“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”
Vincent Van Gogh
Today inspiring night skies are disappearing. It is estimated that the Milky Way is no longer visible to 80 percent of Americans.
The Real Night Sky
Step out into your backyard on a clear night and you will see the moon and a peppering of stars. However, many of us have been robbed of the true triumph and majesty of the night sky.
Our sky is home to 100 to 400 billion stars. The Northern Hemisphere has 30 visible constellations. Five of these can be seen all year, while the others appear seasonally.
“You can come to depend on the stars’ movement to mark the changing seasons just as the ancients did. The prominent constellation Orion riding high in the southern sky signals the coming of winter as much as the first snow. Leo the Lion heralds in spring right along with the first flowers on the forest floor. The Milky Way shimmering overhead speaks to the warm nights of summer as decidedly as the calls of the crickets and katydids. And the Great Square of Pegasus always presides over autumn’s changing colors.”
The night sky is scientific, spiritual, and even romantic. The night sky has allowed us to navigate the globe and walk on the moon. Spiritually it connects us to our ancestors who told stories about the constellations to younger generations. The story of two constellations, Cassiopeia and Cepheus, is a love story.
Where Can I See A Sky Full of Stars?
The stars shine brighter in Pulaski County, Missouri! Our rural areas have several publicly accessible spots that will have you feeling like you can reach up and touch the stars. Conservation areas, campgrounds, and the Mark Twain National Forest are open to stargazing and night sky photography. The City of Waynesville has established a dark sky ordinance to reduce light pollution.
Whether you are a seasoned half-marathoner, or recently began training for your first event, the Frog Hill Half in Waynesville, Missouri is bucket list worthy. Missouri is home to over 50 annual half-marathons but the Frog Hill Half stands out in the crowd. In its seventh year, this challenging race is picking up steam and drawing more runners and their families.
Waynesville, the seat of Pulaski County, lies just north of Interstate 44 (Exit 156) and is approximately half way between Saint Louis and Springfield, Missouri. This makes travel to and from the Frog Hill Half a breeze.
This storied pavement has been revered by “roadies” since the cross country highway was decommissioned in 1985. Runners can truly connect with America’s past during this portion of the course. A small portion of Frog Hill Half retraces part of the route ran during the Trans-American Footrace in 1928.
Our list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the race’s namesake. W.H. Croaker is an internationally famous landmark. Carved from an extra large boulder, the brightly colored green and yellow frog rock will silently cheer you on as you pass beneath during your descent into charming downtown Waynesville.
One portion of the course follows an antebellum road that is gravel and crushed rock. Don’t be lulled by the Ozark scenery as you pass by Roubidoux Spring and follow the river towards the historic Poor Farm. Superior Hill awaits you. This formidable challenge peaks just shy of a half mile and features a 9% grade. You will never forget completing this section of the course.
The race is organized by Pulaski County Health Center with a focus on the family. In addition to the half-marathon they offer a 10K the same day. The Leapfrog 5K takes place the evening before the featured race. All three race events end in Waynesville City Park where there will be activities for runners and their families.
The famous mountaineer, after being asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, famously retorted “Because it’s there”. You are a half-marathoner and Frog Hill Half is waiting to be conquered.
The Ozarks are frequently a shoo-in for best Autumn foliage destinations listicles. Pulaski County, geographically blessed, is positioned in the heart of the Salem Plateau of the timeless Ozark Mountain region.
The county is generously gifted with low hollers (valleys), and high hills decorated with woodlands. The southern half of the county is covered by Mark Twain National Forest. The variety of trees combined with green pastureland, creates a rainbow of colors. Black gum, Sweet Gum, Hickory, Sassafras, Maple, Sycamore and Oak trees are Mother Nature’s paintbrushes in the autumn palate. Missouri’s state tree, Flowering Dogwoods, color the understory in blazing reds, pinks, and oranges.
Warm days and cool nights could lead to Pulaski County’s most brilliant Insta-worthy Fall yet. Enjoy the show on our 33 miles of Route 66, secondary highways, or from our curated list of favorite gravel travel backroads below.
Pro Tip: The backroads listed below are gravel. You may encounter rough road conditions and low water crossings. Proceed accordingly and at your comfort level.
1.15 miles northeast of Road Ranger, Highway 28
Hartford Road, a 3.39-mile-long loop drops into a Big Piney river valley. After only a mile you will be rewarded with dramatic river bluffs. In an especially picturesque scene, the road squeezes between the Big Piney river and the former Possum Lodge resort before climbing back to Highway 28 positioned on the ridge above.
