Summer Driving Tour
By Jeannette Townsend
Poplar Bluff, Missouri is known for being encompassed by the idyllic scenic beauty of Southeast Missouri. Spring and summer are the perfect time to soak in the warmer air and blooming landscape as you explore the area via this driving route. I recommended allowing a minimum of three days to fully maximize your experience, taking advantage of Poplar Bluff as a central home base with numerous lodging options.
Before departing on your scenic journey, swing by the Margaret Harwell Art Museum located in historic Downtown Poplar Bluff, a vital cultural resource for Southeast Missouri and one of only five city art museums in the state. After heading out, you’ll travel across Highway 60 through the Mark Twain National Forest. This restorative forest maintains a jaw-dropping 1.5 million acres of beautiful public land across 29 counties in Missouri. Arrive in Van Buren, Missouri where you can grab a delicious dinner at the iconic Blue Heron Restaurant at The Landing while enjoying the breathtaking views of the Current River. Continue on to Big Spring, the largest single outlet spring in the U.S. and one of the biggest springs in the world.
When you’re done soaking in the stunning views of the bright blue spring contrasted against the greens and pinks of the budding foliage, head over to Clearwater Lake, a recreational lake for fishermen, boaters, and more. Nearby is Sam A. Baker State Park, an outdoor paradise offering a picturesque backdrop of the Saint Francis Mountains. Just a short distance away is “Old Greenville.” This registered national historical site offers a one-mile walk down memory lane and the opportunity to take in the sites of the original frontier town before its eventual relocation in 1941. Here you can also explore a section of the legendary Trail of Tears.
When finished, cruise on over to The Camp at Lake Wappapello, a unique outdoor food and entertainment venue where you can grab a bite to eat before continuing on with your tour. Just a thirty-minute drive away is Mingo National Wildlife Refuge. Mingo provides the perfect opportunity to observe wildlife and enjoy the bottomland forests, wetlands, and swamps. Take a leisurely stroll along the boardwalks while spotting waterfowl and other migratory birds.
Head indoors at our next stop, the Stars and Stripes Museum in Bloomfield, Missouri. The Stars and Stripes Museum is dedicated to preserving materials related to the creation and continued history of the Stars and Stripes military newspaper and the people behind it. When you’ve finished soaking in the rich military history, head over to the Hickory Log Restaurant, known for having the best barbecued ribs in the Midwest. As you make your way back to Poplar Bluff along Highway 60, you’ll be surrounded by views of local agriculture, spotting cotton, soybeans, wheat, and more. Wrap up your trip with a return to Downtown Poplar Bluff where you can admire the illuminated Veteran’s Memorial Wall at the Black River Coliseum. This monument is dedicated to the perpetual celebration of those who have served our country through the armed forces.
With several more beautiful locations nearby, Poplar Bluff is truly a destination worth visiting again and again.