Rock Spring Bluff
Points of Interest:
- See ancient Ashe junipers.
- See three of Missouri’s four conifer species growing native in one place (shortleaf pine, Ashe juniper and eastern red cedar).
Natural Features Description:
These xeric bluffs created by down cutting of the White River are formed of the Jefferson City-Cotter formation. This dolomite rock had its origins over 400 million years ago at the bottom of a shallow sea. Today, Ashe junipers from 300 to 500 years old grow out of rock fissures here. Ashe juniper is common in Texas and Oklahoma but here in Missouri it reaches the northern edge of its range. Hanging from some of the trees along these bluffs are beard lichens (in the genus Usnea) adding to the aesthetics of this place. Look for greater roadrunners in this area. Other interesting species include soapweed, palafoxia and glade buckbrush. Although in Missouri, this area has many biologic similarities to plant communities of the Edward’s Plateau of Texas. It is thought that many of these southwestern species such as Ashe juniper migrated into Missouri during the Hypsithermal Period (8,000 to 5,000 years ago) when the state’s climate was hotter and drier than today.
This natural area is within land owned and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Table Rock Lake Project. There are two ways to access this site. The easiest is by boat. From the Viola Boat Access head south following the main channel of the Kings River branch of Table Rock Lake for 1.5 miles. At this point you should be able to see the bluffs as you turn north. The Viola Boat Access is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. From Viola, head south on Highway 39 for about a mile. Then turn right (west) and proceed on road 39-48 to the boat access.
Access to the natural area by foot is more difficult. From Golden head north on Highway RA for about one and a third miles. At this point RA turns right (east) but you want to continue north on County Road 1238 for about a half mile. At the T intersection, turn right (east) on County Road 2260. This road turns north after a half mile, becoming County Road 1242. Stay north on 1242 for a half mile and then turn right (east) on County Road 1255. Head east on 1255. At a half mile 1255 turns south. Do not go this way but instead continue straight, heading east on what becomes County Road 1262. This road winds down and around a ridge and then crosses an arm of Table Rock Lake. Just after crossing the lake on 1262 find a safe place to pull off the road and park. From here you will need to hike over steep terrain going east to the natural area. You need to stay below the bluff line and make sure you are on Corps of Engineers land (which is open to the public).
Hunting and fishing are permitted on Corps of Engineers land. A map and compass are recommended to explore this area.