4.92 miles northeast of Road Ranger, Highway 28
Camp Road and Crown Road partner to lazily loop (5.81 miles) around the former Gasconade Hills Conservation Area. The structures and foundations that perch over the Gasconade River at the beginning of Camp Road are remnants of Brown’s Camp. At 3.05 miles turn right onto Crown Road to return to Highway 28.
Pro Tip: Continue North on Highway 28 into Dixon for fuel, food & beverage, antiquing, and restrooms before backtracking to Cardinal Road.
7.62 miles northeast of Road Ranger, Highway 28
Cardinal, Creek, and Cave roads combine to lead you 3.65 miles to Riddle Bridge Access. At the intersection of Cardinal Road and Cemetery Lane you will find a photogenic country cemetery and church.
Approximately 1.58 miles turn left onto Creek Road. Creek Road parallels, and crosses, Jones Creek before becoming Cave Road which bends to cross the Gasconade River at Riddle Bridge Access. The current bridge, constructed circa 1987, replaced the former 70+ year old structure that was featured on a 1975 Brewer & Shipley album cover. Yellow Bluff, directly across the Gasconade River from the public access is a popular photography scene. Leaving Riddle Bridge Access turn right onto Holtsman Road which becomes Y Highway.
4.13 miles south of Riddle Bridge, Y Highway
Laramie Road leads to (1.17 miles, turn right) Lexington Road which curls around an area known to old-timers and locals as Shockley Bottom. At 4.49 miles look right and visually follow the power line buoys that edge the field. These lines lead to the former Skaggs Bridge crossing of the Gasconade River of the old Waynesville-Crocker Road. This stretch of Lexington Road is home to two Missouri Century Farms. At the junction of Lexington Road and Highway 17 is Pike’s Peak bluff and the mouth of Roubidoux Cave at the confluence of the Roubidoux and Gasconade rivers.
Pro Tip: Roubidoux Cave is NOT open to the public. Contact Roubidoux Grotto for access permits.
Pro Tip: Continue North on Highway 17 into Crocker for fuel, food & beverage, antiquing, and restrooms before backtracking to Riverside Road.
6.38 miles north of Lexington Road, Highway 17
Riverside and Redding roads are a dynamic duo combining for 6.3 miles to connect Highway 17 with T Highway. Just over a mile into the trip you will see the Gasconade River on your left. At 2.04 miles is Schlicht Springs Access. This area is named for early mill operator and resort owner John Schlicht.
At 2.27 miles turn left to stay on Riverside road. At 4.82 miles turn right onto Redding road. At 5.10 miles you will see Bethlehem Baptist Church and Cemetery on your right. The rocked structure beckons photographers. This area was once called Flea Hollow, so named because the former church, which sat across the dirt road, was built up a bit on posts. Whether or not the design was intentional, this allowed nearby farmers’ livestock to congregate in the shade under the church. This led to hours-long bouts of itching and scratching for the parishioners during, and after, Sunday services. The cemetery tucked into the hillside below is the final resting place of Aunt Tenn, an inmate of the Pulaski County Poor Farm. Tenn’s final wish was to be buried here instead of at the cemetery across from the Poor Farm. At T Highway head north to Swedeborg.
Pro Tip: Plan on photographing Swedeborg School and abandoned buildings along the railroad tracks at Swedeborg. The community, first named Wood End, was later colonized by Swedish immigrants. Nearby Swede Cemetery, listed in a Swedish touring guide of America, has many interesting tombstones to photograph.
1.74 miles north of Redding Road, Highway T
Rawlins road joins Swedeborg to Richland on what was most likely the “old” road before the development of Highway 133. The road crosses Snake Creek at 2.47 miles. At the intersection of Highway 133 turn left for a short distance.
Richfield Road/Dublin Lane
791 feet south of Rawlins Road, Highway 133
Richfield Road and Dublin Lane is a short (1.57 miles) continuation of what was most likely the Richland-Swedeborg road at one time.
Pro Tip: Explore Richland to find fuel, food & beverage, antiquing, and restrooms before returning to Jefferson Street/Highway 7 South.
