The thousands upon thousands of people who come to McDonald County, Mo., each summer are well aware of what a not-so-hidden treasure the area’s streams are.
Canoeing, rafting, kayaking and fishing are enjoyed from one end of the county to the other. Big Sugar and Little Sugar creeks join in Pineville to form the Elk River. Indian Creek flows into the river between Lanagan and Noel, making that section of the river the most popular.
But campgrounds and outfitters can be found from the Powell area in eastern McDonald County to near the Missouri-Oklahoma line, where the Elk spills into Grand Lake.
The rivers offer spectacular views of bluff-topped forests of natural beauty. But there are many other things for visitors to take in.
Big Sugar Creek State Park is a 2,000-acre nature area with a rugged landscape of rare shrubs and trees not so common these days in Missouri. Visitors can find solitude in hiking through shady, upland woodlands and sunny, grassy glades while passing near numerous rock ledges. Notable plants such as the Ozark chinquapin tree and low prickly pear cactus can be found, along with animals such as armadillos and birds like scarlet tanagers.
The county has recently had two structures placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Powell Bridge over Big Sugar Creek has been saved from destruction by a small group of dedicated volunteers. The old steel trestle bridge is not far from the home of Albert E. Brumley, writer of gospel songs including “I’ll Fly Away” and
“Turn Your Radio On.”
The old McDonald County Courthouse on the square in Pineville is being converted to a museum by the McDonald County Historical Society. The building was placed on the National Register earlier this year.
The courthouse was used in the filming of the 1939 movie Jesse James, starring Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda. The filming of the movie is remembered each August with a four-day celebration hosted by the Pineville Fire Department. The event includes music, a carnival, a parade and a barbecue-chicken dinner.
Many of the cities in McDonald County have events similar to Pineville’s Jesse James Days. There is Winterfest each November in Anderson, and Southwest City is home to the 3rd of July celebration, which this year celebrated its 45th anniversary.
The county also is home to many caves, several that were once opened as tourist attractions. But the only one remaining open is Bluff Dwellers Cavern, on U.S. 59 south of Noel. The cave was discovered in 1925 by Arthur Browning and is still operated Browning family members.
The county’s economic development was greatly aided by the 2005 opening of a Walmart Supercenter on U.S. 71 near the Missouri-Arkansas line. The store became the centerpiece for a retail center that now includes two strip malls, two national fast food restaurants, an auto dealership and a bank.
Crowder College is moving forward with building a McDonald County campus in the Jane area. Construction is expected to begin soon, but until that happens, the school has remodeled a former lumber yard and hardware store in Pineville to be used for nursing classes.