Roger Pryor Pioneer Backcountry

In the fall of 2001, Leo Drey announced that Pioneer Forest's largest block, some 62,000 acres in size, would be dedicated to provide primitive dispersed recreation, and named in honor of Roger Pryor, a friend, advisor, and leading voice for conservation.

Pioneer's Backcountry is the largest contiguous piece of land under any ownership, public or private, in the state of Missouri. It is part of Pioneer Forest, a working forest demonstrating a conservative method of forest management where individual trees are selected for harvest. Beginning just above Round Spring, the Backcountry protects a significant portion of the Current River watershed for more than twenty river miles, including most of the watersheds of three smaller, spring-fed creeks which empty into the Current River. Some of the Backcountry's river frontage is managed under easement as part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, America's first national river park.

Over the years, Drey and his staff worked with a multitude of volunteers from a variety of organizations to construct and maintain many miles of trails through the backcountry. The first of these was the thirteen miles of the Ozark Trail, constructed during the late 1970s by volunteers from the Sierra Club. Today there are more than 60 miles of trails completed, or soon to be completed.

Drey authorized the donation of a lease of this trails system to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources as a recreational component of Missouri's State Park System in 2001, and donated the lands of Pioneer Forest, including the Backcountry, to the L-A-D Foundation in 2004.

This is an area where motorized vehicles are prohibited beyond the county roads. It is an ideal setting for those who may wish to venture off-trail and walk for miles down an Ozark stream. Explorers and adventure seekers may wish to take the river trail by boat and return by hiking a foot trail. This "big woods" is ideal for camping, watching wildlife, listening to nature, and taking pictures.

Miles long view up the Current River from the Backcountry’s Bee Bluff.

Miles long view up the Current River from the Backcountry's Bee Bluff.

 


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Blair Creek at one of the trail and county road crossings.

Blair Creek Section—Ozark Trail
Map Color: Green
Distance: 12.5 miles, one way
Access: Himont Trailhead

The Blair Creek Section of the Ozark Trail is the Backcountry's oldest trail, completed in the late 1970's. Its 12.5 miles were part of the first section of the Ozark Trail to be completed. In 2008, the Ozark Trail was designated by the US Department of Agriculture as a unit of the National Trails System.

Along the way are cemeteries, foundations of old home places, and remains of spring houses and root cellars. Heading south from the Mark Twain National Forest, the trail crosses into Laxton Hollow following its west-facing hillside before climbing to the narrow ridge through shortleaf pine. The trail then descends to Cedar Point reaching Blair Creek where small bluffs afford excellent views of the landscape. At the mouth of Jims Creek is one of the larger springs, shown as Harper Spring on older maps and since renamed McIntrye Spring. Trail users will also see Blairs Creek Cemetery, still in use.

The trail makes its way to the bluffs high above the Current River and to outstanding views of the expansive forest and woodlands along the river. This section of the long-distance Ozark Trail finishes at Highway 106 near Owls Bend, part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

 

Riders on the Blair Creek Equestrian Trail.

 

Blair Creek Equestrian Trail
Map Color: Orange
Distance: 11.7 miles, one way
Access: Mark Twain National Forest, CR 235 (3mi. north of Pioneer Forest)

Other sections of the Ozark Trail are open for horse use, but the original Blair Creek Section of the Ozark Trail across the privately-owned Pioneer Forest was designed for pedestrians and remains hiking only. The Blair Creek Equestrian Trail was added to provide for horseback use. A trailhead, which has a turnaround and can accommodate parking for trailers, is available on Mark Twain National Forest to the north of the Backcountry. Another trailhead is available south of the Backcountry on Rocky Creek Conservation Area. The Blair Creek Equestrian Trail generally runs parallel to the Blair Creek Section of the Ozark Trail and is maintained by the Show-Me Missouri Backcountry Horsemen.



