Explore the natural beauty, wildlife, geology of Southeast Missouri

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An aerial view of the hiking trail to the top of Hughes Mountain.

The natural landscape of rolling hills and cascading streams in Southeast Missouri provides a fun and educational summer getaway for nature enthusiasts of all ages. 

The geology team at The Doe Run Company shares six of their favorite spots to see interesting geography, native animal species and history in rural Southeast Missouri. 

“Summer is the perfect time to take the whole family to explore the great outdoors,” Geologist at Doe Run Richard Anderson said. “Visiting free parks, hiking trails and museums are great ways to learn more about the unique landscape and natural minerals that have made Southeast Missouri such an important region for mining.” 

Doe Run compiled a list of popular and lesser-known sites to visit this summer: 

• Hughes Mountain is a combination of igneous glades and three types of forests, located in Southern Washington County. The site’s rhyolite formation is one of the most unique geological features throughout the state, with a history dating back more than 1.5 billion years. Visitors to Hughes Mountain can access the trail from Highway M and hike to the top to see the fractures of these rocks formed from ancient volcanos that cooled and contracted, creating a hexagonal pattern of columns locally known as the Devil’s Honeycomb.

• Irish Wilderness is a historic forest area that was once a settlement for Irish immigrants. Visitors can hike the 18-mile trail with breathtaking views overlooking the Eleven Point River.

• Grasshopper Hollow's marsh-like landscape provides a home for many native animal and plant species and is a terrific spot for bird watching. Located in Reynolds County, the area contains the largest known fen grouping in unglaciated North America, helping to collect overflow water when rivers flood. Doe Run leases a portion of the natural area to the Nature Conservancy, which jointly manages the 593-acre site to help protect area wildlife.

• Missouri Mines State Historic Site was once an active lead mining operation that now gives visitors a glimpse into how early lead mining helped shape the economy and industry throughout the state. Visitors can see historical structures and artifacts from the largest mine-mill complex in the Old Lead Belt.

Elephant Rocks State Park

• Elephant Rocks State Park's giant pink granite boulders weigh more than 600 tons and stand over 20 feet tall. Kids can climb on the rocks and learn about the site’s past as the home of quarries used to mine red granite for building material and the paving blocks that make up the St. Louis levee and downtown streets. The park also features an interpretive Braille trail that winds through the rocks and a playground for children. 

• Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park features exciting chutes and waterfalls within canyon-like gorges that were created more than a billion years ago when ancient volcanic rocks were eroded to form the Shut-Ins, which are now part of the Black River that flows through the park. The wilderness and geology of Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park and the surrounding St. Francois Mountains provides a scenic environment for camping, hiking, picnicking, splashing in the shut-ins and exploring nature.

For more information about other Missouri parks and historic sites, visit mostateparks.com.