Hazel Creek Campground offers primitive camping and is a favorite among hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders who are traveling on the Ozark Trail. The campground is located about 15 miles southwest of the Potosi Ranger Station, near the town of Palmer.
Hazel Creek would be like any other small, undeveloped campground on the Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger District if it weren’t for the presence of the Palmer Lead Company Furnace ruins, located near the entrance to the campground.
Palmer was laid out in 1830, but back then it was known as the village of Harmony or Webster. By 1835, there were 3-4 furnaces for lead smelting near the community. By 1855, there were 23 active mines in the area. Most early lead mining was surface or shallow shaft mining, done by pick and shovel. Pig lead was hauled by wagon to railroads or to Ste. Genevieve where it was transported on the Mississippi River.
The old furnace at Hazel Creek Campground lies within the Palmer Historic Mining District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Records show that the furnace was built in the 1870s and operated until sometime before 1922. It was likely an air furnace and was one of the highest producing smelters in the area at that time. For example, it yielded 1,500 tons of lead in 1894.
There is a downside to having a historic lead furnace in the Hazel Creek Campground – smelting resulted in high concentrations of lead and other heavy metals in the soil around the furnace. The extent of soil contamination is currently unknown, but initial soil sampling indicated campsites have relatively low concentrations of lead in the soil. Highest concentrations seem to be immediately around the furnace.
Beginning on or about July 23, 2018, contractors will be at Hazel Creek Campground to collect soil samples to map detailed lead and heavy metal concentrations. The sampling will occur within a 600-foot circle around the furnace ruins. Soil cores will be taken from the surface down to 24 inches in depth, in a specialized grid pattern. Work could last up to two months, depending on weather conditions.
Visitors to Hazel Creek Campground may experience noise and equipment disturbance while the work is being conducted. Temporary closures of the campground or individual campsites may be needed, but are not planned at this time.
The Ozark Trail will not be affected by the soil sampling and it will continue to be open to thru-hiking or thru-bike/horse riding. However, trail connectors from the trailhead parking area and campground to the Ozark Trail will be closed while soil sampling work is conducted.
Long-term plans are to utilize the results of this soil sampling work to develop a site clean-up plan to reduce or eliminate high concentrations of lead and other heavy metals.
Mark Twain National Forest will maintain project status updates on its web page, and will post information on-site at Hazel Creek Campground.
The Potosi Ranger Station is open Monday-Friday, 8:00 am–4:30 pm. You can reach us by calling (573) 438-5427. To receive updates on Mark Twain National Forest events and happenings, follow us on Twitter @marktwain_nf, and like us on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/marktwainnationalforest.
Mark Twain National Forest – It’s All Yours.