Points of Interest:
- See an unusual geologic feature – a chert shut-ins, cliffs and wet-weather waterfall.
- Enjoy a scenic Ozark creek with chert boulders and a large shelter cave.
Natural Features Description: Solid beds of chert such as this are uncommon and here the chert is 40 feet thick. This chert, unlike the common chert rocks found throughout the Ozarks, is completely silicified forming these massive beds. Shut-ins occur where a broader stream is “shut in” to a narrow canyon-like valley. Shut-ins typically occur in Missouri where streams flow through softer sedimentary bedrock materials such as dolomite or sandstone and then encounter a more resistant rock, in this case chert. Chert is composed of silica dioxide and is highly resistant to weathering.
This area is very scenic, especially after a rain when water cascades down over a 10 feet tall waterfall and through a chert shut-in stream. A spring-fed creek keeps water flowing to some degree through the shut-in typically six to eight months of the year. The chert cliffs support a number of lichens and mosses as well as a few hardy fern species such as hairy lip fern. The name “Cowards Hollow” is thought to have been derived from local legend that the area’s shelter cave was used as a hideout from Civil War deserters.
This natural area is within the Mark Twain National Forest. From Doniphan, take Highway 160 west to Highway C. Go north on C for 13 miles. Turn left (west) on to Forest Service Road 3142 (gravel). Head west for 2.5 miles. Turn right (north) on to Forest Service Road 4875. Travel 0.3 mile and park. Walk the trail to the north crossing under the powerline and into the natural area. A map and compass are recommended to explore this area. Hunting and fishing are permitted.