Located between Route 66 icons John’s Modern Cabins (Phelps County) and Munger Moss Motel (Laclede County), Pulaski County, Missouri, has more than its fair share of Mother Road landmarks.
No other Highway in the history of the United States is as celebrated as Route 66. It is a throwback to a simpler time, when the idea of extended traveling was still a novelty. If you’re traveling the 300 miles of the Mother Road that spans ten counties in Missouri, it means tearing a page out of history as you travel through quaint towns that provide glimpses to, and even memories of, a younger America.
The stretch of Route 66 that winds through Pulaski County is lush with brilliant scenery and breathtaking landscapes. Rivers cut through limestone and dolomite rock leaving dramatic bluffs and fertile valleys. The 200 foot tall bluffs visible in the Devils Elbow area were once described as being one of the “seven scenic wonders of Missouri” in literature from the Missouri Planning Commission. Jack D. Rittenhouse described one of Pulaski County’s segments as “one of the most beautiful sections of the Ozarks” in his Guide Book To Highway 66.
Following the road in Pulaski County you will visit cities whose heyday was years ago, as well as cities just finding their roots. The tour will captivate travelers as they twist along the 30+ miles of historic road in our area.
The highway through Pulaski County holds particular appeal for modern-day travelers, with its blend of historic landmarks and natural preservation. Scenic overlooks and rivers are interspersed with historic buildings. Still visible is the historic Hooker Church and Graveyard, which dates back to the late 1800’s. As you travel through Hooker Cut, take in the popular postcard landscape that was once rumored to be the deepest road cut in America. Rittenhouse described it as “an engineering triumph and truly a joy to the traveler”.
Travel through the beautiful hamlet of Devils Elbow, which was bypassed in the 1940’s when Highway 66 was realigned, and find out why lumberjacks cried in frustration at a large boulder lodged in the sharpest bend in the Big Piney River. They reasoned the boulder could only have been put there by the devil. Many landmarks of the once popular fishing & canoeing resort community still stand. Today’s visitors can still cross the Big Piney River on the original 1923 Devils Elbow truss bridge, sign the visitor register at Shelden’s Market & Post Office, or bend your Elbow at the world famous Elbow Inn Bar & BBQ. Housed in the original Munger-Moss Sandwich Shop this stop has been a travelers favorite for mouth watering barbecue since the late 1930’s. While in the Devils Elbow /Grandview area make sure to drive across the 1942 Big Piney River Bridge (an excellent example of a concrete open spandrel arch bridge) and stop at the Scenic Overlook to view the picturesque 1941 United States Army Railroad bridge in the Ozark valley below. Grandview is also known for having some of the best 1943 curbed pavement in Missouri. The half curb was designed to keep autos on the road but, often as not, would tip them over.
In neighboring Saint Robert, travelers can still have a picnic at George M. Reed Roadside Park. This park is the only remaining original roadside park on Route 66 in Missouri. Remnants of three of St. Robert’s Route 66 motels remain, all near the roadside park- Ramada Inn, built in 1959, Ranch Motel that was constructed in the 1940’s and DeVille Motor Inn and Motel dating back to the 1960’s.
Descending into the county seat of Waynesville, watch for Frog Rock overlooking Route 66. Stop by the Old Pulaski County Courthouse Museum, one of two courthouses located along Route 66 in Missouri and while in the neighborhood visit the historic Old Stagecoach Stop that has stood since the 1850’s. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building has served as a stagecoach stop, private residence, post office, and Civil War hospital. Also on the downtown Square is the Rigsby House and, next door, the building that was formerly Rigsby Standard Oil Station. Victory Pub, established in 1942, was once a popular stop for the thirsty traveler. Although the building is now just a memory many locals can tell tales of the tavern as if they were there yesterday. The Roubidoux Bridge crosses the Roubidoux Creek, a scenic tributary to the Gasconade River that was named after French explorer , fur trapper, and founder of St. Joseph, Missouri, Joseph Roubidoux. The stream is still well known for its fishing, especially trout fishing. The former Bell Hotel & Resort has been converted into a funeral home but is still easily recognizable from vintage postcards. Bell’s Sinclair filling station still stands as well, converted into a flower shop. Also in that area is Mallows Market and Bohannon Cafe Garage, built in 1934.
On the western outskirts of Waynesville, in an area called Buckhorn by the locals, is Witmor Farms building. Originally a Nickerson Farms restaurant, this was the second location of the popular roadside eatery chain. Headquartered in Eldon, Missouri, I.J. Nickerson’s restaurants were a spinoff of Stuckey’s Pecan Shoppes. Roy Moorman purchased the restaurant in 1963, and he and his wife Norma served many hungry travelers.
Update: This building was demolished September, 2014.
Closing in on the Laclede County line, Pulaski County’s Route 66 still has treasures to share. Spring Valley Court was established in the late 1920’s and had four rock cabins and a rock shower house. The Gascozark Trading Post & Court, originally Caldwell’s Cafe, also had four cabins. Across the road is the abandoned Gascozark Service Station and Cafe, built in the early 1930’s by Frank A. Jones. This giraffe-rock structure is a fine example of a style of architecture that was popular between 1920 through 1940. Also called slab-rock, many of these giraffe-rock buildings can be seen in Pulaski County, including Piney Beach Cabins, near Hooker, and a mix of residential and commercial examples remain in Waynesville.
For even more points of interest along Pulaski County USA’s Route 66 segments, including turn by turn directions with mileage (in the style of Jack Rittenhouse’s 1946 “A Guide Book To Highway 66″) historical photos and facts contact Pulaski County Tourism Bureau at 877-858-8787 to receive your complimentary Route 66 Historic Auto Tours brochure. Make sure to ask for your FREE Waynesville Walking Tour brochure also. This guide will direct you to points of interest in historic downtown Waynesville, MO.
Pulaski County’s 3,000+ hotel rooms, and 100+ dining options makes us the perfect overnight stop between Saint Louis and Springfield for Route 66 explorers. Plan your trip with our complimentary Official Visitors Guide. Order yours today by calling 877-858-8787 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.