At a Chicago meeting in 1963, I was talking with a 4-H leader from Georgia who
worked with a large outdoor youth center. “Tell me all about it because Boone
County has a chance to receive the gift of 77 beautiful acres for such a
park.” We talked for almost an hour.
Returning to Columbia, I visited with Frank Graham who said that the Pinnacles
had been offered to the state park system and to the Missouri 4-H Foundation.
It was too small for a state park and too far from 4-H members living in
Missouri’s corners. Graham suggested, “You people right here in Boone County
could form an organization to accept this gift.” He detailed the owners’ two
restrictions: the land could not be sold or mortgaged for at least 50 years
and no one would be charged for using the area. They could be charged for food
or for damage to the property but not for the privilege of enjoying God’s
handiwork. That was acceptable.
I took Nancy and Walt and a few others from the Harg Hustlers 4-H Club to see
the Pinnacles. A light snow on the ground highlighted the trickling water of
Kelly Creek and Silver Fork, which had helped to erode the Burlington
limestone rocks into a narrow, free-standing wall. Tall spires that gave the
area its name had tumbled, years ago. Spectacular vertical rock bluffs and
“shelving rock” -- which we mistakenly thought was a cave -- were surrounded
by huge old trees and pastureland. Narrow trails wound through tall weeds and
poison ivy. Unwelcome visitors had left trash. The lovely place needed love
and care. It is now free and open to the public; donations are its only source
On that first trip we didn’t discover the path to the top of the tallest bluff
or the remnants of the handmade stone dam, which formerly impounded enough
water for canoeing.
The owner families -- the Hulens, Jennings, Neals, Golds, Carters, et al. --
and their guests had rebuilt the dam several times after heavy rains and had
erected at least seven cabins. Most of their children were grown and away, and
it was natural that they wanted to give their beloved land to a responsible
group who would promote wholesome outdoor recreation.
Following Graham’s suggestion, we asked the Boone County Senior 4-H council to
take the lead. It appointed a committee to work with the late Don Burk, Boone
County Extension youth agent, and consequently, the Boone County Pinnacles
Youth Foundation came into being. Early members of this group included
Barthena Barnes, Harold Hinshaw and myself. Later names included Quanna
Williamson, William Kasman and others. It was Burk, working with owner Don
Carter, who finalized the gift 30 years ago. In September 1965, the deed was
transferred and the property dedicated to “people of all ages who seek
knowledge, love and care for the countryside.” That ceremony will be
commemorated this week.
The Pinnacles board, under the capable leadership of Steve Willsie, has set
this coming Sunday as a time for celebration and rededication. From noon till
4 p.m., knowledgeable people will be on hand to explain the geology that
created the unusual rock formations and answer other questions about the area.
Families are urged to bring cameras and be dressed to hike, climb, explore and
otherwise enjoy this park. Drive 10 miles north on Highway 63, pass the exits
to Hallsville and Harrisburg and watch for “Pinnacles Road” on the right.
The parking lot and Don Burk Memorial Shelter are within a city block of the
highway. See you there?