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Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness Area is the smallest of only eight wildernesses in Missouri.

According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a wilderness is a special area designated and set aside by Congress as an area affected primarily by the forces of nature with little evidence of man.

Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness Area is a primitive site for the most adventurous among us. The trail is not for the novice hiker. Those planning a visit should come prepared.

U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Becky Ewing said the area is 4,238 acres, and it takes its name from an ancient circle of granite rock, piled on top the mountain by early man. 

The area is located within the St. Francois Mountains with ranging elevations from 520 to 1,305 feet.

USDA said the area is heavily forested and other than flow from surplus rainfall has no significant natural permanent water source other than the St. Francis River that touches the southwestern border. 

There is one maintained trail on the site at a distance of two miles with additional unmaintained trails and old logging roads for the adventuresome to explore.

With the area being described as rugged, it is important to have bug spray on hand and to watch for poisonous plants and snakes. 

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Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness Area is the perfect area for back country exploration and unrestricted camping. This environment is considered primitive where nature can be met on its own terms.

All hikers and campers should ensure that others will see no evidence of their visit after they have left, leaving the area as it was before them.

Wilderness regulations and manners include no more than 10 individuals should travel or camp together, no camping within 100 foot of trails, streams or occupied campsites, avoid overuse of popular ares, protect the solitude, pack your own shelter, keep campfires low and much more. For a complete list of regulations and manners visit https://www.fs.fed.us/ 

Ewing said common creatures in the area include white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, rabbits, hawks, owls, turkey vultures, pileated woodpeckers, lizards, turtles and snakes. 

Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness Area is located off Route C. Go 4.7 miles to County Road 406 on the right and then travel 2.3 miles to Forest Road 2124 where the trailhead will be at the top of the mountain roughly a mile up. The last half mile of the drive is a very steep climb and not recommended for anyone without 4-wheel drive. There is a parking area to the left side just before the steep grade. 

USDA says wilderness rangers occasionally visit trail heads to patrol the area and are there to assist you and answer questions. It is asked that all overnight and day use visitors sign in at the self-registration station located at the trailhead entrance.

"Have a pleasant wilderness experience and remember, leave only footprints and take only photographs and memories," Ewing said. 

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Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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