Conor Watkins' Ozark Mountain Experience
Article 23&24 Combined
Devil's Elbow, Clifty Creek, And Lane Spring
By Conor Watkins

Devil’s Elbow, Clifty Creek, And Lane Spring

This scenic view of the Big Piney is easily observed from the 1923 truss bridge in Devil’s Elbow via a 20-minute drive from Rolla.  This view of towering 200 foot Gasconade dolomite bluffs was once listed by the State Planning Commission as one of the "Seven Scenic Wonders of Missouri."

Postcard (date unknown) - back reads "Big Piney River with its cool sparkling
waters, plentiful in game fish, studded with rugged mountains, is a natural paradise."

The town of Devil’s Elbow is considered to be one of the highlights of a tour on Missouri Route 66.  The area is home to the Big Piney River and its scenic bluffs, Sheldon’s Market which doubles as the Devil’s Elbow Post Office, The Elbow Inn Bar And Grill which originally opened in 1929, and last but not least, an old steel truss bridge across the river.

The scenic area is located in Pulaski County just northeast of Ft. Leonard Wood.  The Big Piney River in Devil’s Elbow was once used as transportation to float timber downstream, a practice that continued into the early 1900’s.  A sharp bend (elbow) in the Big Piney used to hang up the timber, leading to tremendous jams, giving the area its name.  At the time, the area was known for rough characters and hard drinking tie rafters. The town kept its name although the tie rafters are long gone.

The Devil’s Elbow of the Big Piney is an entrenched meander that was preserved when the Ozarks were uplifted and the river was rejuvenated.  Prior to the uplift, the Ozarks had been eroded down to a flat plain, known as a peneplain, common to old age erosional settings.  As with the Mississippi and other old age rivers, the Big Piney had slowed and was meandering across a wide floodplain.  When the region was once again uplifted, the river downcut from its existing position, preserving the meandering course.  Such entrenched meanders are common to rivers throughout the Ozarks.

The Devil's Elbow is visible from this scenic overlook above the Big Piney.

The Devil's Elbow of the Big Piney River is an excellent example of an
entrenched meander on an Ozark stream.

Sheldon's Market (previously Allman’s Market) is a small old time country store that contains the U.S. Post Office for the town.  This location has become quite popular with Route 66 tourists due to its scenic location and old time feel.  The Elbow Inn and BBQ Pit, a restaurant/bar started in the 1990’s, uses a structure built in 1929 for the Munger Moss Sandwich Shop.  That business moved to Lebanon, MO in the 1940's.  This building is one of the oldest structures along Route 66 known to still serve its original function.

The town’s picturesque setting has led film producers from around the world to record parts of their movies and TV shows in the area.  Upon viewing the guest registry at Sheldon’s Market, one will discover that many of the visitors are from overseas.  Although Devil’s Elbow is a sleepy Ozark town, the fame of Route 66 and its scenery attract visitors from worldwide.  The visitor to Devil’s Elbow will also notice others slowly driving Route 66 taking both still and moving pictures, no matter the time of day or week.  The view of the 200 foot tall bluffs of Gasconade dolomite visible from the bridge was once described as being one of the "Seven Scenic Wonders of Missouri" in literature put out by the Missouri Planning Commission.

The town of Devil’s Elbow has inspired a small national magazine with the same name.  The motto for the magazine is “Travel for people who don't care where they're going!”  This motto is appropriate since most people find the town/area while they are out exploring or traveling historic U.S. Route 66 just for the fun of it.  The magazine focuses on obscure ruins, backroad adventures, and roadside attractions.  The Devil’s Elbow area has all three.

The town of Devil's Elbow and some of its surroundings after a winter snow.
One can see the U.S. Army Railroad wooden approach trestle to the bridge
over the Big Piney near the center of the photo and old Route 66 curving up the
hill on the right.

