My grandfather, James Henry, and his family lived near Hinton after he
returned from the Civil War. He and James Dysart operated a large mill that
was located in the Hinton area north of Columbia. That was not far from an
unusual rock formation known as the Pinnacles. Mom told me stories about the
beautiful spot and the several families who owned the 77-acre area. The Henrys
were occasional guests for picnics there.
A vertical rock bluff was left standing when two creeks crowded toward each
other. Silver Fork Creek flows to the right as visitors first view the tall
bluff. Then it doubles back on itself making a hairpin turn around the bluff.
There it seeks and finds Rocky Fork Creek. They join and go off together on
their journey toward the Missouri River.
At the point where Silver Fork doubles back, it meets a rock bluff that the
water can’t conquer. The creek gnaws away at that Burlington limestone
creating shelving rock which, from a distance, appears to be a cave. It is an
overhanging roof that has sheltered many an American Indian, Boy Scout, 4-H-er
and others who unrolled their sleeping bags onto the fine sand that
accumulates there after big rains.
It took centuries for water and wind to form this unusual natural beauty spot.
But the pointed spires that gave the area its name are now gone. They toppled
over sometime since 1947 when my husband made color slides that show the
pinnacle rocks still in place. They were gone when I first visited the area in
Erosion continues on this high, narrow ridge, which is 75 feet high and 1,000
feet long. The prediction is made in “Geologic Natural Wonders of Missouri,”
that, “This senile ridge has very few thousand years of life remaining.”
Burlington, an exceptionally pure limestone, is named for outcrops at
Burlington, La. It’s quarried at a number of places in Central Missouri and is
famous for containing crinoid fossils, sometimes called “Indian beads.” It
is the limestone that was used to make our two sets of columns that stand on
MU’s Francis Quadrangle and on Walnut Street at Eighth Street, where the first
Boone County Courthouse stood.
Indians hunted and lived in the Pinnacles area and took refuge under this
shelving rock in foul weather. Spiny gooseberries, like tiny spherical
cockleburs, grow on top of the overhanging ledge. On a windy autumn day, quiet
hikers can hear rattlesnake grass -- also called pressed wheat -- as the dry
heads make a faint sound as they blow against each other.
Grandpa Henry said families arrived with horses pulling buggies, surreys and
wagons laden with tents, food, musical instruments, etc. Some stayed a week or
two each summer. They’d dam the creek to back the water up enough for good
fishing, swimming and canoeing. When high water washed out the dam, they’d dam
it again while children romped over the hills or hunted American Indian
artifacts. Seven families built vacation homes.
And, yes, vandals and trespassers were there. One of my college students, in
the 1960s asked, “Mrs. G., how did you know about the Pinnacles? I didn’t
even write in my diary that I’d been there!”
Security is being stepped up by an enthusiastic Boone County Pinnacles Youth
Foundation now, which owns the area. They welcome people who seek “a greater
love, knowledge and care of the countryside.”