The Longdogs

The Longdogs
Willy, Harley (back center), and Gretchen

Chipmunk Crossing and The Grand Gulf

Before I launch into our trip to the Grand Gulf, I wanted to tell you about the RV park we stayed in near West Plains, MO. First of all, you have to know that the roads in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas are good.....but they are also very hilly and curvy. We found this little gem of a park about 8 miles south of West Plains on Hwy 17. There aren't many choices close to West Plains or Thayer but this was a good choice even if we had dozens to pick from. I found it online and my brother Tim also told me that it was the best choice in the area. I had to borrow pictures from their site, Chipmunk Crossing RV Park as I didn't have ones as good. There are only 17 sites, some pull-through and some back-in. The park is very well kept and the hostess and host are great people.

They have a pool, fire pit, library that could rival some small towns, a washer and dryer, bathrooms, and great sites.

We had a great time here and hope to return. They are open April to September. And I don't want to forget to mention the very neat nature trail they have. You won't want to miss a trip around the trail.

Tim and Cherie came back to visit on Sunday and decided we should see the Grand Gulf. I was there once before but it was probably at least 15 years ago. The Grand Gulf is often called Missouri's "Little Grand Canyon". It was designated a National Landmark is in 1971 and became a Missouri state park in 1984 through a lease agreement between the LAD Foundation and the Department of Natural Resources. The department laid out trails and installed boardwalks in the 322 acre day-use park.

This is a cave system with a roof that collapsed an estimated 10,000 years ago. The result is a vertical-walled canyon about three-quarters of a mile long. Bussell Branch, a surface creek that drains about 25 square miles, empties into the chasm through a process called stream piracy. All of this water passes down the length of the chasm, under a 250-foot natural bridge and back into the open canyon. At the lower end of the chasm, it finally enters the mouth of the remaining underground cave system.

My brother Tim snuck off, climbed down, and took some of these pictures of the bottom of the chasm.

As you can see, it was dry when we were there.

But not too many weeks ago, there was lots of water resulting in all the light green vegetation.

We took the stairs down to a better vantage point. 

This overlook provides a safe look down into the canyon.

Cherie found this picture for me that was taken several months ago at nearly the same spot I took my photo. As you can see, the gulf is full of water!

There was a trail down so you could walk across the natural bridge which is part of the roof that didn't collapse.

The mouth of the portion of the cave that has not collapsed is blocked only a short distance inside by mud and debris that allows the water from Bussell Branch to percolate through but bars human access. Before this portion became blocked, someone tossed a rectangular bale of hay into the Grand Gulf and it popped out at Mammoth Spring some time later.
Early explorers likme Luella Agnes Owen, in her book "Cave Regions of the Ozarks and Black Hills" (1898) related her explorations in the Grand Gulf. She said the ceiling dropped until they couldn't stand up straight but she had a light boat that she was able to explore the underground system for some distance and to report on the small, eyeless, pure white fish that swam around her fearlessly.

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