During the 1930's a proposal to dam the Gasconade River at four locations (Richland, Arlington, Vienna, & Rich Fountain) was considered to provide flood control, generate power, and aid in river navigation on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.  If built, the Arlington Dam would have backed up the Big Piney, inundating the town of Devil's Elbow and much of the surrounding area.  This dam was to be part earthfill and part mass concrete in design.  Before construction could begin, federal funds became tied up by the Great Depression and World War II, delaying the dam projects.  No large dams were ever constructed in the area, although a small dam is present along Big Piney near Ft. Leonard Wood.  This has allowed both the Gasconade and Big Piney Rivers to be classified as free flowing rivers.  There are seven rivers fitting this classification in Missouri today.

Around the time the dams were being proposed, nearly all of the original two lane section of Route 66 was upgraded and paved with concrete.  Since Devil's Elbow was to be inundated by the dam, the stretch of Route 66 through the area was left alone.  To this day, there is no concrete in the portion of original Route 66 running through Devil's Elbow with the exception of the Devil's Elbow Bridge deck over the Big Piney.

Cross section of the proposed Arlington Dam in its earthfill portion.
(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1932)

Cross section of proposed Arlington Dam at the power house.
Click on either of the above images for more extensive plans.
(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1932)

This section of a Phelps County tourism map published jointly by the
Missouri School of Mines and the Rolla Chamber of Commerce during
the 1930's (exact date unknown) shows where the Arlington Dam was
to be located.

Partial map showing area inundated by the proposed Arlington Reservoir.
Click map to see all four reservoirs.

Some of the Mark Twain National Forest is located nearby and offers recreational activities for the outdoorsman.  High bluffs along the Big Piney offer opportunities for those who like to rock climb and rappel.  The contact of the Roubidoux and Gasconade Formations is present at the top of the bluffs overlooking Devil's Elbow.  Due to the higher weathering resistance of the Roubidoux formation, several small overhanging ledges of Roubidoux sandstone are present along the bluffs at Devil's Elbow and others along the Big Piney.  One rock protrusion of sandstone above Devil's Elbow is called the "Devil's Tongue" by older generations and "Lizard Rock" by those who are younger.  The older folks also refer to it as another portion of the Devil's anatomy located below the belt.

Devil's Tongue/Lizard Rock is a protruding ledge of Roubidoux sandstone.

Another rock prominence in the bluffs above the Big Piney in Devil's Elbow is known as the Devil's Sugar Bowl.  When viewed straight on, this formation resembles a large bowl with a conical mound of material protruding above the rim.

Red dot shows the Devil's Sugar Bowl.

Postcard (date unknown) - back reads "An interesting rock formation
overlooking the Big Piney River at Devil's Elbow, MO."

The river is also a popular fishing destination.  As one goes farther back into the area, it gets more rugged and remote.  This part is a popular hunting area and is sometimes used for firearms and archery target practice/sighting.  Old unimproved roads lead deep into the woods and are interesting places to hike or mountain bike.  The remains of many old cabins are present along the Big Piney River.  Most of these rundown structures are remnants of resort properties from that 1920’s and 1930’s when automobile use and travel along Route 66 became first became popular, and had a novel appeal.  Some of these ruins consist of old stone chimneys and foundations.  Other cabins are more intact and still have a roof and walls.  If exploring these ruins, be aware that much of the wood is rotten and that it may be hazardous to go inside.

An especially interesting set of ruins may be seen along the Big Piney River in the Devil’s Elbow area.  These stone ruins consist of an old footbridge, concrete parts of a boat dock, picnic area, and the ruins of a stone house with two prominent chimneys remaining.  Another cabin, which is more intact, exists farther from the shore.  Upon talking to the locals, I discovered that this was once a resort owned by the Bussman family of Bussman Fuse in St. Louis.  The Cooper-Bussman Fuse Company is still in existence today and is headquartered in West St. Louis County.

The remains of the resort once used by the Bussman Family
are overgrown and only noticed by the observant.

The author stands on the stone footbridge left from the Bussman Resort
on the Big Piney.

The remains of another cabin farther from the river are more intact.

