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Monday, Sep. 26, 2016

Offering exploration and adventure in Oregon County

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's often easy for those who live in the technical age to forget the world around them and the natural beauty of it, but when close to half of Oregon County consists of the Mark Twain National Forest, nature is a little hard to ignore.

There are two main attractions of the national forest in Oregon County: the Eleven Point River and the Irish Wilderness.

The Eleven Point River is most easily accessed by taking U.S. Highway 160 east of Alton before you reach Riverton. There is a river access and a picnic area with restrooms. Swimmers can also take a dive into the river's cool water near the picnic area.

Canoes can also be rented in both Alton and Riverton for those who want to take a lazy float trip on the river.

There are quite a few stories circulating about how the river got its name. One story related by the Mark Twain National Forest Web site (http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/fores-ts/marktwain/) is that those who were surveying the river years ago had to change their compass readings in one mile on the river because it was so crooked and out of frustration, they named it the Eleven Point River. Another story is that an early settler shot an 11-point buck in the area.

For those who want an adventure or who want to challenge themselves, the Irish Wilderness Area is a good spot.

The Irish Wilderness is so named because it was settled by Irish immigrants who were hired to work on the railroads. During the Civil War, the area was ravaged continously by both Union and Confederate troops and bushwhackers, as well. After the war was over, these immigrants vanished and the cause is largely unknown. It is believed the immigrants, tired of the hazards of war, left and settled elsewhere.

Nature lovers can either hike or ride horseback on the Whites Creek Trail that runs through the Irish Wilderness. The trail is about 18.6 miles long and can be traversed over a weekend (two days). The trail starts at the Camp Five Pond. The camp can be reached by traveling U.S. Highway 160 east of Alton and turning left on Highway J. Look for a U.S. Forestry sign that reads, "Irish Wilderness."

Camping is also permitted along the trail but be prepared to either bring your own water or means to sterilize the water you find in the area.

The best seasons for hiking or riding on the trail are fall, winter and spring months. The U.S. Forest Service asks those who plan on taking the trail to limit their party size to 10 people.

Before exploring the Irish Wilderness it is recommend one look it up on the Mark Twain National Forest Web site previously mentioned. It will offer safety tips, forest regulations and other resources to help plan your route.

The Web site also offers information about other areas of the Mark Twain National Forest.

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