top of page
  • Writer's pictureCharmaine Warren

Missouri's Hidden Gem: Historic Sites

Updated: May 19

I've seen some old sites but that does not discount Missouri's Historic Sites. I love exploring Missouri's history by walking through sites and learning about the history of the area and try to picture how life was back then.

If you know where to look, you can definitely delve into Missouri and America's rich historic landscape. Luckily Missouri State Parks made a handy list that shows you all the state's historic sites and parks

Day Date Idea: Roadtrip

Just about 2.5 hours from St. Louis is Arrow Rock. We've tried visiting here before but unfortunately it was too cold and it was Thanksgiving so a lot of the sites were closed but it was interesting enough that we said we would go back when we get a chance. If you have not read that blog you can read about it here: Thanksgiving Camping in Missouri.

After Arrow Rock State Historic Site if you are still up for more historic sites I highly recommend Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site. Bothwell Lodge, a fancy mansion straight out of the early 1900s. This is one of the coolest house I've been in and I love me some mansion tours. The site started as a lodge that literally grew and you can see it all over the lodge

Arrow Rock State Historic Site, Missouri

Arrow Rock's story stretches back way before it became a town. For nearly 12,000 years, Native American tribes used the area's distinctive flint-bearing bluff to craft tools and weapons. This very feature, immortalized on a 1732 French map as "pierre a fleche" (meaning "rock of arrows"), is how Arrow Rock got its name.

Arrow rock City Plaque

Fast forward to the early 1800s, and Arrow Rock found itself at the crossroads of history. The Missouri River bustled with activity, and the town became a key stop for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail heading west. In 1829, settlers founded a town initially called "Philadelphia," but its nickname, "Arrow Rock," stuck. By 1833, the state legislature officially recognized the town's identity, forever linking it to the landmark bluff.

You can still see the wagon rusts where the wagons had gone through the town.

Historic Site # 21 Wagon Ruts of the Santa Fe Trail

Arrow Rock thrived as a frontier town, with businesses catering to weary travelers. While the Shelby Log Cabin isn't the main attraction at Arrow Rock State Historic Site, it adds a delightful layer of history to your visit. Built in 1835, just a year after the J. Huston Tavern, this log cabin was originally part of a larger homestead southwest of Arrow Rock. It belonged to Richard and Rebecca Shelby, early settlers who likely played a role in the town's growth.

Historic Site in Arrow Rock of the Shelby Log Cabin

However, by the late 19th century, the railroad bypassed Arrow Rock, leading to a decline. This, ironically, became its saving grace. Arrow Rock was spared from modernization, allowing it to preserve its historic character. It is really a town frozen in time. Today, Arrow Rock State Historic Site stands as a testament to this bygone era, attracting visitors with its charming streets, beautifully restored buildings, and unique glimpse into Missouri's frontier past.

Bonus Tip:

  • Arrow Rock has a "Plan Your Visit" app where you can do self guided audio walking tour that is extremely nice because it detects where you are in town and automatically plays the history of what you are looking at

  • The Arrow Rock Visitor center has a small museum inside that you can check out even more artifacts

Historic Artifacts at Arrow Rock Visitor Center

Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site

Just a short drive from the charming streets of Arrow Rock lies another historic gem waiting to be explored - Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site. This architectural marvel isn't your typical frontier cabin. Built between 1897 and 1928 by lawyer John Homer Bothwell, Bothwell Lodge is a 31-room testament to early 20th-century extravagance and eclectic taste.

Front view of the Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site

Imagine yourself standing at the foot of a majestic limestone bluff, gazing upwards at this impressive lodge. Its unique design, incorporating elements of Craftsman and other architectural styles, reflects Bothwell's own vision and personality. The lodge was intended as a summer retreat, a place for Bothwell, a widower for most of his life, to entertain family and friends.

The back of the Bothwell House State Historic Site

We had a house tour and as soon as you step inside and prepare to be transported back in time. Guided tours, the only way to explore the lodge's interior, offer a fascinating glimpse into Bothwell's life and tastes. We got lucky because we booked the last tour and it was given by the park superintendent who knows so much about the property! Like are these guest paying Mr. Bothwell to hang in his house? Apparently not, he just doesn't like to be alone. His house is so busy that you have to punch in to visit

The guest book at the Bothwell House State Historic Site

The guided tour not only offers the a lot of good property history but the house is a literal maze! It started as a lodge the Mr. Bothwell thought to build a property adjacent to the lodge, then finally he connected both structures. You would get lost in there without a guide, might die of starvation... book the tour.

One of the rooms at the Bothwell House State Historic Site

The lodge was strategically built on a bluff overlooking a scenic valley, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Thankfully, visitors can experience this natural beauty firsthand. Hiking and biking trails weave through the property, providing a refreshing escape after exploring the lodge's rich history.

Whether you're fascinated by architecture, curious about the life of a prominent lawyer, or simply seeking a beautiful natural setting, Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site has something to offer everyone. So, lace up your walking shoes, pack your sense of adventure, and get ready to discover this hidden gem of Missouri.



bottom of page