The Mayfield Cemetery is located within the remote part of Devil’s Elbow.  The tombstones are old, weathered, tilting, and overgrown, but many are still legible.  Most are from the 1800’s when childhood disease led to many infant deaths.  This is obvious since many buried here lived very short lives.  Medicine was less advanced and medical care was harder to find deep in the rural Ozarks.

View of Mayfield Cemetery near Devil’s Elbow.

Shanghai Spring, a large spring feeding into the Big Piney River, is also located near Devil’s Elbow.  This spring is located on private property with “No Trespassing” signs posted, but it can be clearly viewed from the road.  It originates from a blue pool up against a scenic bluff.  The spring branch flows under both the road on which one drives to view the spring and the U.S. Army Railway spur through culverts before flowing into the Big Piney River.

Shanghai Spring, also known as Blue Spring, is on private property but   is easy toview from the road.

Shanghai Spring and a others along the nearby Big Piney River receive much of their recharge water from nearby Fort Leonard Wood (FLW) and are impacted by pollution sources at the Army base.  Three solid waste landfills, a sewage treatment plant, an old pesticide building, and an old laundry and dry cleaning shop are located in the recharge area of Shanghai Spring.  Unfortunately water quality has suffered due to these activities.  Several types of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chlorinated hydrocarbons, pesticides, and constituents of sewage effluent are being discharged by the spring.  It appears that some of the landfills at FLW are leaking leachate into the groundwater and that other chemicals were leaked by the old dry cleaning shop and pesticide building.  The Shanghai Spring recharge system has a fast response rate after rains and some chemicals increase in concentration soon after large rainfalls.  This indicates that chemicals are trapped in the unsaturated zone above the water table and are picked up by water percolating through the ground.  The karst aquifer in this region is very complex and more analysis is needed to determine the exact sources and solutions to the problem.

To get to the Devil’s Elbow, take I-44 west from Rolla to Hwy J (exit 169).  Turn left and cross over I-44.  Take an immediate right on Hwy Z. Scenic Hwy Z near Devil’s Elbow is part of old US Route 66.  This four-lane section of road was built to carry traffic to and from Ft. Leonard Wood during World War II.  After Ft. Leonard Wood was constructed, it was obvious that the twisty, narrow stretch of Route 66 through Devil's Elbow and the narrow, low clearance bridge weren't adequate for all the men and equipment passing through.  The new four lane stretch was completed in 1943 to aid in traffic flow.  Most of the pavement on this stretch is original and it is in remarkable condition for its age.  It passes through scenic rock road cuts and the bluffs of the Big Piney River.  This stretch of highway still uses its original concrete segmented arch bridge to cross the Big Piney.  The large rock road cut just east of the bridge over the Big Piney River, known as the Hooker Cut, was the deepest road cut in Missouri at the time of its construction in the early 1940’s.  At 90 feet, this cut also ranked as one of the deepest cuts in the country.  The curbs along this stretch of road, especially those along the left lane, are inclined towards the roadway.  This practice was common at the time this highway was constructed since it was believed that such a design would keep cars from going off the road.  This curb design was discontinued once it was discovered that the inclined curbs actually caused cars to overturn.

This original concrete segmented arch bridge over the Big Piney
still serves its stretch of Route 66.

Additional View Underneath Bridge

Postcard from soon after Hooker Cut was excavated
(exact date unknown - circa 1940's).
between Rolla and Waynesville.  One of the deepest
rock cuts in the U.S."

Summer 2002 view of Hooker Roadcut
Around 60 years of weathering and growth including kudzu
have seriously altered the appearance of the Hooker Cut.

Kudzu, an aggressively growing vine, clings to the cliffs and makes for a pretty drive during Missouri’s growing season.  This vine is an alien species from Japan and has taken over parts of the southern U.S. Luckily the cold winters of Missouri keep its growth in check.  This short section of road eventually runs into St. Robert.  Many consider this to be one of the more scenic stretches of road in Missouri.  It is unfortunate that the modern day interstate, completed in the early 1980's, now completely bypasses this stretch of Route 66.  This four-lane stretch of road seems very empty now that most traffic passes by on I-44.  After driving this stretch and seeing the Devil’s Elbow area, one can turn right at Hwy 28 and head towards Clifty Creek.

