain biking trails or climbing to the top of Mt. Zorro, which is the highest point in the area, and view the marvelous Ozark landscape for miles.
Hike down Selma Road which dates back to the early 1700’s. This road was used to haul the lead, zinc and barite which was mined in the area to the smelter. The weight of the wagons hauling these metals actually lowered the grade of the road four feet below the surface around it.
Today this road makes a great path for bird watching or just a pleasant hike. There are many miles of trails available for horseback riding. The only requirement is that all horses must hold a valid Croggins Test.W
In 1992 a wildlife refuge trail was established with the cooperation of the Wildlife Rehab Clinic, located in Fenton. Rehab animals such as groundhogs, foxes, raccoons and opossums have been safely released in this area.
You can try your luck at catching some bass, bluegill, crappie, or catfish at the fishing lake. Primitive camping is allowed at several locations. This would be a place to visit if you are an avid rock-hound or metal detector enthusiast.
This location is known to have the purest mineral specimens in the Mineral Belt. Think of the possibilities of detecting something that is over 300 years old. One thing to remember though, if an object has a historical significance related to the area, the Lost Museum gets first dibs.
This area is nationally registered as a Historic Place and the board of directors, the curator (Steve Frazier) along with Eric Werner do everything they can to preserve the history and memories of Valles Mines.
If you happen to get thirsty after bike riding, climbing Mt. Zorro, hiking through the wildlife rehab trails, catching bass and catfish, or prospecting, you can visit the artesian well for a cool drink of water. The 1,000-feet deep well was dug in the early 1900’s and it has been producing 99.9 percent pure water ever since.
When you visit the Lost History Museum at Valles Mines be sure to set aside plenty of time to explore the many exhibits both outside and in the museum itself. An outside walking tour around the museum will give you an opportunity to walk down the main street of this ghost town and visit the general store, payroll office, smelter, furnace tender’s cabin, and other historic sites.