5.92 miles south of Dublin Lane, Highway 7
Snipe/Rio Road follows the Gasconade river for a short distance before breaking away into rich farmland and pastures. Several concrete silos dot the landscape awaiting the photographer to capture their bygone craftsmanship and usefulness. At 2.77 miles Berean Cemetery, and the former Berean Baptist Church sit on the right. The road crosses over Interstate 44 and continues to Historic Route 66/Highway AB.
Travel East to Waynesville via Historic Route 66/Highway AB/Highway 17 or via Interstate 44.
Pro Tip: Plan to spend time discovering Waynesville’s food scene, shopping, antiquing, and historic sites before taking the last backroad of your journey.
At Roubidoux Bridge, Historic Route 66, Waynesville
Spring Road leads to Route 66’s most overlooked natural wonder- Roubidoux Spring. Park at the lot beside the wonderous roadside spring and recall the tragedy of the Trail of Tears. The National Park Service, Missouri Trail of Tears Association, City of Waynesville, and Pulaski County Tourism Bureau partnered to install seven storyboards along the one-mile-long (mostly) paved walking path. While at the spring itself dip your toes in- local legend states that those who do will return to Waynesville. Spring Road continues, turning into Superior Road at Waynesville city limits and passes underneath Interstate 44. At approximately 1.90 miles is the Pulaski County Poor Farm Cemetery. The frame house just south (.5 miles) of the cemetery, at the junction of what was once the Houston Road, once housed Pulaski County’s paupers. Aunt Tenn, from Flea Hollow, lived here. Superior Road will lead you into Saint Robert.
Pro Tip: Saint Robert, the gateway to Fort Leonard Wood, is home to heroes. Explore the community’s patriotic tributes, dining, and lodging.
Immerse yourself in a weekend of living history! This family-friendly outdoor festival is held on the banks of the Roubidoux at Waynesville City Park and features a mountain man encampment, Civil War soldier camps, vendors, festival food, period dances, period church services and battle re-enactments. Explore the nearby Trail of Tears Historic site, the Old Stagecoach Stop, downtown dining, and shopping. July 25th & 26th at Waynesville, Missouri.
Saint Robert’s annual BBQ challenge has upped the ante and is now a Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned event! Whether you are competing or eating this event has something for everyone- a kid’s BBQ competition, a military cook off, live music, kid’s bake off, adult bake off, and a Sportsman show! September 11th & 12that Saint Robert, Missouri.
Frog Hill Half-Marathon & 10K
Named for the Route 66 icon Frog Rock, this half-marathon challenges runners to conquer Superior Hill. Waynesville’s central location on Interstate 44 between Saint Louis and Springfield, Missouri makes travel to and from Frog Hill Half a breeze. October 3rd at Waynesville, Missouri.
Nasty Pulaski Gravel Grind Bicycle Race
In its third year, Nasty Pulaski Gravel Grind is making a name for itself with its 65-mile dirt road course through Pulaski County’s scenic and rugged Ozarks topography. Did we mention the 4,400 feet of elevation changes? Shorter course options are available. October 3rd at Waynesville, Missouri.
Route 66 Challenge
Explore over 30 miles of historic Route 66 during this spectacular strategy competition! Limited space is available, register your team today! October 10th at Pulaski County, Missouri.
Delicious flavors explode in Saint Robert and Waynesville, Missouri! Pulaski County is the rural melting pot of Mid-Missouri. The area’s diversity is reflected in a dining scene filled with global cuisines and unique tastes that are worth a drive! Spend a weekend exploring our local flavors, floating our Ozark Mountain streams, and scouting our stretch of Route 66!
A Taste of Chicago
“The owner is passionate about his food and it shows in the flavors! Fries cut and cooked fresh when you order. Authentic Chicago ingredients you can’t buy locally. We had the Italian beef sandwich (loaded with meat and peppers – spicy!), a Chicago dog (pulled with toppings), and a pizza puff (fried pocket from heaven). All delicious!”
Matt G. via Google
Callie’s Finger Foods(878 Missouri Avenue, Suite 4, Saint Robert, 573-451-2447) brings the tastes of the Windy City outside the main gate of Fort Leonard Wood. At Callie’s every order comes with fries. Chicagoans and foodies alike will relish their Italian Beef, Polish Chicago Style, and Chicago’s original Pizza Puffs!
Meats & Drinks
“Very cool concept where warrior culture meats dinner. The place has a Spartan theme, and the menu reflects food worthy of any steel welding warrior. As the name eludes, it is mostly hearty portions of red meat.”
