The tiny village of Arrow Rock is located 13 miles north of I-70 on Hwy 41 in Saline County, Missouri. Due to its historical significance, the entire village has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The tiny town is most commonly known for its association with Westward Expansion, the Santa Fe Trail and the artist George Caleb Bingham. Click here to learn more about the historical significance of the area.
After abandoning the Katy Trail after only two days of riding, my friend Josh Miller and I decided to take a trip by car and head to Arrow Rock and take in some of Missouri’s pioneer history.
We arrived to find a small main street with a single row of shops on one side, mirrored by a large brick tavern on the other. As we pulled the car to a stop, the rain began to fall for the forth straight day in a row.
Exiting the car, we walked along the city’s main drag, peeking in shop windows and stopping to look at old antiques and artwork. Near the middle of the road, we stepped inside what appeared to be a gift store/museum and spoke to the woman inside about the city’s famous artist George Caleb Bingham in addition to touring the small building, which used to function as the city’s bank.
Then we crossed the street and ambled into the old court house, a small wooden building that looked to be designed more like a traditional pioneer home that it did a place where law was practiced.
Josh had me take his photo in the place where the judge would sit…
… and I marveled at the brick fireplace on the other side of the room.
“Imagine if our courthouses today had fireplaces in them,” I thought to myself. “It feels like someone’s home in here.”
After drying off in the village courthouse, we walked across town and away from the historic Main Street. After ambling across a small stone bridge, we entered a large modern visitors center and watched a 20-minute movie that recounted the area’s historical significance. After the movie was over, we toured the adjacent museum and then returned to the rain drenched streets.
Just down the road from the visitor’s center was a small stone structure that was constructed to server as the village jail. And while much work had gone into the creation of this tiny structure, the one-room jail never held a single prisoner.
Returning to main street, Josh and I poked our heads inside the J. Huston Tavern. Inside, we were met by a young, attractive girl dressed in what appeared to be traditional pioneer clothes. She showed us to a set of stairs that led up to the second floor and together we strolled about inside the building, looking at old beds, furniture and kitchen scenes like those you would have found in Arrow Rock’s heyday.
After visiting nearly every possible structure in the vicinity of Main Street, we walked and then drove back further into the back-roads of Arrow Rock. The village was dotted with beautiful country homes and classically restored structures from the city’s early settlers.
On the way out of town, we visited the nearby Lyceum Theatre – one of Missouri’s oldest professional regional theatres… and the only professional live theatre located between St. Louis and Kansas City.
Before leaving Arrow Rock, Josh and I drove the car down to a spot where the river met the road. The area was completely flooded, so we parked the car and got out in the pouring rain. After finding a small walking trail, we followed it for a near half mile before turning around and returning to the car. The hiking path, just like the Katy Trail, was covered with a dark canopy of green plant-life. But unlike the Katy, the land on both sides was completely under water. This small hiking trail was my favorite part of Arrow Rock. I’d love to return one day and hike the entire thing.
Both Josh and I left Arrow Rock quite happy with our time there. The tiny town was so much more than we had expected it to be. We had seen a lot, learned so much, and discovered a secret town buried in the back roads of Western Missouri.