Description - **This information provided by www.mostateparks.com**
Get away from the bustle of everyday life by seeing some of Missouri’s finest karst features such as the rock bridge or by exploring the forests, streams and restored grasslands of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.
While walking the half-mile Devil’s Icebox Boardwalk, visitors will pass both under and over the rock bridge, have the opportunity to explore Connor’s Cave on their own, and see an underground stream, small spring and sinkhole. The 15 miles of trails that traverse the 2,273-acre park are always open to hikers and are conditionally open to bicyclists. Hikers and horseback riders can enjoy the serenity of the 750-acre Gans Creek Wild Area. Before riding, visitors should call the trail condition hotline.
Groups can make arrangements to receive a rock bridge/Connor’s Cave tour or other interpretive programs. Devil’s Icebox Cave, with over seven miles of passages, can be explored on park-led wild cave tours by advanced registration only. The park’s orienteering course will challenge adventurous visitors.
Picnic sites, a reservable picnic shelter, and playground equipment make the park a great place for family gatherings. Primitive camping for non-profit youth organizations is available by making advanced reservations.
- Picnic Area/Playground
There are several picnic areas scattered throughout the park available for day use.
The Billy Gilbert Memorial Shelter, located in the upper picnic area, is an open shelter that can be reserved for large picnics and special outings. The shelter is wheelchair accessible and includes four grills, electricity, running water, restrooms nearby with flush toilets and sinks and picnic tables that can accommodate up to 80 guests. There is a dumpster nearby. This shelter can be reserved for $35 per day; reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance.
The Rockbridge Mills Shelter, located along Sinkhole Trail--about 400 feet south of the Devil's Icebox parking lot, is used primarily for interpretive programs. It is an open shelter with picnic tables that can accommodate up to 60 guests. It has no electricity, running water or grills. Vault toilets and a dumpster are located in the parking lot. Portable grills and fires are not permitted. It is not wheelchair accessible. When not needed for interpretive purposes, this shelter can be reserved for $25 per day; reservations can be made up to two months in advance.
Both shelters, if not reserved, are available at no charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Trash cans are not provided at either shelter.
A new playground was installed in 2003. It is rated for five to 12 year olds, although there are also two toddler swings. The playground is located in the day-use area (upper parking lot) where the first loop joins the main park road. In addition to the toddler swings, there are two other swings, two slides, platforms, a tunnel, an arch climber and a horizontal ladder.
Recreation - Devil's Icebox Wild Cave Tours
Devil's Icebox Cave is closed to entry except for those participating in Wild Cave Tours offered April 15 to May 16 and Aug. 1 to Oct. 8. A maternal colony of endangered gray bats uses the cave in early summer and hibernating endangered Indiana bats use it in the winter. To help protect the bats, tours are not offered at these times.
What to Expect
A Devil's Icebox Wild Cave Tour (WCT) takes a great deal of physical energy and is not for everyone. If you lack the physical strength and stamina to complete the challenges described below, choosing to participate may endanger yourself and everyone else in the group.
Each WCT begins with a 30-45 minute pre-trip orientation to go over safety procedures and be issued caving equipment. The park will provide helmets, canoes, paddles and lifejackets. Participants must provide appropriate clothing, footwear, lights and their own food and drink. Participants will then carry a 65-pound canoe about 1/4 mile to the cave entrance.
The first half mile of Devil’s Icebox Cave is a water passage which requires paddling, carrying the canoes over several portages and lying flat in your canoe to fit through the 15 foot-long "Low Spot." Most of the WCT will be spent walking through spacious passages involving slippery or deep mud, steep banks, rocky surfaces and wading in cold water. Some areas require crawling over mud, rocks or in water, stooping, climbing and going through very small passages. WCTs take different routes within Devil's Icebox Cave and vary in their difficulty and duration (refer to "Difficulty Level Codes").
All trips exit as they entered. The WCT ends with cleaning of park equipment by trip participants outdoors while still in cave clothes. The entire WCT experience normally takes from eight to 10 hours. Schedule accordingly.
Potential hazards of a WCT include, but are not limited to: injury due to a fall or due to falling or crumbling cave surfaces; cuts, bruises and possible infections; capsizing your canoe; hypothermia; a delay of medical attention due to the remote location and being required to wait for rescue personnel to respond; being required to wait until high water lowers and allows a safe exit; being stuck in a tight passage; drowning. If you have concerns about the hazards, call park staff at (573) 449-7402.
Participants must be at least 14 years old. Participants under age 18 are required to have a parental consent form signed by their parent/guardian. A photo ID may be required to establish age.
Clothing and Footwear Requirements (related information for review prior to registering)
You must provide sufficient quantity and quality of non-cotton clothing to keep you warm in a wet, 56° environment. Your footwear should provide good traction, good ankle support and good water drainage. We recommend three-quarter top or hight top rubber sports cleats. If your footwear does not have adequate traction and ankle support, you will not be allowed to participate in a WCT.
You must provide your own lights. (related information for review prior to registering)
Participants are required to provide their own battery-powered headlamp and two back-up lights in case their primary light fails.
The Trail Condition Hotline, (573) 442-2249, allows you to know before you leave home whether the trails are open or closed to bicycling or horseback riding.
