Location Spotlight: Black Mountain Cascades

This post features one of my favorite places to visit and photograph in my beloved St. Francois Mountains. Black Mountain and these cascades that tumble down more than 400 vertical feet in a series of steps lie southwest of Fredericktown and can be found literally alongside Highway E.  The waters run under a drainage pipe in the road and travel another few yards before dumping into the St. Francois River. I was first turned on to this place by a fantastic landscape photographer of the Missouri Ozarks named Mark Karpinski.  I highly suggest looking him up and buying a bunch of his photographs for your walls.  His images are the best I’ve seen of this region.

“Rivers or Veins”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens @ 12mm, ISO 200,  f/13, 0.5 sec

As I mentioned in previous posts, this “winter” brought out possibilities for photography that I would normally be taking advantage of in the warmer months.  These images were taken in early February following a couple of rainy days.  These cascades run out completely in dry times, so you must carefully plan a visit following rainy periods.

“Roll of Ancient Thunder”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens @ 10mm, ISO 160,  f/13, 0.4 sec

Before you make plans for a visit, listen to warning.  There are no trails here – it is just bush-whacking up the slopes.  Sometimes you will need to go up leaf-littered hills and sometimes you must climb hand and foot over rocks and the cascades.  There are all sorts of risks here.  The rocks are extremely slippery.  I highly suggest the use of felt-bottomed shoes or waders and take all precautions against water and your camera equipment.  You will get wet!  In the growing season I have been to few places with as much or worse concentrations of poison ivy.  If you visit in mid to late summer, cover yourself head to toe and then burn your clothes afterwards.  And ticks!  In early February I hadn’t given a thought to ticks.  This day I received a tick bite and found another three on my pants.  I learned my lesson to pay attention to the temperature and not the calendar.

“Crash of Molars”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens @ 20mm, ISO 200,  f/11, 2 sec

I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent some great days on this mountain.  I have visited on 50% chance of rain days and was able to spend a few hours of cloudy, but relatively rain free weather – perfect for this type of photography.  If you are in shape and have the determination to make the hike to the top, the view of the St. Francis River valley below is sure worth it.  Pack a picnic basket!

“Firing Diamonds At Boots”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens @ 16mm, ISO 200,  f/13, 0.6 sec

The titles of the images in this post I stole from the lyrics of a song called “Buried in Teeth” by Mariee Sioux.  I can’s stop listening to this song or Mariee’s music in general lately.  I realize this may be considered IP infringement, but I have trouble with titles and I also wanted to  try and give her some props, so to speak.

“Swallowed Into the Gut of Centuries”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens @ 11mm, ISO 200,  f/16, 0.8 sec

Thanks for visiting the blog.  You can find more of my photos from this location here.  If you decide to make an excursion to this spot or anywhere else into the St. Francois Mountain region, please be careful, enjoy yourself, leave only footprints and take only photographs!

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Seven Days of Mina Sauk Falls – Day Seven

“Taum Sauk Eternal”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 40mm, ISO 200,  f/14, 0.6 sec

Hi everyone.  Here is the last in my planned succession of image postings of Mina Sauk Falls of the Missouri Ozarks.  This photograph may be my favorite of the day.  The textures of the rock and the patterns of the lichen suggested to me that this would make a nice black and white.  I added a light Orton effect to enhance these contrasts and bring out the highlights a bit more.  The pool of water might be my favorite aspect of the image.

I had another great Saturday exploring and photographing in the Ozarks.  We really had some magnificent lightning displays from thunderstorms that went through the region in the afternoon.  I hope none of you had any damage or other worries from these storms.  I started my day with an actual plan and had to make changes due to the weather.  I started my day in the Labarque Creek Watershed, thinking the storms we had on Thursday may have filled the drainage creeks and there would potentially be lots of falls, cascades and other water features to shoot.  I also realized that the spring ephemeral wild flowers would be really getting going.  Well, the water flow was next to nothing.  The rain from early in the week had either drained quickly or was not enough to get things flowing.  The spring ephemerals were exactly what I expected.  Spring beauty, rue anemone, Dutchman’s breeches, hounds tooth and blood root were all present in the thousands.  I wish I had actually spent more time shooting these, but I had other plans as well.

