Mark Twain National Forest

Devil's Backbone Wilderness
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The Devil's Backbone Wilderness is part of the Willow Springs Ranger District. This Wilderness, taking its name from a long narrow ridge known to the early settlers as Devil's Backbone, is a unique blend of Missouri Ozark flora and fauna, characterized by rugged topography, springs, and the North Fork River. With 6,595 acres inside the Wilderness boundary, this is an ideal area for day hiking or overnight backpacking. Three designated trailheads (Raccoon Hollow, McGarr Ridge, and Collins Ridge), plus access at the Blue Springs parking area in the North Fork Recreation Area provide entry into the wilderness. There are thirteen miles of maintained trails.

Elevations range from 1,020 feet to 680 feet along the North Fork of the White River, a high quality spring-fed Ozark stream. Blue Spring, Amber Spring, and McGarr Spring provide water to the river year-round.

The forest is dominated by a variety of oaks, hickory, and shortleaf pine. Dogwood, redbud, and wild azaleas give the wilderness a wild burst of color in the spring. Fall isn't to be outdone when the oaks, sweet gum, and sugar maple put on a show of yellows, oranges, and reds. Scattered limestone glades and other openings provide some of the more favorable places to view wildlife. White-tailed deer, gray squirrel, raccoon, coyote, red and gray fox, bobcat, and striped skunk are some of the mammals native to the area. Wild turkey, red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, bald eagle, turkey vulture, great blue heron, pileated woodpecker, and various songbirds can be seen. Among the reptiles common to the area are two poisonous snakes, the copperhead and eastern timber rattler.

North Fork Recreation Area, locally known as Hammon Camp, adjoins the north edge of the wilderness and provides quality camping and picnic opportunities. There is a designated canoe launch in this Recreation Area.

While local climate allows outdoor use year-round, fall and spring are the most pleasant. Not surprisingly, more people are out on the trails at that time. No permit is required for enjoying the wilderness; however, there are registration boxes at each of the trailheads and the Forest Service asks that you take a minute at the beginning of your hike to provide the requested information.

Devil's Backbone is accessible from West Plains via CC Highway, approximately 15 miles west of the US Highway 63 junction.

Devils Backbone Trail


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 25 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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