Location Spotlight: Hughes Mountain Natural Area – Devil’s Honeycomb

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 35mm, ISO 100,  f/16, 0.3 sec

Three miles from the small old mining town of Irondale, along the north-western side of the St. Francois Mountains lies Hughes Mountain and the 1.5 billion year old rock that forms its namesake, the Devil’s Honeycomb.  As the precambrian rhyolite cooled near the surface it formed polygonal columns composed of four to six sides, 8-10″ in diameter and up to three feet exposed above the surface.  These fractures/joints in the rock are analogous to mud drying in the sun.  Looking upon these columns grouped together reminds one of a honeycomb pattern facing the heavens, hence the name – Devil’s Honeycomb.

Technical details: Panasonic DMC FZ50 camera, ISO 100,  f/9, 1/60 sec

In the image above you can see some of the details presented in the rock, the typically pink colored rhyolite is often stained with whites, yellows, greens and tans from the lichen that cover these exposed rocks.  This mountain was named after John Hughes, the first settler of this area who ran a grist mill from a nearby stream in the early 1800’s.

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM lens @ 40mm, ISO 100,  f/16, 0.25 sec

Only a handful of places on the planet have geological features similar to those shown here, Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming being one such place.  I feel this place has a lunar landscape kind of feel and I tried to capture that in the photo above.

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM lens @ 20mm, ISO 100,  f/18, 0.25 sec

Walking from the car towards the summit one moves through a typical mixed oak/hickory woodland/forest found in this section of the Ozarks.  As you walk the ~ mile towards the summit the soils gradually become shallow and exposed rock becomes more and more noticeable.  Dry woodland, dominated by blackjack oak, eastern red cedar and black hickory, interspersed with glades become the dominant habitats toward the summit.  When you reach the top you are suddenly aware there is no more soil; the entire summit is a cap of igneous rock formations.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens @ 17mm, ISO 100,  f/16, 0.8 sec

I can’t think of a better spot in the Missouri Ozarks to watch the sunset/rise.  I have hiked up this mountain at least ten times and have yet to get that beautiful, 50%-cloud covered sky that creates that furnace of a sunset that everyone looks for.  I hesitated to publish this post without that image, but who knows when I’ll have that kind of luck.  I do think that these five images show the diversity that the season, weather and time of day can provide your eye and images at this location.  There really is no bad time to make a visit here.

I really look forward to spending time on the summit during a summer thunderstorm, a January snow, a warm-Indian summer autumn day with changing colors, and of course that breathtaking sunset.  I wish you and yours the best in your natural outings wherever they may take you this coming weekend.  Get out there and think about something else beside the daily grind.





3 thoughts on “Location Spotlight: Hughes Mountain Natural Area – Devil’s Honeycomb

  1. I was just there on 02.09.12! My first time and I took my nikon d7000. The mountain is beautiful and your pictures really show it. The pics I’ve seen on the internet do not do it justice. Glad to see proper pictures of this amazing place. I hope to return for every season too, while my photography skills grow.

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