Long before Route 66 ran through Pulaski County, Mastodons roamed south central Missouri. Native Americans used the trail to hunt animals. White settlers used the route to travel to Springfield and St. Louis. In the early 1900s, it was a gravel road. Then, in the mid-1920s, Route 66 was built to run from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, a distance of more than 2,400 miles. About 300 miles of Route 66 runs through Missouri, including 33 miles in Pulaski County.
Missouri is one of eight states that make up the “Mother Road.” Route 66 runs through Waynesville’s main street. The city of more than 4,000 people is the seat of Pulaski County. Nearby St. Robert is also on the highway. A rock alongside a hill between the two cities has been painted to look like a frog. It’s been named W.H.Croaker (Waynesville Hill). The rock was the first sign that we were on Route 66.
Visitors can drive an auto tour offered by the county. A brochure includes key points of interest. It’s recommended to plan 90 minutes for the drive. We took a little longer (no surprise there. We’re the folks who turned a four-hour round trip lakeshore drive into a 14-hour day trip).
Old and new attractions highlight the tour. Waynesville is home to an arch bridge constructed in 1923, before Route 66 was created. The Roubidoux Bridge crosses the Roubidoux Creek.
The bridge is on the edge of Laughlin Park, which also includes the “Trail of Tears” National Historic Trail. The park was the site of an encampment when Native Americans were forcibly marched from their homes in the southeastern United States to present-day Oklahoma.
St. Robert’s portion of Route 66 includes the George Read Park. In the old days of the highway, people would stop and enjoy eating their lunch at the park. Today, a tank is on display as a tribute to the men and women of the area who served in the United States’ military.
A year-old attraction is just outside of St. Robert. The attraction was named as an attempt at humor. Uranus, Missouri, is not a town, but an attraction. The owner of the attraction also owns a burlesque club on site. Signs and souvenir T-shirts play off a childish interpretation of Uranus. It apparently does well, because we weren’t the only tourists checking out the site. The parking lot had several vehicles parked and people roaming with cameras in hand.
The spot had several smaller attractions, including a food trailer surrounded by life-sized dinosaur figures. A chicken wing restaurant is located next door to the burlesque club. The main attraction is the fudge shop. Here, you can buy candy and souvenirs, including T-shirts with cute sayings.
One thing I liked about visiting Uranus, fishing folks can buy live bait from a vending machine. Ah, the things you see on Route 66.
Devil’s Elbow has long been a popular attraction on Pulaski County’s portion of Route 66. We stopped on top of a hill and looked over an old stone wall, taking in a beautiful view of the Ozark Mountains. Below, a trestle bridge provided trains a route over the Big Piney River.
As we drove farther along Route 66, we crossed the Devil’s Elbow Bridge, which also crosses the Big Piney River. Built in 1923, Devil’s Elbow got its name after lumberjacks lamented a large boulder that landed in the river. They supposedly claimed it was put there by the Devil.
Next to the truss bridge is the Devil’s Elbow Inn. It was once the site of the Munger-Moss Sandwich Shop. The Inn has continued the Munger-Moss tradition of serving good barbecue. Visitors to the Devil’s Elbow Inn leave some “unique” items that currently hang above the pool table.
A few miles outside Waynesville stands the old Gascozark Café building. Long abandoned, volunteers gained the owner’s permission to clean up the property. Today, the café’s façade is a great photo op spot.
Back in Waynesville, Route 66 attractions include the Old Stagecoach Stop and the Old Courthouse. The stagecoach building is the oldest Civil War-era public building in the city. The Old Courthouse, built in 1903, was the county’s fourth one. The earlier ones were destroyed in fires. The courthouse is now the Pulaski County Museum.
Lisa is a huge fan of Route 66, so our tour was right up her alley. We enjoyed the drive. Pulaski County has so much natural beauty. If you’re a fan of history, pop culture or just a beautiful drive, then Route 66 in Pulaski County needs to be on your bucket list.