The “Show Me State” of MISSOURI – so called because of the supposed scepticism of the typical Missourian – boasts two significant cities: St Louis is midway down the state’s eastern fringe along the Mississippi River; Kansas City, astride the Missouri River, sits almost directly across on the western border. These mid-size metropolises are linked by I-70, but there’s not much to excite visitors in between. In contrast, the southern part of the state features the beautiful hillsides, streams and ragged lakes of the Ozark Mountains, as well as the booming tourist haven of Branson. In the east, small river towns such as Hannibal do their best to brighten the course of the muddy Mississippi; St Joseph, about fifty miles north of Kansas City, is one of the state’s most richly historical communities.
Although the first French colonists honoured the claims of local Native Americans, once the area was sold to the US in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase, the natives were driven west by a great rush of settlers; throughout the 1840s and 1850s, immigrants from Germany and Ireland flooded into eastern Missouri. Although these new residents outnumbered their pro-slavery predecessors – thereby swinging the balance in favour of remaining in the Union during the Civil War – Confederate guerrilla forces attracted considerable support among slave-owners in the western part of the state. At the same time, both St Louis and St Joseph established themselves as important gateways to the West.Read More
- St Louis
The Ozark Mountains
The Ozark Mountains
South of Kansas City, there’s little to see before the Ozark Mountains. Occupying most of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, the area remained frontier territory until timber companies moved in at the end of the nineteenth century. When they moved on, the hill-dwellers were left to eke out a living from the denuded terrain; severe droughts forced many to leave for the cities. For those who stayed, fishing resorts and tourist attractions supply some work, though the region remains poor. None of the Ozark peaks are particularly high, though the roads through them switch, dip, climb and swerve to provide views of steep hillsides thick with oak, elm, hickory and redbud, particularly resplendent in autumn. Springfield is the region’s main city, 130 miles south of Kansas City, but the toothless resort and entertainment town of Branson is more popular by far.