An even older section of Route 66, built in 1926, passes over an old steel truss bridge and into downtown Devil’s Elbow.  This original stretch of Route 66, now named Teardrop Rd., is off to the south side of Hwy Z and passes by the Elbow Inn, over the a 1923 bridge, and Sheldon’s Market.  The bridge was originally built for State Route 14 and was a convenient and cost saving alignment when Route 66 came about three years later.  Allman’s Market is now called Sheldon’s Market, but the U.S. Post Office is still located inside.  It is worth following this old section of Route 66 past downtown Devil’s Elbow and up into the bluffs.  A scenic pull-off gives excellent views of the Big Piney River, its bluffs, and an interesting railroad trestle (still in use) across the river.  The railroad below is the U.S. Army Railroad, which was built along with Ft. Leonard Wood just before World War II.  It is a spur off of the Burlington Northern Line to supply Ft. Leonard Wood.  Teardrop Road eventually curves back into the four-lane section of Route 66 (Hwy Z) closer to St. Robert.  To see Shanghai Spring, turn left (west) after rejoining the newer four-lane section of Route 66.  Then turn left again onto Teak Rd.  Teak Rd. leads directly to Shanghai Spring, which is located on the right after about 1.5 miles.

The three bridges over the Big Piney in the Devil's Elbow area.  The 1923 Devil's
Elbow Bridge may be seen in the foreground, the 1940's Route 66 Bridge may be seen in
the middle, and the newest I-44 Bridge may be seen in the background.

The 1923 Route 66 Bridge in Devil's Elbow as seen from just downstream.

The U.S. Army Railway Bridge and its wooden approach trestles may
be viewed from above on an old Route 66 pull off.

To get to the shear bluffs of the Big Piney and the more remote areas of the National Forest, take Teardrop Rd. and turn left onto a gravel road just before crossing the old bridge into the town of Devil’s Elbow.  This road leads to the bluffs (just off the left side of the road) for climbing and rappelling.  One can also see the sharp bend in the Big Piney known as Devil’s Elbow just off the road to the right.  To get to the very remote sections of the area, continue to follow the gravel road for several more miles.  One will pass directly under a unique wooden railroad trestle.  This trestle is also part of the U.S. Army Railroad and was built just before World War II.  Turn right at the next gravel road that is not a private driveway.  This road splits into multiple rough roads that go all throughout the area.  It is of utmost importance that one take a high clearance vehicle to the area as the roads are heavily rutted and washed out in places.  Logs and trees are over the road at some locations.  Do not go to the area with anything but a four-wheel drive after or during heavy rains as the road gets very muddy and could possibly bog down a vehicle.  The ideal vehicle to take to the area would be an old high clearance 4WD truck with an already beat up paint job.  The trees growing over the road will do cosmetic damage to just about any vehicle.  If one gets stuck without a cell phone, there is really no way out but a long walk.  The area is extremely isolated and the chances of finding another person are almost zero.   Don’t go alone in case problems are encountered.  Be prepared to meet Mother Nature or a possible methamphetamine cook on their own terms.

A dozen or so other railroad trestles are located along the U.S. Army Railway and some may be observed from public roads.  One may be observed by exiting I-44 at the Jerome Exit (exit 172) and heading south on a road that turns to gravel.  Another is visible from the right lane of eastbound I-44.  It may be seen on the flat stretch of I-44 just after mile marker 173 before the highway climbs a hill past Arlington.  Both are small compared to the trestle pictured below.

These trestles were part of the national defense initiative that started before World War II.  As with the rest of Ft. Leonard Wood, they were put up quickly, with men working day and night in all kinds of weather to complete the project.  Construction on the 20-mile U.S. Army Railway started on December 5, 1940 and ended on May 25, 1941.

This wooden railroad trestle has served Ft. Leonard Wood since its construction in 1941.

