An island sticking out of the middle of the Mississippi River, known as Tower Rock, was accessible by foot due to the low water levels.
We live in Southern Illinois, so we usually see Tower Rock from the Illinois side of the river, at Grand Tower. Normally, it’s completely surrounded by water, and rarely accessible by foot.
Because of the drought conditions recently, we were able to walk out to it from the Missouri side, in Perry County.
Luckily, we thought of this before it made the local and then national news! Lucky for us, we were the only people hiking at Tower Rock that day!
History of Tower Rock
Tower Rock is made of limestone formed around 400 million years ago, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
It is what is left after erosion caused by the shifting channels of the Mississippi River.
The first known mention of Tower Rock was in 1673 in a journal by Father Jacques Marquette. Later, it was journaled by William Clark (of Lewis and Clark) in 1803.
The island was nearly blasted away by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but President Ulysses Grant issued an executive order to save it in 1871.
There is some folklore surrounding Tower Rock. It is said that the Native American’s believed there was a demon in the water that took down travelers that passed too close to it.
This is likely due to the whirlpools that form around the rock. They can be dangerous, and deadly.
Apparently, Tower Rock was also occupied by a band of river pirates, who did a lot of looting and killing of travelers who got out to walk due to the rapids and whirlpools!
Hiking to Tower Rock
Myself, the kids, and our friend made the trip to Wittenburg, MO. (Unfortunately, dad had to stay behind and get work done.)
It was really a nice drive with all the fall colors and winding roads!
It actually was not 100% dry when we went out. According to the MDC, the river level at Chester, MO needs to be at or below 1.5 to walk out to it. When I checked before we left, it was slightly higher.
We had to do a little bit of wading in ankle to calf-deep water to get to it, but it was worth it!
We showed up in the late afternoon and parked in the small gravel parking area. Then we went down a bit of a small, steep (but definitely doable), rocky cliff to get to the river level.
We spent a little bit of time just exploring the area before wading over to Tower Rock.
It’s fun to just see what the river washes up! We found a lot of pretty rocks, saved some crawdads and mussels from drying up, and found a soccer ball that had washed up!
Once we made it over to Tower Rock, it was cool to see how the rock almost made stair steps up.
It was fun to get to walk completely around the rock and explore. There were a lot of huge, dead carp, which the kids thought were fun to look at, haha!
While we were out, a riverboat even came by!
We were surprised to see them still coming through with such low water levels!
Eventually, the sun started going down, and our little hike was winding up. It was such a perfect time of day to be here, and made for some really pretty photos!
I made sure to get in a photo with the kids to commemorate the time we got to walk to Tower Rock.
What a fun experience to have! About a week after we hiked out to Tower Rock, the fact that the water level was low enough to walk to the island was put on the local news. Hundreds of families showed up to do it!
If you need a push to get out in nature with your kids, make sure you read 9 Awesome Reasons to Take Your Kids Hiking. I promise it’s worth the effort!
Our experience was so good, we even came back the next week with my parents and sister’s family. Although it was still fun, it was a totally different experience!
The parking area was packed full, and people were parked all down the narrow roadside.
We hiked out to the island along with a lot of other families and with no need to wade through any water.
It was good to see so many people wanting to come out and explore this historic landmark!
How Do I Get to Tower Rock?
Tower Rock Natural Area is in the town Wittenburg, MO, off Highway A. Take County Road 460 south for about a mile and a half to the parking area.
There is a picnic table, and you can look out over the river. No restrooms are available.
I’m not sure if people will still be able to walk out to it as of posting this blog post. We saw on the news that traffic was becoming a problem, and they weren’t allowing people to turn down the road anymore over this past weekend.
When the hype dies down, even if the water isn’t at a level that makes walking out to the island possible, it might be worth a trip just to visit the natural area, do a little hiking, and see Tower Rock!
Other related articles:
- Discover the Best Missouri State Parks: Epic MO Parks You Can’t Miss
- The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Pickle Springs Natural Area
- Things to do in Southeast Missouri for Families
- 9 Motivating Reasons to Take Your Kids Hiking
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