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Open Pit Mining and Rail Bridge, Rockwood Reservation, February 2020

I finally had the chance to go looking for the open pit clay mine I had seen in a historic photo at the Rockwoods Reservation visitors’ center. I found the piers for the narrow gauge railroad that had accessed the eastern open pit mine. As I had read, the cast concrete was created out of drainage pipes. Perhaps a bit crude, but they are still standing after a century.

Ah, the old “bag o’ concrete” building blocks! Apparently this is a camping site now of some sort, and this staircase allows access up to a flat area where I found remnants of a campfire.

But then the terrain up over the lip of the hill changes dramatically, and it is obvious that it is not natural, and it appears to be scooped out by humans, as can be seen in the old photo. I do not know if that old photo is from the west or east open pit mine.

In the photo below, off in the distance through the trees, you can see how the land drops off a steep incline, like a cliff, which I believe is the edge of the pit.

There is a huge amount of lichen or moss growing in the area, which I found strange, though I am not expert on the flora.

Even more strangely, there is a strain of lichen/moss than is a strange aqua in color, matching some of the gravelly soil that seemed to be brought tot he surface. The trees are coated with this aqua color, giving the whole area an alien appearance.

The terrain is scarred by gravel and other material that prevents the growth of plant life.

Due to the pit not having a natural outlet, those same drainpipes used for the bridge piers are used for their intended purpose, draining water from the mine.

There is a large scar through the hill, as can be seen below.

Then I finally reached the pit, which is a strange swampy quagmire of aqua green trees and milky white water, no doubt affected by lime in the area.

I did not see any wildlife, strangely enough.

Further to the west, the pit had a pool of stagnant water with little of the reeds growing to the east. It is a fascinating example of how nature returns to an area that has been heavily altered by humans, including the removal of topsoil as well as dozens of feet of the clay below. It would be interesting to see the area in fifty years from now. And to think, the clay and lime brought out of this pit went to the building of St. Louis.

Please join me Wednesday, March 4, 2020 at 7:00 PM at the Missouri History Museum for my lecture on my latest research into Adam Lemp’s development of the cave property on Cherokee Street in the early 1860s, with new discoveries from historic maps, business contracts and examination of the lagering cellars under the brewery. Admission is free.

One Comment

  1. I like how you showed the old historical photo in the previous post and then followed up with what it looks like today. Hope to see more of this approach in the future.

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