Once might want to drive to the scenic overlook atop the bluffs of the Big Piney before heading out of Devil's Elbow.  This stop takes the viewer to the edge of the high bluffs overlooking Devil’s Elbow and the surrounding area.  One can get an excellent perspective of the Devil’s Elbow itself, the town, and the roads through the area. In addition, the view is spectacular.  The pictures taken overlooking over the town, river, and its bridges were taken from this location.  To get to this area, follow Teardrop Rd. across the old steel bridge and past the Elbow Inn. Turn right and drive east on Hwy Z.  Turn right at the shortly at the very next road (Teasley Rd.).  This winding gravel road climbs up the ridge and to the bluffs overlooking the river.  Park near an old picnic shelter on the left just before some apartments.  One can walk down past the shelter to promenades overlooking the scene below.  Bolts to secure climbers are present in the Roubidoux sandstone outcrops.  At the time of the author's visit, loose dogs were roaming around the apartment complex and the surrounding areas.  Although no problems were encountered, visitors might want to be aware of this threat.

The Clifty Creek Natural Area, which is administered by the Missouri Department of Conservation, is home to Clifty Creek and a natural bridge.  The area is not too far from Devil’s Elbow.  Clifty Creek flows through a small canyon in places.  The Clifty Creek Natural Bridge is quite scenic and spans a small tributary of Clifty Creek.  The area is pretty all times of the year and some like to visit in the winter, as the area is much less overgrown.  Both the creek and the natural bridge are scenic and popular among photographers even though they are relatively remote.

Clifty Creek Natural Bridge as seen looking down Little Clifty Creek.  This
formation is the highlight of the Clifty Creek Conservation Area.

The natural bridge as seen from the main creek.

The Clifty Creek Natural Bridge was formed when a tributary of Clifty Creek, known as Little Clifty Creek, undercut a drainage divide and was pirated by Clifty Creek.  It is likely that a cave or joint (fracture) in the rock originally served as a shortcut under the rocky ridge and was later enlarged to form the natural bridge.  It also appears that the same rocky ridge was once home another natural bridge just downstream.  Those that climb atop the ridge and walk in the downstream direction will notice that it ends at a steep dropoff with large boulders below.  This was most likely another natural bridge that has since collapsed.

The area is home to another smaller natural bridge/cave just 300 or so yards downstream.  This feature is somewhat similar to Rock House Cave on the Current River.  As with Rockhouse Cave, this small two entranced cave appears to be the meander of a once larger cave system that was destroyed as Clifty Creek downcut in its valley.  This two entrances of this cave remnant are spaced close together along the bluff line and only separated by a rock pillar.  This cave is small enough to be almost fully explored without a light, with the exception of a slightly taller dome room is present at the rear.

This picture essentially shows the entire extent of the cave from one of the
entrances.  The taller dome room is off to the right where the cave is darker.

This cave represents the end stage of a once larger system and its days are also numbered.  The rock pillar serving to support much of the cave and the bluff above is overstressed and slowly failing.  As rock pillars are compressed in the vertical direction, they expand laterally since they are not confined.  As this expansion occurs, tension is induced in the rock.  Rock is roughly ten times stronger in compression than tension so pieces tend to spall off overstressed pillars, giving them an hourglass shaped profile.  Sometimes pillars naturally reach a stable geometry that allows them to remain in equilibrium.  It is the author's belief that this pillar will not reach a stable equilibrium and will continue to spall until it completely fails, possibly catastrophically.  The pillar is highly fractured and exposed to freeze thaw cycles common to Ozark winters.  Rock fragments have accumulated around the based of the pillar, indicating that the process has continued to progress in recent times.  When the pillar fails, it is likely that much of the bluff above will also come crashing down.  Secondary jointing in the bluff is parallel to the face, creating a preferential failure zone once the pillar gives way.  Such a failure may happen tomorrow or thousands of years in the future.

This highly fractured pillar is overstressed and has taken on the typical
hourglass form.  Its failure will likely lead to the demise of the cave.

