Sometimes, we just need to get away and take a road trip. If you ever get the feeling to indulge your inner explorer, there are many destinations within driving distance of Columbia that are unlike anything else. The website and book Atlas Obscura, which inspired this piece, will help guide you to the most obscure locations that can be found in the middle of Missouri.
Devil's Icebox — Columbia
The shortest trip on this list is to Devil's Icebox, a cave located in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park in Columbia. The cave is obscure in many ways; the temperature that remains 56 degrees all year round is just one. In order to get to the cave, visitors need to trek across delicate wooden bridges. Adventurers can make the journey on their own or go on a guided tour of crawling, ducking and wading through the river that flows through the cave. This is the perfect day trip for anyone who wants to take in the views of an exceptionally beautiful environment.
BoatHenge — Columbia
After the great flood of 1993, a strange spectacle appeared adjacent to the Katy Trail along the Missouri River. This work of art is called BoatHenge, modeled after Stonehenge with its exact measurements. It was built to withstand any waves or flooding, so this structure of unknown origins will be around for years to come. The only way to access BoatHenge is by canoe, boat or lots of walking. It stands on a spot called Plowboy Bend in Katy Trail State Park, a remote location that adds to its already-obscure nature.
St. Mary's Aldermanbury — Fulton
Originally built in 1181 in London, it was destroyed in and rebuilt after both the Great Fire and the Blitz of 1940. Some people considered the initial location to be bad luck, so in the mid-1960s, they moved the remains of the church 4,262 miles away to the campus of Westminster College in Fulton. The church was reconstructed there to honor Winston Churchill, who delivered his "Iron Curtain" speech at the college in 1946. Any history enthusiasts should consider road tripping here to learn about the church moved halfway across the world.
Bothwell Lodge — Sedalia
The Bothwell Lodge, a cliffside mansion built over 31 years and air-conditioned completely by the natural caves below the house, is about an hour from Columbia. Owner John Homer Bothwell passed away in 1929, and the mansion eventually became property of the state of Missouri. Travelers can now hike, bike or tour the 12,ooo square foot estate. Be sure to go inside the house and feel the cool air blowing.
Lyle Van Houten's Automotive Museum — Clarence
At the eeriest location off an unmarked exit of US Highway 63 in Clarence, Missouri, a second glance at what seems to be a working gas station full of vintage cars shows each car is filled with mannequins. Although the intentions behind the display created by the owner of over 40 years were positive, the mysteriousness of the figures coupled with the graveyard directly behind the station will definitely make visitors question its purpose.
Jim the Wonder Dog Memorial Garden — Marshall
A memorial dedicated to the memory of a psychic dog? Marshall, Missouri, was home to "Jim the Wonder Dog" in the 1930s; it was said he predicted everything from the gender of a child to the winner of the 1936 World Series. Although many people were skeptical of the legitimacy of his powers, a memorial was built regardless to honor the dog who was once the claim to fame of the town.
Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins — Camdenton
The remains of this European-style castle can be found on the hillsides of the Lake of the Ozarks. The ruins span 5,000 acres and date back to 1905; it was destroyed in a fire in 1942. In the 1970s, the castle was purchased by the state. The castle is part of Ha Ha Tonka State Park, which also features a honeycomb of tunnels, caverns, springs and sinkholes.
Meramec Caverns — Sullivan
About 400 million years old, the caves span 4.6 miles. They were used by the Union Army during the Civil War, and they sheltered both pre-Columbian natives and outlaw Jesse James. The caverns can be found off of Route 66, and are considered to be one of the largest tourist attractions in the area.
Renz Women's Penitentiary — Jefferson City
Clearly abandoned, as evidenced by the graffiti and busted-out windows, the penitentiary has "No trespassing" signs surround the building. It was originally opened as a prison farm in 1929, but was forced to shut down after the great flood of 1993. Rumors suggest it is currently being used for SWAT team combat training. MOVE does not endorse breaking in.
Edited by Katherine White | email@example.com