On the Brushy Creek Trail

Brushy Creek Trail
Map Color: Purple
Distance: 15.9-mile exterior loop; with a 3.6 mile, interior connector, and a 1.9 mile spur to Bee Bluff.
Access: Himont Trailhead

"This area is really, really pretty. Brushy Creek and the other hollows have carved gorge-like valleys into this area, and the actual streams are rock-bottom and beautiful. The woods are really open and full of big pines and hardwood, so you can see vistas of the surrounding country while walking along the ridgetops. Probably the best attribute is the total lack of people, or even signs of people. It feels kind of like the Irish Wilderness in that respect, though much more scenic."
COMMENTS FROM A BRUSHY CREEK TRAIL USER

The 15.9 mile loop trail begins across the county road from the trailhead. It crosses the ridge and leads down into Brushy Creek Hollow, following the bed of a logging tram through native shortleaf pine. This narrow-gauge rail line dates to the 1890s when it was a shorter spur used to haul oak and pine timber to larger railroads. After a little more than a mile, hikers continue down the valley passing the abandoned company town of Brushy where remains are still visible. The trail follows the valley toward the Current River. Near the river, hikers may return along the shorter 3.6-mile interior connector route climbing out of Middle Prong valley to its long ridge. Hikers continuing the main trail can explore Satterfield Hollow and part of the Current River Natural Area. The natural area has some of the oldest white oak trees in Missouri, some aged at 400 years and measuring more than 30 inches in diameter.



The Current River Trail north of Echo Bluff State Park, connecting with nearby Current River State Park.

Current River Trail (under construction)
Map Color: Dotted Red
Distance: 11 miles
Access: To be at Round Spring or from Himont Trailhead via the Brushy Creek Trail

The Current River Trail across Pioneer Forest and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways reaches from Highway 19 downriver to the Backcountry's Brushy Creek Trail. The trail connecting between Echo Bluff and Current River State Parks is under construction. With its existing connection through the Backcountry to the Ozark Trail, it becomes part of a network of 300 miles of trail in the Missouri Ozarks. It offers new opportunities for day use, and possibilities for combining a 40-mile backpack trip from Powder Mill upriver with a 25-mile return float down the Current. This is a foot trail through shaded hollows, along towering bluffs, and crossing spring-fed streams. The Current River Valley, viewed from this trail, is one of Missouri's most inspiring landscapes


Walking the Laxton Hollow Trail


Laxton Hollow Trail
Map Color: Lime Green
Distance: 2.3 miles, one way
Access: Himont Trailhead

"We hiked there and back again, only about five miles of traversing glade trails and goat trails. The scenery is exceedingly beautiful in the winter landscape. Much of the path looked as if it was constructed by hobbit- all covered in a cushy blanket of mosses and leaves. The views overlooking the draws were spectacular. I will be trying this trail in other seasons!"
COMMENTS FROM A LAXTON HOLLOW TRAIL HIKER

Laxton Hollow Trail provides a connection from the Himont Trailhead to the Blair Creek Section of the Ozark Trail. The trail begins at the main trailhead. Laxton Hollow has several mile-long tributary hollows with the trail beginning on the ridgetop, then winding around a side hollow. It descends three-fourths of a mile along a moss-covered path before reaching the main hollow and its dry gravel creek bed. The trail then follows Laxton Hollow with tall hickory and mature oak trees along the slopes. At Laxton Spring, beaver have maintained a dam creating a clear, shallow pool. From there, the trail crosses Laxton Hollow to join the Blair Creek Section of the Ozark Trail.




Sign at the entrance of the new Echo Bluff State Park.


Sugar Tree Hollow Trail (under construction)
Map Color: Dotted White
Distance: 6.6 miles
Access: Echo Bluff State Park

This hiking-only trail starts at the south entrance to Echo Bluff State Park and heads northeast into Sugar Tree Hollow. Once across the hollow the trail forms a large loop that can be hiked in either direction. The western portion of this trail is high above Sinking Creek and the state park below affording a nice view of the valley when the leaves are off the trees. The northern portion winds along a richly forested north-facing slope. On the southeastern portion of this trail old shortleaf pine stumps can be found from the industrial logging era of the early 1900's. Sugar Tree Hollow is named on topographic maps, likely named for the sugar maple trees that can be found here.

For more information visit http://mostateparks.com/park/roger-pryor-pioneer-backcountry