Although the cave is officially called "Unnamed Cave #7", it has at least two local names including Clifty Hollow Cave and Red Man's Cave.  Local lore indicates that an Indian used the cave as a residence during the earlier part of 1900's, giving the cave this name.

Perhaps an Indian once had this view right out his front door.

Map of Clifty Hollow Cave - Click image for complete map.

Clift is an archaic English word meaning cliff.  Clifty Creek was most likely named because of the bluffs and cliffs in the area.  Large cliffs overhang the creek by 30-40 feet farther downstream of the bridge and make for interesting pictures.  This section of cliffs is quite large and continues for several hundred yards.

Overhanging bluffs add to the scenery at Clifty Creek.

To get to Clifty Creek, take I-44 west to the Hwy 28 exit (exit 163) and head north through Dixon.  After Dixon, turn right on Hwy W.  Hwy W will turn to gravel soon.  After passing under some large power lines, be on the lookout for a conservation parking area on the left.  One can walk down the trail here to the creek and walk about a mile downstream to the junction of the two creeks and site of the bridge.  One can also walk down the road to an shorter but more strenuous access point.  This location is reached by walking about a mile to a trail blocked by several small rounded top wooden posts and rocks.  This location is also on the left side of the road.  Follow this trail and bear right as it heads down the hill.  The trail will join the creek almost right at the bridge.  This point makes for an excellent viewing area of the bridge along with the vantage from the other side.  To get to the overhanging cliffs, one can either walk about one half mile downstream or drive farther down the road and park near the next low water crossing.  Simply walk upstream less than one-quarter mile to the cliffs.  Be aware that the hiking of steep hills is involved and the area could be dangerous if one were to slip.   Also, be aware that some of the land adjacent to the creek is private property.  “No Trespassing” signs and purple/pink paint on the trees mark the private property.  Much of the Pioneer Forest, which contains Clifty Creek is actually privately owned by Leo Drey and the LAD Foundation.  The LAD Foundation promotes conservation and outdoor recreation by preserving land their land while allowing public use.  Many of their lands are administered by other agencies such as the Missouri Dept. of Conservation (MDC) and the Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR).

The scenery at Clifty Creek may be accessed by driving to this low water
crossing and then walking up the creek.

Clifty Hollow as seen from the road just before the descent to the low water

While on the way to Clifty Creek, one may want to visit Portuguese Point.  Portuguese Point is located just off of Hwy 28 on the left side about five miles south of Dixon.  Portuguese Point is a rock promontory overlooking the Gasconade River.  The river divides below the point and the bluffs are around 250 feet tall at this location.  From Portuguese Point, one can look out for miles and see the river, forests, and farm fields.  The area was originally named for Portuguese farmers who once raised cattle and sheep in the valley below.  This scenic overlook can be reached from a pull-off along the road or from the Point Steakhouse, a restaurant with a very similar view.  Diners at this restaurant enjoy a scenic view of the Gasconade River Valley.

Portuguese Point offers a scenic view of the Gasconade River Valley.

Postcard (date unknown) - back reads "Portuguese Point is located on Route 28
leading to Dixon, MO.  A short drive only 2 miles north of U.S. Highway 66,
near Devil's Elbow, Mo., commanding a picturesque view of the Gasconade
River Valley."

Just to the North of Portuguese Point and the Point Steakhouse, there is a location known as The Rifle Holes.  These holes in the dolomite bluffs are karst solution cavities.  It is rumored that Indians used to shoot out of these holes at boats on the river.  In reality, the geometry of the holes would make nearly impossible to fit a rifle inside.  The Rifle Holes are on private land so be sure to obtain permission if wanting to visit.

While in the area, one might want to give Conical/Slaughter Sink, Onyx Mountain Caverns, and Boiling Spring a look.  These attractions are also in the same general vicinity of Devil’s Elbow and are featured in “Caves and Karst” which can be viewed at

Lane Spring, another outdoor recreational area, is located only 17 miles south of Rolla on Hwy 63 along the Little Piney River.  A nearby picnic area offers views of the river and spring.  The area is very pretty in the late spring and early summer when all vegetation is newly green.  The area offers camping, hiking, picnicking, trout fishing, hiking, and playground equipment for the kids.  The Little Piney Creek is a trout management area through the Lane Spring area and special regulations apply.  Two caves in the park offer spelunking opportunities.  Blossom Rock is a unique rock promenade along the Blossom Rock Trail.  This sandstone outcrop appears as a giant flower to some, hence the name.

