Cliff Cave County Park

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Last month, the new additions to Cliff Cave County Park, in Oakville, officially opened to the public, including 2 miles of trail extension, connectors and bridges to improve access, and a scenic overlook of the Mississippi River (partial view from pictured above). All of this was a project of Great Rivers Greenway, which continues to assert itself as a important steward for the outdoors in the metro area.
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We had not yet had a chance to explore it, so KAMP Counselor Jason took sweltering June afternoon (100 degrees at midday) to do just that.
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Cliff Cave County Park is a 500+ acre respite that stretches both along the bluffs and floodplain of the Mississippi River. It's history is fascinating and includes French settlers from the time of St. Louis' founding, as well as, time spent as a brewery, wine cellar and saloon, respectively. Of course, this all owes back to the Park's namesake, a 4000 ft long cave system that is the second largest in a County known for its caves (St. Louis County has over 100 known caves). Today, the cave entrance is closed to the public as a preservation effort for the various species of bat that dwell there. The new paved access, that eventually winds its way up to the bluff top, extends a bridge across the stream that originates in the cave. Previously, hiking up this stream bed was one of the easier ways to access the cave entrance, but that is difficult to do now, so instead, Jason had to access this by descending from higher elevation. 
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NOTE: Though there are no official trails down to the Cave, there is clearly a path that most people take that is just east/southeast of the Trailhead for Spring Valley Trail. Please use this existing path if you want to see the Cave for yourself.
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There are over 10 miles of trails at Cliff Cave Park, most of it paved. As for the routes that are not paved, those include the Spring Valley Trails (an inner and an outer loop) at 4.2 miles and River Bluff Trail at 1 mile. Jason hiked each to get a sense of the improvements that have been made since his last visit. The paths are pretty easygoing and are very well-maintained and marked (especially the Spring Valley Trails). 
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getting moody shots like this is easy here, even at midday
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As evidenced in the images above, foliage is pretty thick along the trails and passage is pretty tight for more than one person going in opposite directions. I mention this because Cliff Cave County Park is a popular spot for cyclists, and you are apt to encounter someone on two wheels at some point along the dirt  trails. This is for good reason, as many of the improvements that were made were designed with cyclists in mind. Unfortunately, not all cyclists mind the rules of trail etiquette, as Jason discovered when an off-roader doing laps on the Spring Valley Trails caused him to leap off the trail on several occasions (all while never reducing speed and fully expecting this reaction of a hiker). At one point, Jason was trying to photograph a three-toed box turtle on the trail, when the cyclist came charging down the path, leaving him just enough time to grab the turtle (around a curve, it would been hit for sure) and jump into the grass.
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We both enjoy mountain biking, and have a lot of respect and appreciation for cyclists who do it more often. Often times, we'll step off the path on a combined route to allow a bicycle rider to pass for this reason, but rude riders are another story. For what it's worth, here is a link to Gateway Off-Road Cyclists' rules of the trail page, which offers codes of conduct outlined by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. The shorthand is that bicyclists always yield to pedestrians. Period. Yes, it can be annoying sometimes, but you don't want to hurt yourself or someone else by plowing into somebody, who may or may not even know that you are there. Plus, let's face it, you are both enjoying nature in your own way, and who is anyone to take away another's enjoyment of nature (so long as that enjoyment does not endanger themselves, others, wildlife or the environment)?
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No matter your experience level, Cliff Cave County Park is a fun outing for a multitude of outdoor enthusiasts, and the improvements made by Great Rivers Greenway only enhances the truth of that statement. Missouri gets overlooked so often as a spot for outdoor adventure, and this is a shame given our excellent natural resources. Did you know that our state has more State Parks than Colorado? And that doesn't even touch on a place like Cliff Cave, since it is managed by St. Louis County Parks, which offers nearly 150 miles of pathway in 29 distinct Parks with trails, all within the St. Louis Metropolitan Area. So 'take a hike'- what's stopping you?    
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