The Saint Francois Mountains of southeast Missouri are a range of Precambrian igneous mountains. Translated, this means they're really old and formed by molten rock that has become solid. These mountains have a rich history, and geographically they're significant in part because they boast the highest point in the state, 1,772-foot Taum Sauk Mountain. Their other claim to fame is Washita Offroad Trails ORV Park.
Washita Offroad Trails is a 1,200-acre park that was opened in November 2006. It is located in the southwest corner of St. Francois County, about a 75-minute drive from St. Louis. The park boasts 22 miles of mild to extreme trails, on-site restrooms, and primitive camping. It is open 2 4/7 every day except Christmas Day. Don McDowell, the park's owner, says that the folks at Midwest Jeepthing, a St. Louis-based 4x4 club, have been instrumental in getting the park off the ground, and everyone's hard work shows. All of the trails are clearly marked, and trail maps are available. These maps are color-coded, so you won't end up on a trail with a challenge level you don't want. Moreover, the park is continuing to evolve. There are plans for a 22-acre lake with campground in the works, and it's planned to open in late spring 2010.
We recently had the chance to spend a day at Washita Offroad Trails. We tagged along with a group of about 16 rigs that represented almost every build level of four-wheel-drive vehicles, and they sported some fascinating mods. We had the chance to experience a wide variety of trails from easy two-tracks to pucker-factor rock climbs and descents. We came away from the park impressed with what it has to offer, as well as its mountain majesty.