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Elephant Rocks State Park. Photo: Missouri State Parks

Missouri offers wealth of travel options close to home in 2023

Cold winter days are a great time to daydream about travel plans for the coming year. The “Springfield News-Leader” recommends several locations close to home in Missouri.

Elephant Rocks State Park. Elephant Rocks came in at No. 3 in a nationwide survey ranking Americans’ favorite natural landmarks in 2022, and it’s a well-earned title. The rocks were formed from 1.5-billion-year-old granite and are giant boulders that stand like a train of circus elephants.

“The elephant-shaped boulders at Elephant Rocks State Park may not be the stars of a circus, but these giant granite boulders are the stars of this unusual park in southeast Missouri,” according to Missouri State Parks. “The rocks have created formations that intrigue geologists, are popular with history buffs interested in the past quarrying and fascinate children who love to climb on and between the boulders.”

Elephant Rocks State Park is located at 7390 7406 MO-21 in Belleview.

Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home & Museum. Along the Mississippi River is Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home & Museum AT 120 N. Main St. in Hannibal. Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the quintessential American writer was known by his pen name, Mark Twain.

READ: Helen Keller’s remarkable friendship with Mark Twain

Clemens was born in Florida, Mo. His family moved to Hannibal when he was 4 and he lived there until he was 17, when he left to travel the world. Twain’s books were published at a time when international copyright did not exist, according to the museum’s website. Many were released first in England to obtain the British copyright, then in the United States.

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Hannibal, Mo.

READ: Perfect day trips from Kansas City

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum. Laura Ingalls Wilder moved to Mansfield with her husband Almanza and daughter Rose in 1894. The family purchased a 40-acre farm, which had a one-room log cabin near the spring and ravine,

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Former First Lady Laura Bush, on a trip to Missouri, made sure to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder home and museum.

according to the museum. After living in the log cabin through the first winter, they built a room onto the side of it in the spring of 1895. They moved the new room to the current historic house location, where it is now the kitchen, the next spring. A second room, with an attic space above it, was added to create a two-room house with an attic bedroom for Rose.

Wilder’s historic Rocky Ridge Farm remains as it was in 1957 and stands as an official project of the Save America’s Treasures National Trust for Historical Preservation, according to the museum. The museum is located at 3060 Highway A in Mansfield.

Current River. Known for caves surrounding and along the water, the river flows about 225 miles from Montauk Spring in the Ozark Mountains into the Black River in Randolph County in Arkansas. It is fed by the Welch, Cave, Pulltite, Big, Blue and Round springs. The winding river is popular with boaters, floaters and fishermen alike.

The Ozark National Scenic Riverways was the first national park designated to protect a wild river system and created in 1964, according to Missouri State Parks. Current River State Park is located along Current River, and a portion of the park is within the scenic easement of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

READ: Springfield is perfect weekend destination

Meramec River. The river flows by majestic bluffs, wooded areas and a dramatic cave entrance. More than 13 miles of hiking trails are available for exploring the park, and visitors can swim, fish, raft and boat in the river. More than 13 miles of hiking trails are available for exploring Meramec State Park. Meramec River is also known for Fisher Cave, which is one of the park’s “most spectacular natural wonders,” according to Missouri State Parks.

“From the low, narrow streamside passages to the huge rooms filled with calcite deposits, Fisher Cave offers one outstanding cave scene after another,” the department stated on its website. “Inside these rooms and passages are well-preserved bear claw marks, cave wildlife and a vast array of calcite deposits ranging from intricate helictites to massive columns 30 feet tall.”

–Alan Goforth | MV

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