My plan after Labarque was to head to the nearby Shaw Nature Reserve to photograph the early happenings of the Red-shouldered Hawk nest located there.  I hauled all my photo equipment and my spotting scope and my chair and snacks, set up, had an opportunity to take a few shots when the rains came in.  So, I packed up and started back home.  I knew the weather would also interfere with my plan to photograph a local Great-horned Owl nest that I was planning on visiting in the late afternoon and evening.  I went back home, ate dinner and checked weather.com.  There looked to be a gap between 5:00PM and 7:00PM where the chance of rain was significantly lower.  I suspected that the 0.5-1″ or so of rain we received this afternoon may be enough to really get the ephemeral drainage creeks of Labarque flowing.  So, I packed up and headed back to Eureka, knowing it still might rain for another few hours and I may not even get out of the car.  When I arrived, it was barely sprinkling so I put my rain gear on and covered my camera pack with its rain cover and with my hiking pole and trusty Tilley to keep my head dry, I started on the trail – anxious about the weather and quickly cover the mile or so to the features I most hoped would be filled with water.  The situation was not perfect.  It rained about half the time I was on the hike.  I was able to pull the camera out and do some shooting, but the light was very low, even for shooting moving water!  In a couple of brief deluges I carried myself and my gear to a small cave to wait it out.  This was one of the most memorable hikes of my life.  The light, sky, fog water and life all around me seemed to be changing by the minute.  At least half a dozen frog species were singing and the Eastern Towhees were constantly telling me to “Drink your Tee!”.  I heard the ever-vocal Red-shouldered Hawks and the hoots of Barred and Great-horned Owls.

Finally, when the light was so low I couldn’t get anything shorter than a 30 second exposure, I headed back to the car.  Upon reaching the top of one of the steep ridges I saw a spectacular display of warm colors as the sun was able to break through a bit near the horizon and juxtapose itself with the cumulonimbus clouds and associated displays of lightning.

I apologize if this is boring any readers, but I am using this blog as a journal in as much as anything else.  I haven’t really looked at any of the photos I took today.  Hopefully the images will be close to what I hope they can be.  If not, I will always be looking forward to the next hike in the Missouri Ozarks.

Seven Days of Mina Sauk Falls – Day Six

“Warm Flow”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 24mm, ISO 160,  f/11, 1/4 sec

Near the top of Taum Sauk these cascades were very appealing but somewhat difficult to shoot as the sun began to creep in.  Ice covering the rocks was still an issue and I carefully moved along a ledge to get close to this pretty little slide.  Being able to rest a bit in the sunshine and eat some cocoa-covered almonds and have some coffee while listening to the falls was great after spending the previous hour or two on the shadow side of the mountain in the cold and mist.

Seven Days of Mina Sauk Falls – Day Five

“Frigid Mina”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens @ 11mm, ISO 250,  f/14, 0.4 sec

Here we have one of the mid-tier drops of Mina Sauk.  This one falls about 20 feet and on this morning the temperature was just cold enough to freeze the mist of the falls on whatever it landed upon.  It was a real challenge keeping the front of the lens free of freezing drops.  The icy rock surfaces were also quite a challenge of foot near any of the falls.  I really grew to appreciate the different colors and tones in the rocks here during this trip.  With no greenery of warmer months or warm colors of autumn the purples, pinks and various other hues that these granites and their lichen passengers exhibit was something to focus on.

Seven Days of Mina Sauk Falls – Day Four

“Spanning Time”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 24mm, ISO 200,  f/10, 1/4 sec

So how did Mina Sauk and her father mountain, Taum Sauk, get their names?  I am currently looking for an original and direct source for the telling of the legend of Mina Sauk.  Here are a few paragraphs collected from the web that were originally published by the Kansas City Star:

The Legend of Taum Sauk Mountain ~ A Native American “Romeo and Juliet” story as told to John Russell, from the Kansas City Star, by “Old Uncle Jim Connelly” back in 1953, the summer after the park became accessible by automobile to the public.  Uncle Jim, an ex-railroad worker, who for many years ran a service station and tourist court from his home near Ironton, knew a host of stories and Indian legends tied up with the mountain.

