Upcoming Outing Preview: Devil’s Backbone Wilderness Area

Early settlers in Missouri seemed to have a preoccupation with the Devil. This in part was due to the extremely rugged Karst geology of the Missouri Ozarks region. FormerState Geologist, Tom Beveridge in his book Geologic Wonders and Curiosities of Missouri states that the Devil’s name is attached to at least 80 natural features in Missouri. Devil’s Backbone, a name used to describe a particularly narrow ridge line, is used twenty four times alone.

Devil’s Backbone Wilderness Area located about 95 miles southeast of Springfield is one of my favorites. At 6500 acres Devil’s Backbone is next to the smallest of the eight designated Wilderness Areas in Missouri, but it is certainly worthy of the Wilderness Area designation. Named for it’s most prominent feature the Devil’s Backbone Ridge the wilderness area contains about 13 miles of hiking trails, one of which goes right up and over the Devil’s Backbone ridge line,  and plenty of spectacular scenery. One of the most spectacular views is from the top of the ridge. Feeling like you are standing on the edge of a knife blade you can look off either side of the mountain as far as you can and see no signs of civilization. No roads, no farms, no power lines, nothing but the spectacular mountain terrain of the Ozarks.

Thomas Hart Benton Group usually includes a short overnight backpacking trip to the Devil’s Backbone Wilderness Area each winter. Of course not everyone, including my wife Kathy, likes to backpack. This year we decided to try something a bit different. We’re going to car camp and day hike at Devil’s Backbone. If you don’t mind hiking a few miles, this might be a great opportunity to experience one of Missouri’s Wilderness Areas.

We’re going to stay at the North Fork primitive campground adjacent to the North ForkRiver. The North ForkRiver, one of Missouri’s most scenic rivers, forms the western boundary of the Devil’s Backbone Wilderness Area. With the campground as our base of operations, we’ll dayhike in the Wilderness Area. The plan is to hike an 8-1/2 mile loop, which will include lunch on top of the Devil’s Backbone. The trail also swings alongside the North ForkRiver. We’ll want to spend some time relaxing and enjoying the scenery at the river as well.

When Kathy and I decided to do this trip we thought we would like to try to catch the fall foliage in the Ozarks while we were at it. We started looking at a calendar and one particular date jumped out at us. What could be better than to spend Halloween weekend at Devil’s Backbone Wilderness? Hope to see you there… if you’re not too scared.

By Dave Patton THB Outings Chair


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