JW R. via Google
Carnivores Meats & Drinks(220 Marshall Drive, Suite 8, Saint Robert, 573-451-2090) is one of the newest additions to Saint Robert’s thriving Mom & Pop food scene. Veteran owned; Carnivores is quickly becoming a destination for date nights. Dive into one of their BBQ plates or nosh on a Carnivore Burger. Don’t skip the Corn Bread appetizer. CM&D also offers craft cocktails. Their Pineapple Mojito Sangria is a perfect summer sipper!
“I love the Cuban sunrise breakfast sandwich and the quiche!! Such a great place to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner with friends.”
Angela S. via Google
Drachenfutter (307 Historic Route 66 West, Waynesville, 573-232-1402) defines Dragon Fodder (food) as “what one gives their significant other to make amends after a quarrel or upsetting them.” Don’t wait to take the special people in your life to this cozy café alongside Waynesville’s Route 66. Drachenfutter’s German inspiration also shows in their plates. Try the Beer Bratwurst with Onions and Apples or a signature Schnitzel for dinner.
Ramen & Sushi
“The vegetable ramen was beautifully put together and tasted as fantastic as it looked. The sushi was also stellar. The room was small, intimate, and their choice of music was perfect. Loved it. Great for dates, families or just a quick bite to eat!”
Jacob Z. via Google
A sign with only an image of a red fish marks the location of Glassico Sushi(198 Old Route 66, Saint Robert, 573-336-3877) just east of George M. Reed Roadside Park. Step inside and you will discover a stylish interior and sushi that is worth a drive. Sushi isn’t the only star at Glassico Sushi though. Their poke bowls have been described as “flavor explosions” and the ramen as “phenomenal.”
“The meals are always good-sized portions, the sushi rolls are perfectly made, the crab ragoons are the best I’ve ever had, and the crispy duck salad is just delightful. Thanks for such a reliably great experience!”
Keysha F. via Facebook
Ichiban Japanese Grill & Sushi Bar (240 Marshall Drive, Suite 8, Saint Robert, 573-336-5036) promises “hibachi chefs that will amaze you with their dazzling fire shows.” Ichiban’s Sushi Bar offers a variety of signature rolls including the popular Tiger Roll (tuna, salmon, and white fish, in an avocado wrap with tiger seaweed topped with chef sauce) and the Saint Robert Roll. Diners seated at the hibachi grill will enjoy the theatrics as their lobster, swordfish, salmon, or shrimp dinners are cooked to perfection before their eyes. Chicken and beef eaters aren’t left out at Ichiban Japanese Grill and Sushi Bar. Beef cuts include New York Strip and Filet Mignon.
Mediterranean Hot Spot
“The best gyros I’ve ever had in my life. Well cooked, not dried out, wonderfully seasoned. Friendly and funny staff, overall a great experience.”
Darian B. via Google
In Greek communities across Missouri the name Makridis is synonymous with authentic Mediterranean food. The Makridis family has a reputation for dishing up delicious food in the Show Me State for over 40 years. Eleni Makridis carries on that tradition today as owner of Mama Mia Authentic Mediterranean(101 Comfort Inn Drive, Saint Robert, 573-336-1200) in Saint Robert. Mama Mia has been referred to as a “hidden gem.” Your taste buds will thank you for finding this joint. Appetizer choices include the St. Louis favorite Toasted Ravioli, Keftedakia (small Greek meatballs), and Calamari. The Greek Salad, topped with feta, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, and dressing that has been described as “perfect” on many occasions. Entrees include chicken, seafood, and meatball choices. Kalí̱ órexi̱!
Ozarks-Inspired Craft Beers
“A great addition to the downtown Waynesville area. Great pizza and soft pretzels, excellent beer. Don’t take my word for it, give the place a try.”
William R. via Google
Piney River Taproom (326 Historic Route 66 East, Waynesville, 573-433-2739) is the newest addition to the south side of Waynesville’s historic square. An extension of Piney River Brewing Company’s BARn location in Bucyrus, Missouri (Texas County) features 16 Piney River craft beers on tap. Inspired by their Ozarks surroundings, Piney River Brewing Company’s beer lineup includes award-winning Black Walnut and Float Trip Ale. Pair your craft beer with handmade pizza and pretzels. Ask about their sauerkraut pizza topping. Piney River Taproom is family-friendly and offers PRBC’s Andy’s Root Beer.