Head west on the Daniel Boone Bridge, which carries Interstate 64 over the Missouri River in Chesterfield, Missouri, and you’ll find an opportunity to experience history and charm along what is perhaps our state’s most scenic bike route. A new bike and pedestrian path on the bridge, opened in summer 2017, makes it possible to cross the river on two wheels, then merge with the Katy Trail.
In many spots, the Katy Trail hugs the Missouri River like a belt. It cruises by the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area, a 1947 Busch family gift that will always be sheltered from development.
In Defiance, you’ll come to understand why Daniel Boone loved his home. The town is the start of the Missouri Wine Trail, or Weinstrasse, so stop and take a sip. Explore a few miles more and settle into beautiful Augusta to experience the quaint shops and accommodations. Then, branch out to sample the wineries in the surrounding hills, part of the nation’s very first U.S. American Viticultural Area.
Just past Dutzow, see where Daniel and Rebecca Boone were buried in Marthasville. Drive or bike through Peers, then Treloar with its iconic old grain elevator past historic St. John’s United Church of Christ and its cemetery, raised above the floodplain. For a few miles, the path rolls through beautiful wooded hills and bluffs, presenting panoramic views of the river, until you rejoin the floodplain and the Katy Trail.
Cross the striking Highway 19 Kit Bond Bridge and spend a delightful day, or two, among Hermann’s historic museums, bed-and-breakfasts built by riverboat captains, restaurants, festhalles, wineries and watering holes.
I trip on the Katy Trail is a bucket-list item for Midwest cyclists. Here are some sights and activities not to be missed during this part of the journey from St. Louis east along the 240-mile crushed limestone path.
Smokehouse Market & Annie Gunn’s
Before you even put the pedal down, stop in at this familiar Chesterfield landmark and fill your picnic basket with imported and domestic cheeses, fresh produce, gourmet condiments and house-made sandwiches and desserts from the market, or have an entire pre-outing meal at Annie Gunn’s, famous for its sophisticated country cuisine.
The Katy Trail
The Daniel Boone Bridge bicycle/pedestrian path connects the Monarch Chesterfield Levee Trail on the south side of the Missouri River with the Katy Trail on the north side. From there, bicyclists have access to 240 miles of crushed limestone stretching from Clinton to Machens, Missouri, with 26 trailheads and four fully restored railroad depots along the way. Take the Busch Greenway connector to get to our next stop.
August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area
Totaling 6,987 acres of undeveloped green space south of Interstate 64, the Busch Conservation Area provides a true escape for discovering nature. The terrain is mostly flat, with a maze of gravel roads that provides access to 30 lakes for fishing. The area is also an excellent bicycling, birding and hunting destination. Almost half of Busch Conservation Area is forest and woodlands, but there are also significant open crop and grassy sections. About 200 acres are restored prairie, which offers a brilliant show of wildflowers.
Weldon Spring Site Interpretive Center
Connected to the Busch Conservation Area by the Hamburg Trail (on bicycle or foot), Weldon Spring Site Interpretive Center is just down the road, consisting of 7,400 acres of forest. You’ve likely heard about the “explosive” history of the former ammunition works and uranium processing plant here. Now, visit the center to watch the movie, tour the 150-acre rehabilitated prairie and climb the seven-story rock “disposal cell” for an amazing view.
Revel in the restoration of this hamlet that was once home to Daniel Boone. Defiance marks the beginning of the Missouri Wine Trail that extends through Augusta, Dutzow, Marthasville and Hermann, and it has become a hot spot on the Katy Trail, featuring restaurants and taverns with outside service as well as bicycle rentals, shuttles and bed-and-breakfasts catering to rolling tourists. The Defiance Trailhead, just west of town, offers parking, restrooms, a picnic table and a map station.
Once the site of an old silica sand quarry, the 250 rugged acres here have been turned into beautiful parkland. Klondike makes a cozy camping retreat, nestled right in Missouri’s wine country, and features more than 4 miles of natural and paved trails for hiking and biking. A lookout bluff provides picturesque views of the Missouri River Valley, as well as the Katy Trail below.
Historic Daniel Bone Home and Heritage Center
Some folks liken it to a tiny Midwestern Williamsburg. The home, built from 1803 to 1810, is surrounded by structures like those common at the time of the Louisiana Purchase and Missouri’s early statehood — carpenter and blacksmith shops, a general store, a chapel and a schoolhouse. Stroll the beautiful wooded grounds and think about the families living in this part of the country decades ago.
On June 20, 1980, Augusta was declared the first official U.S. American Viticultural Area, beating Napa Valley by eight months. Today, there are several wineries in the quaint little village, as well as a microbrewery, antique stores, cozy bed and breakfasts, and amazing views of the Missouri River Valley from atop towering bluffs. You can walk to town from the Augusta Trailhead on the Katy Trail, which has parking, restrooms and a picnic table.
Visit the Daniel Boone Monument and Burial Site, or tour historic Luxenhaus Farm, which hosts the Deutsch Country Days on one special October weekend, giving attendees a chance to revisit the 1800s and see how Missouri’s early settlers lived. The Katy Trail passes through Marthasville, with a trailhead that offers parking, water, restrooms, picnic tables and a map station.
The Peers Store is a testament to many things: the craftsmanship of those who built it 120 years ago; the need to respect our floodplains and the consequences of building in them; the changing nature of our economy and transportation system; and the history and beauty of the Missouri River Valley landscape. Stop in to enjoy a cold soda or ice cream while listening to live bluegrass music on the front porch.
Two paintings by celebrated Missouri artist Bryan Haynes have been re-created on banners on the unused grain elevator in Treloar, a whistle stop on the Katy Trail west of Marthasville. One hangs just below a rusting sign that says “Marthasville Feed & Supply Co.” and shows Missouri’s State Bird (the bluebird) flying over a vineyard of Missouri’s State Grape (Norton). The other is an old-fashioned farm scene of a wheat harvest. Either could depict scenes found in the nearby hills. Don’t miss them.
St. John’s United Church of Christ
The grand frame country church in Pinckney Township has stood on this spot, now along Highway 94 about 5 miles west of Treloar, since the late 1800s. It was moved from its original location on the Missouri River because the water’s meandering path was a constant threat. Today, the church hosts the Missouri State Sacred Harp Singing Convention annually, welcoming Shape-Note Singers from throughout the Midwest.
McKittrick and Coal Tower
McKittrick is a quiet little town, with a few bed and breakfasts and a grocery and restaurant nearby for supplies. Like the Treloar grain elevator, the old coal tower rising above the Katy Trail trailhead here has been transformed into a iconic piece of artwork by the addition of banners from Missouri plein air painter Billyo O’Donnell.
A revitalized German community on the Missouri River, Hermann resides apart from time in a picture-book valley. Nineteenth-century red brick buildings hug the sidewalks, reminding one of Rhine Valley towns, with award-wining wineries captivating visitors from near and far. A wonderful mingling of old-world charm and modern luxury, the Inn at Hermannof offers grand accommodations, with country shops, galleries and cultural activities within walking distance. The McKittrick trailhead is about 2 miles north, and bikers can access Hermann via a protected Missouri River bridge bike lane, which dips under Highway 19 and emerges on the other side.
Author: Brad Kovach is the editor/publisher of Terrain Magazine. This article first appeared in Across STL Magazine.
Photos: Images courtesy of Across STL Magazine.