Piney Creek Wilderness
Piney Creek Wilderness from the top of the Pineview Fire Tower
Piney Creek Wilderness is an 8,184-acre property in the Ava Ranger District of Mark Twain National Forest. Unlike most other areas of the forest, The Piney Creek Wilderness area wasn't logged until the late 1800's. Then the railroads needed railroad ties and the countryside was clearcut. Farmers arrived and homesteaded most of the region. Lucky for the folks who homesteaded the Piney creek area, strawberries and tomatoes grew very well along the ridgetops. That however, didn't stop the area from slowly declining and being abandoned during and after the Great Depression. The last family left Piney Creek in the early 1950's. The area was included into Mark Twain National Forest and became a designated wilderness area in 1980.
Piney Creek, namesake of the wilderness, is a 5-mile stream wholly contained within the wilderness. Most other waterflows drain into it and it drains into Table Rock Lake in the heart of the wilderness. The elevation variation across the wilderness is only a bit more than 400' but you'll find oak, hickory and shortleaf pine along the ridgetops and ash, elm, buckeye, sycamore and walnut in the many drainages that dissect the area. Wildlife includes white-tailed deer, bobcat, fox, squirrel, rabbit, armadillo, eastern cottonmouth, copperhead and various rattlesnakes.
There are about 13 miles of designated trails in the wilderness area but signeage is almost non-existent. The primary trail runs east-west for about 4 miles along Piney Creek. There are 2 other trails that drop down from Pineview Fire Tower for about 1.5 miles each to Piney Creek. Two other trails head south off the Piney Creek Trail to bring the total mileage to 13.1 miles. Portions of the trails use what's left of old roads. Be careful of an old road looking better than the trail and leading you astray.
Upper photo courtesy of Kale Horton, via Wilderness.net