Tag Archives: Castlewood State Park

Fit and Healthy on Route 66: Two Sections of the Lower Meramec – Part I

The Lower Meramec River, which runs from Sullivan, MO to the Mississippi River, is not one of the most popular sections to paddle. If you enjoy lake paddling or exploring large rivers, you might want to take another look at the Lower Meramec. I paddled two sections recently and enjoyed it tremendously.

On August 27, 2016 I joined some other volunteers to participate in Operation Clean Stream, sponsored by the Open Space Council. On this day there were several locations we could pick from. I brought my own kayak this time so I chose a route that was not serviced by an outfitter.

I checked in at Castlewood State Park in Wildwood and met a great group of people at the put-in point on the beach. This fun and hard-working group of volunteers and I headed downstream toward our eventual takeout point at Green Tree Park in Kirkwood.

Operation Clean Stream put-in point at Castlwood State Park
At the left is my group getting ready to depart from the Castlewood State Park boat ramp. On the right is a sandbar where we stopped to clean up trash. On the shore you can see a couple of land volunteers.

At one point I had to paddle upstream for awhile to go back to that sandbar because I thought I had lost an item there. It turned out I hadn’t lost it but I did learn one thing – it’s pretty easy to paddle upstream (perhaps up to Route 66 State Park?) so it’s possible to go for a solo paddling outing from here without worrying about a shuttle. Just paddle upstream for awhile then downstream again to get back to your vehicle.

Some interesting bridges
On the left is an interesting bridge that appears to have vegetation growing on top. It’s right before the Hwy. 141 bridge. On the right is the 141 bridge and a railroad bridge just beyond it.

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Taking photos like those above could be hazardous to your safety if you are not careful! The current is pretty swift here so I probably should have concentrated on┬ásteering the kayak. It was pretty awesome to see all the logs stuck in and on the bridge from the Flood of 2015 which was of historic proportions – can you believe the water got that high? This bridge is not far from Simpson Lake, where I participated in flood cleanup in February.

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I’m pictured at the left with Eric and Kim. On the right are Simon and Tim at the takeout point at Greentree Park, displaying part of our haul. It’s only about a six mile float from Castlewood State Park to Greentree, but it took us a good part of the day because we stopped a lot for trash. Trying to retrieve trash from a boat in a current will really test your paddling skills – you have to be able to maneuver in and out of tight spots, enter and exit frequently without tipping, be able to approach and dock alongside obstacles safely and have a good idea how far over you can lean to grab something. You’ll exercise different parts of your body than you’re used to – a great workout!

Stay tuned for Part II – Minnie Ha Ha Park in Sunset Hills to Arnold City Park.

Links to more information:

Operation Clean Stream’s September Newsletter with news of the cleanup – Includes news of a matching grant to benefit the Meramec Route 66 Bridge at Route 66 State Park.

My article about the August 14, 2016 cleanup

Here is a photo of my Dad at the cleanup at North Riverfront Park

My article about Castlewood State Park

Fit and Healthy on Route 66 – Castlewood State Park

Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County, Missouri
View from bluff at Castlewood State Park in two different seasons

Castlewood State Park is located along the Meramec River in the southwest portion of St. Louis County between the Manchester and I-44 alignments of Route 66. Parts of the park lay on either side of the Meramec River. The part that lies north of the Meramec River is accessible by car south of the Manchester alignment of Route 66 and includes one of the most scenic views in all of St. Louis County. The photos above were taken from the River Scene Trail.

In the days before air conditioning, one way people used to cope with the heat was by visiting swimming beaches at the numerous rivers in the region. Caves were popular too. Route 66 fans will recognize the names of the fun places “Times Beach”, “Sylvan Beach”, Meramec Caverns”, “Stonydell” and Joplin’s “Lakeside Park”. Fort Bellefontaine County Park was formerly such a destination – the area that is now Castlewood State Park was another.

According to the book “Walks & Rambles in and around St. Louis” by Robert Rubright, the heyday of Castlewood as a resort was from 1915-1950. The swimming beach was washed away by the river in 1945. Some other amenities such as clubhouses, nightclubs and taverns persisted a bit longer. The state of Missouri converted the land to a park in 1979. Signs at the park indicate that while swimming in the Meramec River is not forbidden, it’s not encouraged either and is something to undertake at one’s own risk. Drownings do occur here so be careful.

The River Scene trail is so nice that I have explored very few other areas of the park despite many visits. I need to correct that oversight! There is a steep climb to the top of the bluff but after that the trail is not too difficult because it is mostly flat or downhill. You will have to watch your footing because the trail is rocky in spots and it’s possible to trip on tree roots. Sturdy hiking boots and a walking stick are helpful for safety and comfort. There are multiple scenic overlooks, historic ruins from the resort days and a well-traveled railroad corridor to see along the way. Rail fans will normally get a chance to see a train or two while hiking here and a portion of the trail even goes under the railroad bed in a cool tunnel.

Map of Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County, Missouri

As you can see from this map, the portion of the park that is South of the Meramec River is accessible only by hiking, biking or by horseback. You can take a trail to Castlewood from either West Tyson County Park or Lone Elk County Park.

It’s not shown on this map how it connects but if you take the Stinging Nettle Loop at the base of the bluff, you can follow that trail westward to a portion of the Meramec Greenway, Sherman Beach County Park and the Al Foster Trail which begins in Glencoe. You can also take a side trip on the Rock Hollow Trail, also known as the “Zombie Road”. The Stinging Nettle Loop is great for mountain bikers like me who are pretty much at the beginner level. There are some hills but they are not too high and if you fall you’ll probably land on dirt most of the time. I took a minor fall and didn’t get hurt. More challenging trails that I have not worked up to trying on a bike yet are in the area if you’re up for it. If you are getting the impression that you can spend days or weeks here exploring all the trails that connect near here you are probably right! Bring maps because it can get confusing!

Castlewood State Park official web site

My photos of Castlewood State Park and the nearby Wildlife Rescue Center