“Uncle Jim’s favorite story probably is one about Taum Sauk, the Piankashaw Indian chieftain after whom the mountain is named, and his daughter, Mina Sauk, for whom the beautiful waterfall on the northwestern slope of the mountain is named.

“Long before the white man came here,”  Uncle Jim relates, “this land of flowers, now called the Arcadia Valley, was the hunting grounds of the Piankashaw Indians.  The Piankashaws had a famous chieftain, Sauk-Ton-Qua.  Because the name was hard for the white man to pronounce, he was later call Taum Sauk.”

“Taum Sauk was wise and although the Piankashaws were not as large a tribe as the Cherokees or Osages, he was able to hold his territory against their invasions.  The Piankashaws lived in comparative peace in and around the Arcadia Valley, where they hunted and fished and raised a little corn in the summertime.  In the winter they would move to the limestone bluff shelters along the Mississippi river and stay there until warm weather.”

“Taum Sauk’s beautiful daughter, Mina Sauk, was greatly desired by all the young warriors in the tribe.  However, Mina Sauk met a young Osage warrior in the woods and lost her heart to him.”

“For a long time he wooed her secretly, but one day she was discovered in the arms of the young Osage.  The young warrior was captured and taken before the chieftain.  He was tried and condemned to death.”

“He was executed on the slopes of Taum Sauk Mountain, where a great porphyry outcrop form an escarpment overlooking Taum Sauk creek and facing Wildcat mountain. The young warrior was tossed from the parapet down a succession of benches on the mountainside, thrown from bench to bench with the spears of warriors.  He fell bleeding and dying in the valley below.”

“The grief-stricken maiden was restrained by the tribal women from interfering with the execution.  But at the fatal moment, she broke loose from her captors and threw herself to death on the same benches.”

“The old Indian legend says that this displeased the great spirit, and that the earth trembled and shook, and the mountain cracked.  Then a stream of water poured forth and flowed down the rock benches, washing away the blood.”

“The place is still known as the Mina Sauk falls and along the edges of the rivulet, even today, there grow little flowers with crimson blossoms which the Indians believed got their color from this ancient tragedy.”

 

-I really like this story and think it could be something special if it were fleshed out more fully.  I find it hard to believe that someone like Longfellow never picked this one up and turned it into a classic.  But, I guess this part of the country has never had too many literary classicists.  Maybe Woodrell can pick this up and give it a modern Ozark face.  Someone should suggest this to him.

 

 

 

 

Location Spotlight: Turner’s Grist Mill & Spring

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 21mm, ISO 160,  f/16, Photomatix-HDR blend of 6-images


Turner’s Mill Spring lies deep in the Missouri Ozarks in Oregon County near the town of Winona.  The mill building and the whole supporting town of Surprise no longer exist; the ~25 foot tall overshot wheel, gears and concrete flume are the only obvious signs this location was ever inhabited.

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 17mm, ISO 200,  f/13, 1.3 sec


The immensity of the wheel and gears lying on the creek floor stirs the imagination into dreaming of what it took to get these materials to this rugged area in the middle of the 19th century.  I believe the area was dramatically cut and major roads (for the time) were installed.  The area now has been taken back by the forest and is a beautiful part of the public land of this area that includes the nearby Irish Wilderness, Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri’s second largest spring – Greer Spring, and much more.

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 35mm, ISO 160,  f/16, 3.2 sec

How did the town of Surprise get its unusual name?  It was named because of Mr. Turner’s astonishment that the petition he made for a U.S. Post office in his little dream town was approved.  The spring was used to power the area’s grist mill(s) from about 1850 until 1940.  Following the retirement of the mill the town of Surprise rapidly dispersed and Mother Nature quickly took over.  The image above shows the effluent about 500 feet or so from the exit of the spring’s mouth as it escapes down the side of a rather steep hill.

