As mentioned before, the Meramec Valley in western St. Louis County is an isolated, but history filled region that remains largely unspoiled due to the creation of Castlewood State Park and other subsidiary trails and county parks.
What is fascinating about the area, however, is that it was once the site of much more human habitation in the two hundred years since the beginning of European settlement. In particular, there were gravel dredging operations in the area, as well as the famous speakeasies and clubs on the bluffs high above the river. Unbeknownst to many people is the existence of an Antebellum farm house on the eastern edge of St. Paul, now within the boundaries of the state park. I spent most of Sunday afternoon hiking the trails to gain a legal look at the old house. It’s easily reachable if you cut across private property, but I am an upstanding citizen who doesn’t trespass.
After two hours of searching, I caught this view below of the old Kaes House across the railroad right-of-way. I didn’t cross over the train tracks because the next door neighbors (who will call the cops on you) were out in their yard. So if you want to see great pictures of this lost piece of history click here, at the website of a former resident of the house. The western half of Castlewood is extremely isolated now; the state realized that the previous access trail to the western part crosses railroad property. You cannot legally get to the Stinging Nettle Loop or the Cedar Bluff Trail from Kiefer Creek Road.
I had a little energy left and went back to Sherman Beach County Park where I parked my car. It’s unbelievable how low the Meramec River is; this photo of the train trestle at St. Paul was taken from two-thirds of the way across the river’s channel.
Likewise, I took this stunning picture of the valley without getting my feet wet in the middle of the river. It’s been dry for a while, because land plants were sprouting in the middle of the riverbed.
It’s a shame that the Kaes House can’t be opened to the public in some form, even if just for a bed-and-breakfast. I think the best option would be to renovate and rent out the house to a private citizen; many Missouri state parks have people living in them. A museum, I think, wouldn’t really be viable down in such an isolated area. It’s been stabilized, so it’s in no danger of collapse, but the state needs to come up with a more viable solution than the status quo.
Update: I went back and found the Kaes House again in late 2015.