Crew has been chipping away at the green trail for a couple months now and we're finally closing in on the end. The whole way down we've been coming across what we assume are abandoned mining roads. Since they're already leveled and (mostly) clear of heavy brush we've been incorporating them into the tread. Its always the goal to utilize what the woods give us and these roads have been really fun to work with. They got us thinking though, other than mining and the battlefield - what else happened here? We've been living here for months, what kind of stories does it have?
Ironton sits square in the Iron Belt or, formally, the Southeastern Missouri Mississippi Valley-type Mineral District. Originally home to Algonquin peoples and Delaware Tribes the valley become a mostly non-indigenous settlement after the 1830's Trail of Tears forced many of the natives out.
In 1857 the completion of the Iron Mountain Railroad meant easier movement of iron ore and lead from the valley's bustling mines.
In 1858 the town sealed its incorporated status with a post office.
In 1864, during the Civil War, the Union manned Ft. Davidson in Pilot Knob hosted the Battle of Pilot Knob which proved to be a key victory for the Union ensuring the continued hold on metal transportation.
The valley remained predictably calm for much of its history after the civil war until in 2009 an previously uncategorized storm blew through from Kansas. Now classified as a "Super Derecho", the storm traveled more than 1000 miles in 24 hours and at its peak boasted straight-line winds of 80-100 mph with a collection of 38 confirmed tornadoes.
A year later the tourist attraction and local favorite Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park was nearly wiped off the map after the uphill Taum Sauk reservoir dam broke and sent 1.3 billion gallons of water through the heart of the park. At just 20 minutes down the road, the park fueled much of the valley's tourist economy. After the wreckage many businesses felt the impact of the lull in traffic to the park.
Fast forward to 2019 and Johnson's Shut-In's park is rebuilt and reopened to the public thanks to a hefty settlement from AmerenUE - owner of the dam, Which brings us full circle and explains how our crew ended up here. Described in the settlement was that funds be reinvested in the health of the valley's tourism. Thanks to a little help from some bike friends from St. Louis with ties to the valley a portion of the settlement matched by funds raised by the community was earmarked for a bike park on the grounds of one of the old mining sites. Who would have thought that thanks to a dam breaking a crew of bike-loving dirtbags would be hauling machinery back up a hill that was once mined by pick-axe and mule?