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 27mm, ISO 160,  f/14, 1.6 sec

Here you can see the outlet of the spring as it flows at an average rate of 1.5 million gallons per day from the mouth of a cave.  This cave, which is located at the base of a 460 foot bluff is another reason that this area is a must-visit.  The lighting and other circumstances did not allow me to make any good photographs showing this steep bluff, but I look forward to trying to capture this one day.  If you look closely you can see some of the rock and concrete work that was used to shape the flume as well as the metal gate just inside the cave to keep modern knuckleheads from hurting themselves and the natural delicacies that reside within the cave.

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 20mm, ISO 160,  f/14, 1/15 sec

A very quick walk following the creek that this spring creates takes you to this location where it empties into the Eleven Point River.  This river is a favorite of fishermen and float trippers and is an example of one of the prime waterways that can be found in the Missouri Ozarks.  The Turner Mill Recreation Area is a high quality habitat where an abundance of spring wildflowers and wildlife reside.  A day or weekend visit to this location is definitely worth the travel and I cannot wait to pay another visit.

Location Spotlight: Devil’s Shadowbox

Early European settlers and pioneers of the Missouri Ozarks were said to be tough, rugged and individualistic.  The Ozarks were and still are a difficult place to “make a living”, especially  based on traditional agricultural methods.  I will suggest that these settlers had little imagination when it came to naming the geologic and other natural features of their newly found homeland.  In “The Geologic Wonders and Curiosities of Missouri”, Beveridge lists no fewer than 80 features with Devil in the title.  This includes 25 “Devil’s Backbones” and close to ten “Devil’s Den’s”.  Beveridge makes the interesting comparison of the Missouri Ozarks naming conventions to those of the south-western United States which use Angel in a large number of their names for geological features and rarely use Devil.  This is likely due to the cultural differences between the settlers of the Ozarks, largely Scots-Irish, and the Latin/Spanish influences of the American south-west.  Beveridge accounts for no named surface feature in Missouri with Angel in the monicker.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 24mm, ISO 160,  f/14, 1/3 sec

My goal for this particular winter’s morning was to find a “Devil’s Den Hollow” purported to be found in Warren County in the northern Ozark area.  I believe I was pretty close to finding the location, with several runs of rapids and waterfalls so excellently described in Beveridge’s book, but ultimately gave up because it seemed to be surrounded by private property.  I was able to find this little feature presented in this post.  I am unsure whether it has an existing name of its own, but I am calling it Devil’s Shadowbox to continue our Ozark naming convention.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 65mm, ISO 100,  f/14, 0.8 sec

Devil’s Shadowbox was also on private property but was literally feet from the road.  I decided to beg forgiveness if necessary and spent an hour working the scene.  I didn’t see another person the entire time I was there.  The water level was low enough that I could stroll through the creek with my Gortex-lined hiking boots.  My feet did stay dry but the water had to have been close to the freezing mark and my feet where painful and numb by the end.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 32mm, ISO 100,  f/16, 0.8 sec

This relatively un-flashy feature actually had a few small pieces that came together nicely.  Above you can see a short (4-6″) shelf that crosses the stream.  This shelf lies just downstream from the hole/natural arch.  There may be some potential here depending on what the spring foliage looks like.  Too much water, however may take something away from the geology that is visible under these conditions.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 24mm, ISO 160,  f/14, 1/5 sec

I really do try and respect the rights of the property owners while out on my expeditions.  The problem is finding out who owns the property in question and how to contact them to ask permission.  From what I’ve read, in most circumstances the owners of the property have no problems allowing hikers, photographers and explorer types access to their property.  If you have any familiarity with this feature or have any knowledge concerning Devil’s Den Hollow in Warren County, Missouri please let me know.  I will be forever grateful to find out anything else that would help me find and make a lawful visit to the waterfalls and other features this place promises.

Bill Duncan: ceibatree@gmail.com