Two short trails exist within the park.  Each trail takes the hiker into the scenic hills around Lane Spring.  The Cedar Bluff Trail gains the most elevation and offers excellent views of the spring and Little Piney River.  The Blossom Rock Trail takes the visitor by the unique Blossom Rock and also offers scenic views.

As with most of the terrain around Rolla, the Lane Spring area is an example of karst.  Lane Spring flows from cave system that has been buried by deposits from the Little Piney River.  Because of this, the spring doesn’t flow from one discrete opening.  It simply flows through river sediment to form a series of small boils in the bottom of spring branch.  The type of spring is called an alluviated spring since its opening has been buried in alluvial, or river deposited sediments.  Montauk Spring, farther to the south, is an excellent example of a very large alluviated spring.

One has the opportunity to view real life quicksand while visiting Lane Spring.  This phenomenon is much different than its portrayal in old B movies where someone panics and drowns in quicksand.  At Lane Spring, quicksand shows up as a series of small sand boils in the bottom of the spring.  Since the river deposited material over the spring outlet, the water must force its way up through the sand and other soil.  The water pressure coming through the sand serves to lift the individual particles, keeping them from touching each other.  When the individual grains do not touch one another, there is no frictional shear strength in the soil.  When soil has no shear strength, it behaves like any other liquid and is able to boil, flow, etc.  Although one might sink into quicksand since it has no strength, there is little danger of drowning.  The sand adds its weight to the mix and increases the density of the water/sand slurry.  This increased density increases the bouyant force of the mix and will float all but those who completely give up or try to drown.

Nearby Blossom Rock is thought to have formed when an ancient cave or sinkhole was filled with sand, which later turned to sandstone.  The surrounding dolomites were softer and more easily eroded away, leaving this structure preserved.

Blossom Rock is thought to be the sandstone infilling of an ancient cave or sinkhole.

Lane Spring is a National Recreation Area and part of the Mark Twain National Forest.  A small fee is charged for the use of the area and another fee is also associated with the use of the campground.  To get to Lane Spring, follow Hwy 63 south from Rolla for about 17 miles until the Lane Spring sign appears on the right (west) side of the highway.  Lane Spring is a good place to eat a picnic lunch and take a short hike.

1.) Devil's Elbow Area
2.) Approximate location of Clifty Creek Natural Bridge
3.) Approximate location of Point Steakhouse and
Portuguese Point
4.) Location of Lane Spring off Hwy 63 South

Click map for a larger version of the Devil's Elbow Quadrangle
Topographic Map.  Map from
The large timber trestle is located along the road at the
very center of T36N, R11W, Sec 20.

Thanks to “Geologic Wonders And Curiosities Of Missouri” by Thomas R. Beveridge and Jerry D. Vineyard, Kevin Brady for his help in locating Clifty Creek, the Missouri Department of Conservation (, the Pioneer Forest (, the Rock Eddy Farm (, The Point Steakhouse (, Gasconade river, Mo.; letter from the Secretary of War transmitting report from the chief of engineers on the Gasconade river, Mo., covering navigation, flood control, power development, and irrigation (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1932), The WPA Guide To Missouri –Route 66 Tour (, Woodalls Camping And RVing (, Devil’s Elbow Online (, Pulaski County Route 66 Auto Tour (, the May 15, 1941 issue of the Rolla Herald, the Fall 1996 Missouri Resources Magazine, Hydrography of the Larger Springs of the Ozark Region of Missouri by Warwick Lewis Doll, and the Route 66/Area 51 Tour (  Thanks to Leo Drey and the rest of the LAD Foundation for making public access to Clifty Creek and other unique areas possible.

(C) 2006 by Conor Watkins