Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma: Riding the Cherokee Trail of Tears Part III

Text: James T. Parks • Photography: James T. Parks, Bob Brown

We pick up the Cherokee removal journey in central Missouri: “We travelled about 12 miles to a settlement called Port Royal (believed to be Waynesville by researchers), on the banks of a beautiful stream, named Rubedoo. Here we had a delightful place, on the bank of the river, convenient to wood and water. We employed our kind Nancy, a black woman to wash, and dried our clothes in the evening by the fire.” —Rev. Daniel Butrick, March 12, 1839

This burbling spring is a fitting location for us to begin the final leg of our epic ride along the Cherokee Trail of Tears.

Day 13: Ozark Byways

Bob Brown, riding the green Indian Chief Vintage, and I, on the blue Indian Roadmaster, arrive at Missouri’s historic Roubidoux Spring in September. The encampment history at this location, below a bluff in today’s Laughlin Park, is told via an interpretive tour. Roubidoux Spring, with a daily flow of 37 million gallons of water, made this one of the better locations for Cherokee encampment.

The spring was named after French trapper Joseph Roubidoux. Today, fly fishermen are submerged up to their waists in the cold water trying to hook a brown or rainbow trout. The spring is also a favorite location for another activity that the migrating Cherokee would have found quite incomprehensible: scuba cave diving! At the cave entrance, I peer down through clear rushing water to the black-as-coal opening into a subterranean water world. Hmmm, I think motorcycle touring provides more than enough adventure for me. 

The Northern Route of the Trail of Tears continued southwest from here to Springfield, MO, before turning south into Arkansas. Because Bob has to catch a plane home from Little Rock, AR, the day after tomorrow, our course south begins just west of Waynesville, MO. Oh yeah, I’m also supposed to meet up with Bob’s relief rider in Little Rock, who will be piloting the Indian Chief Vintage over the remainder of the trip … Christa somebody.

Diving deeper into the Ozarks’ rural two-lane roads, we travel back in time at another popular fishin’ hole in Rockbridge, MO. Ice-cold Spring Creek cascades over the dam at historic Rockbridge Mill. This former mill town is now the Rainbow Trout & Game Ranch, which attracts sportsmen and women from far and wide. At the combination post office and restaurant, we enjoy a sumptuous meal of—what else? Freshly caught rainbow trout.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the May/June 2017 back issue.