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Last weekend I went down to Riverbreaks Conservation area for a quick camp. I really have mixed feelings about this place. First off, it is fairly hard to navigate and the directions I got from google are not what I would recommend. Instead of going down a bunch of badly maintained gravel roads (looking at you Holt 310) just get off I29 at US59 and take it to hwy O. This takes you to the easiest to find site A. From site A there are incredible hiking trails and a pond, I only ended up hitting it on the way out, and had such a rough time in the rest of the area (ended really frustrated in some scenarios) that I nearly didn’t.
The pond was pretty, and much bigger than I had expected. There was a lot of moss out to the edges, which is something I remember swimming in as a kid. In fact I remember a whole lot of moss, tangly catch-your-legs scary feeling moss, moss which routinely had leeches in it that I would find stuck to my legs later in the days. But I was a kid, so I just pulled it off and swam on.
As I walked on, there were little assortments of flowers, some I hadn’t ever seen before! (thats the Eventually the trail moved into the thicket, and the paradise of shade on a hot sunny day. It was noticable from the deer and other assorted tracks that I wasn’t the only one happy for the shade. The trail turned steep inthe woods, becoming quite the little climb. Eventually the trail and forest opened into a large field of thick grass.
Grass so thick actually, that if I looked behind me I could see my own newly-carved trail. It didn’t last long though before I got what I had come for. The shift in the tree canopytold me I had finally made it to the mesic old growth forest. It was so quiet, and even though it seemed dense there was a lot of breathing room.
This whole area was probably my second favorite part of this venture. At the very least, it made the frustration I had felt at other times much less frustrating.
From site A you can continue south on hwy O to hwy T, turn west and you will be able to bget to the rest of the area with fairly little difficulty. Once you turn into the area you will be at site B, a nice little place that led me on the search for an old quarry that was marked on the map. If you had the overactive imagination that I have, then a mental picture of an old mining town came to mind. Nope! Having tread through a lot of thick forest I searched for the minimg town. When I spotted a roof in the distance, I knew it, I knew I had found my quarry (literally and figurativly).
I finally climbed through the crazy amount of growth (the plants were downright machete-thick here, and I didn’t have a machete) to look upon my prize. My prize of the single most disappointing wildlife shelter EVER. After the incredible blow I decided to turn back and find my campsite. As I was walking back to my car I remembered just what modern quarries look like, giant piles of rocks and large dugouts from them. As I made this realization, I noticed that the low part that I was walking in was not the dried creek bed that I had thought it was, nor were those piles of rocks just natural. I had walked all the way through the old quarry without even realizing! With that slightly less disappointing answer I snapped what pictures I could on my low battery phone and headed out.
I camped at site C, which is very similar to site D but I just thought that it seemed a little nicer and had a little more shade. From site B you head southeast on a gravel road (Prairie Rd, but it isn’t marked) and then head north at the first intersection. You’ll reach site C on the left first, then site D. If you continue north and follow the road to the left, you’ll reach sites E and F, which I didn’t end up visiting due to a lack of trees and close proximity to the shooting range. But anyway, enough directions, time to chat about site C. This site way surpassed my expectation, at first it looked like a simple parking lot. Off to the north there is a pretty little grove which was fun to wander through.
At this point it was starting to get dark and the mosquitos were rising, so I made myself a canned gourmet dinner and began on a night of making some art and settling in. That was, before I saw the fireflies over the grove. These were not your normal make-your-yard pretty fireflies, this was a rising blanket of bright green strobes that just never stopped. They flickered so fast that you could actually watch them streak across the sky. and while I thought they would settle down after a wave, they just continued coming out for hours. The childhood me who ran around with a crawfish net to capture 20 at a time was thrilled, the adult me who needs adventure and a veiw of the world was also ecstatic. The beauty I had come to see, that I had been allowed to see, lulled me into sleep that night.
In the morning it was time to eat a quick breakfast and head out again, this time looking for the trail which supposedly ran just slightly north of camp. The trail was never found but I did manage to snap some cool shots trompsing around in the forest (while also dealing with a kamikaze fly that seemed to think I needed to be pounded in the back of the head).
At some point I decided to head down the road and see what I could see on an easier walk. I had apparently missed quite a bit while driving in the car. For one thing the air smelled downright sweet, I have never smelled anything like that before, it wasn’t a flowery smell nor the clean smell from the creek besides the road, just sweeter air. When I looked up I saw just how high the tree canopy really went and the whole affair felt both open and cozy. It was a wonderful small feeling. The places where the creek had washed out tree roots was so visually interesting for me that I had to take more than a few pictures. As I got closer to this highway, the bits of civilzation began to trickle in. I walked the creek bed for a little while longer, catching some fun stones and a pretty nice shot of where the bridge crossed over. Speaking of the bridge, I had a fairly good laugh at its expense. Right before this teeny tiny bridge was the sign “Weight Limit 6 Tons”. Now I’m not sure what sort of traffic came through there, but unless it is a high traffic route for lead ingots, I don’t even know how in the world you could even fit 6 tons on the bridge.
I took the road the rest of the way down to the site B, catching a photo of the ever elusive train and some pretty tree berries, but at this point there was enough human involved to water down what I was looking for, I headed back and decided to try and find site G just down the highway T. This site is nearly impossible to find and is on par with sites B,C, and D. All four are mostly a parking lot with a sign, but I definitely got the best one. All that being said, the trip was fairly beautiful just also very frustrating. I would not recommend the area for someone going to a conservation area the first time. But for the people who are a little more experienced in seeing the signs in a conservation area it can be managed.
As always, you are the ones who can help make this not just a normal blog but one that can show you the insides of National Parks of the western United States. Please consider helping at gofundme.com/carpartment, picking up an art piece off the wall at Bad Art Bistro in Saint Joseph, or buying a piece of jewelry or print in the AKMA gift shop. Until next time, thank you for reading and I can’t wait to share the next adventure with you!