Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway
Alum Cove Recreation Area (AR)
The Alum Cove Natural Bridge Recreation Area is designed primarily for people who enjoy getting close to natural beauty rather than seeking it through the window of an automobile. No cars or other motor vehicles are permitted in the 220-acre area. Any motorized vehicle or mountain bikes must be left at the parking area at the entrance to the trail that leads to the Natural Bridge and points of interest along the bluff line. Along the 1.1 mile trail, benches provide opportunities for short rests amid scenic surroundings.
Visitors can best appreciate the Alum Cove area if they walk the entire length of the trail. In addition to seeing the rock formations along the bluffs, they will pass through stands of hardwoods and view the beautiful American beech in its silver-gray splendor. A number of wild magnolias grow on the north side of the bridge. They are called "cowcumber trees" by the natives.
Outstanding among the many natural attractions of the Ozark National Forest is the huge stone bridge at Alum Cove. The bridge, 130 feet long and 20 feet wide, was carved from rock bluffs by the erosive forces of wind and water acting through eons of time. The arch was actually used as a bridge by early settlers who moved their wagons and livestock across it rather than struggle through the stream during wet weather, and oldtimers recall seeing lumbermen drive loaded log trucks over the natural "roadway" atop the arch during the rainy season.
Water and wind also shaped other interesting rock formations along the bluff line across the cove, including the cave (or "rooms" as they are often called). Native Americans used these rock overhangs for shelter while on extended hunting trips. At one time, free-roaming goats inhabited the caves, giving the formations the local name, "goat houses."
Each season brings its special beauty to Alum Cove. Early wildflowers and flowering trees, including dogwood and redbud, add their color and charm in the spring. Summer brings other wildflowers and the cool, dense shade of the hardwoods in full leaf. Autumn blankets the forests with a variety of color. Even winter has its special attraction, for then the visitor can see clearly many of the rock formations hidden all summer by foliage. In mid-winter, small streams bounding over rocks create many unique ice formations.