Devil’s Icebox Trail -- .5 mile Hiking
The park’s most impressive geologic features are revealed on this short walk that begins from the Devil’s Icebox parking lot. A boardwalk trail makes it easier to climb the 63-foot-tall Rock Bridge and eventually loops around to bring you back through the natural tunnel. To protect the resource, please stay on the trail. Features visible along the way include the valley that formed when the cave roof collapsed to form the Rock Bridge, a glade in the process of being restored, and the double sinkhole entrance to Devil’s Icebox Cave and Connor Spring.
The walk down the stairs to the cave entrance is refreshingly cool in summer months. Enough light enters the karst window to allow a short wade in the underground stream. Flashlights, helmets and good shoes are recommended for those brave enough to enter the darkness of Connor’s Cave, which lies downstream or to the left of the entrance to Devil's Icebox Cave. Devil’s Icebox Cave begins to the right or upstream from the cave entrance. Only those on park-led wild cave tours are permitted to enter Devil’s Icebox Cave.
From the caves, the boardwalk meanders through the woods and keeps visitors’ feet dry inches above the stream that flows through the Rock Bridge. Displays tell visitors more about the cave system and the area’s history. Additional information can be gained from using the Devil’s Icebox Self-Guiding Trail booklet, which is available for a small fee at the park office.
Spring Brook Trail -- 2.5 miles Hiking/Biking
This is a loop trail that begins from the picnic shelter and Devil’s Icebox parking lots. The eastern side of the loop provides the shortest route (about 1.25 miles) between the two parking areas. Spring Brook Trail winds its way through woods and old fields and along small brooks. Maple and sycamore trees grace the banks of Little Bonne Femme Creek, which is crossed twice. At the eastern crossing, a foot bridge provides a dry crossing and a nice view. The western crossing lacks a bridge. During normal water flow, a wade of a few inches depth is usually necessary or sometimes dry stepping stones are in place. During high water, it is not safe to cross. Spring Brook Trail is signed with red arrows.
Sinkhole Trail -- 1.5 miles Hiking/Biking
Sinkhole Trail begins at the Devil’s Icebox parking lot and follows an old road through the historic site of Pierpont and continues up a forested valley to a ridge top of old fields that is dotted with sinkholes. A spur connects with the Grassland Trail parking lot, while a connector route shortens the loop. The base of one sinkhole is gated to prevent someone from falling into a 30-foot-deep pit known as Hog’s Graveyard Cave. Sinkhole Trail is signed with green arrows.
High Ridge Trail -- 2.3 miles Hiking/Biking
The trail head and parking for High Ridge Trail is located on Rock Quarry Road near its intersection with Highway 163. This trail climbs to a hilltop and follows a ridge before descending to follow Clear Creek. Surrounding park lands can be seen clearly from the ridge. High Ridge Trail is signed with blue arrows. The use of a white connector trail reduces the distance to half a mile.
Grassland Trail -- 2 miles Hiking/Biking
The trail head and parking lot for Grassland Trail is located on Rock Bridge Lane. Native grasses, planted beginning in 1982, clothe the gentle terrain that is marked with scattered wooded sinkholes. Natural sinkhole ponds provide habitat for wetland plants and animals such as salamanders, wood ducks and bur reed. The trail is signed with blue arrows and has a white connector that cuts the loop in half.
Karst Trail -- 1.75 miles Hiking/Biking
Karst Trail begins near the intersection of Highway 163 and Fox Lane. The land is relatively flat with many scattered sinkhole depressions. Devil’s Icebox Cave is located nearby--only about 100 feet underground! On the eastern side, a large pond is filled with American lotus, which blooms around mid-July. A barn from the Ginn family farm still stands. The area has a three-acre remnant stand of big bluestem grass. Additional acreage was planted in native grass in 1995. Karst Trail is signed with red arrows and has a short white connector that cuts the loop in half.
Deer Run Trail -- 2.5 miles Hiking/Biking
Deer Run Trail begins from the northern picnic areas. The trail traverses up and down wooded hills along the park’s northwestern boundary. Then it descends to the flat bottomlands and runs along the banks of the Little Bonne Femme Creek, where it intersects Spring Brook Trail before looping back to its starting point. Deer are common in the area due to secluded woods and grassy openings. Signs of beavers and muskrats are sometimes seen along the stream. The loud calls of pileated woodpeckers and kingfishers are sometimes heard in the stream vicinity. Deer Run Trail is signed with yellow arrows.
Paxton Passage -- .5 mile Hiking/Biking
Paxton Passage begins at its intersection with Deer Run Trail near the northwestern boundary of the park. Paxton Passage leaves park property and travels on a strip of land donated by Richard Paxton to the Columbia School District in 1979. It connects to and can be accessed from the grounds of Rock Bridge Elementary School.
Climate - Missouri experiences four distinct seasons with an average yearly temperature of 54 degrees F. Summer temperatures reach 90 degrees F often and are plagued with high humidity levels. Nighttime lows during the summer dip slightly near 70 degrees. September brings cooler fall weather with less humidity. By October nights begin to cool significantly and the fall foliage changes to brilliant hues of orange, red and yellow. Winter months bring an average of 24 inches of snow and normal temperatures average between 20 and 45 degrees F. Spring is characterized by wet weather with temperatures reaching between 32 and 60 degrees F.
5901 South Hwy. 163
Columbia, MO 65203