Perryville, Missouri, capital of Perry County, is located 75 miles from St. Louis and a little over 150 miles from Springfield, Illinois. Just 7 miles from the Mississippi River, the rolling hills encompass a town with a population of just over 8,000 people. With the river as a backdrop, Perryville and the surrounding area is an outdoor paradise with my kind of adventures — easily accessible ones! I have made several visits over the last two years. The first visit was hosted by Visit Perry County Missouri.
1. National Shrine Of Our Lady Of The Miraculous Medal Rosary Walk
Art, faith, and beauty all meet in the one-mile Rosary walk, a wonderful walkway in the shape of a rosary, which is located next to the Saint Mary’s of the Barren’s Church. The church here is the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal and was built in 1929. The church is open to tour, but for outdoor activity, check out the Rosary Walk.
Whatever your faith affiliation, the Rosary Walk is a welcome trail arranged in the formation of the rosary. There is a recently restored grotto that was built over 100 years ago, and one of my favorite sights was the circle of Mary of the Medallion statues from around the world. I particularly liked the new zinnia field addition behind the circle of Marys. The path is also handicap accessible.
Pro Tip: There is a gift shop with a wonderful selection of religious items.
2. Perry County Courthouse
While in Perryville, you won’t want to miss the Perry County Courthouse and the attractions on the square! The Perry County Courthouse is the centerpiece of the Perryville square. While walking around the courthouse is the outdoor thing to do, if you want to arrange a tour of the beautiful Perry County Courthouse, you need to call Trish Erzfeld at the Perry County Welcome Center and arrange it ahead of time. With the amazing belltower, the courthouse is well worth a walkthrough! Tours can only be arranged during the week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during business hours.
Besides the courthouse, there is also the gazebo, sundial, town plaza, and numerous boutiques that offer downtown shopping as well.
Pro Tip: While on the square, consider stopping at Mary Jane’s Burgers and Brew for a meal! We loved the food here!
3. Missouri National Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Memorial
A very sobering walk is one along the Missouri Vietnam Memorial. This exact replica of the Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C. offers a chance for those that can’t travel all the way to the nation’s capital to pay their respects to those fallen heroes right here in the Midwest. The wall, created by Jim Eddleman, a farmer who went to war in Vietnam in 1968, is in a former field. Jim promised that if he returned home alive, he would honor those war veterans. He kept his promise by donating his own farmland for the memorial to make this a reality.
Besides the Vietnam Wall, which has 58,218 names engraved in it, there is also a Visitors Center, Military Museum, Honor Flag, and Guardian of Freedom Monument. This is a wonderful place to walk outdoors and reflect.
4. Old Appleton Bridge
This is a wonderful outdoor stop just a short country drive outside of town. The Old Appleton Bridge is the oldest iron truss bridge standing at its original location in Missouri. It was built in 1879 and offers amazing Instagram moments! On the side of the bank is a beautiful waterfall, and it is easy to see there was once a mill located nearby. The Old Appleton Bridge literally bridges two counties with Old Appleton, Cape Girardeau County on one side, and on the other, Perry County.
Pro Tip: There is a public park on the Perry County side!
5. Hadler Shoe Tree
This is in a rural area, so you may want to get directions from the Perry County Welcome Center to find this one-of-a-kind tree! Bring a pair of old shoes to throw up in the tree. The tree is on a road near the farm of the late Willard and Glenda Hadler. The tree began after the Hadlers were on a trip to Nevada. Trish Erzfeld explained to my husband Keith and I on our hosted visit: “They had been on a trip to Nevada where they saw a shoe tree.”
They liked the idea of the tree so well that when they got back, they started throwing their old shoes up in a tree. It soon became a local tradition! Although the Hadlers have passed, the family carries on the tradition and shares information on their Halder Shoe Tree Facebook page.
6. Saxon Lutheran Memorial
A short drive from Perryville, but still in Perry County, is the Saxon Lutheran Memorial. Nestled away in Frohna, Missouri, the Saxon Lutheran Memorial proclaims the life and faith of the Saxon Lutheran immigrants. The site sits on 30 acres and features the log-cabin frame house building that was the home of brothers Wilhelm and Christian Adolf Bergt.
Other structures include a log barn and two additional log buildings. There is also a lot of agricultural history here with a wooden granary and an outdoor museum for farm equipment. Note that the website is not currently up to date; however, Trish Erzfeld of the Perry County Welcome Center said that visitors who want to do an outdoor walking tour should stop by the Welcome Center in Perryville. “You can pick up the Saxon Memorial Walking brochure and take a walking tour,” Trish told us.
Pro Tip: For those interested in Lutheran history, there is also the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum.
7. Tower Rock
Tower Rock, also known as Grand Tower, is a geological formation that is quite an astounding sight. It literally rises up out of the Mississippi River. When we visited, Trish explained the phenomenon and why it is so important. She said, “This is natural limestone and is the only one left of its kind. The others have been blown up and used to rock the roads.”
This has been a landmark and has been noted for many a year. In fact, besides being designated as a National Historic Site, it was mentioned in the journals of the explorers Marquette and Joliet in 1673 as well as Lewis and Clark in 1803. The rock itself is separated from the rest of the area, and Tower Rock is only accessible by boat. Trish told us that boats have to be extremely careful because there is a current that circles around the rock. It is hard to believe when looking at the clear rock sides that — according to the Missouri Department of Conservation website — this huge piece of limestone has a 32-acre tract of upland oak pine and mixed hardwoods on top!
Pro Tip: On the riverbank, there are picnic tables and a lookout to enjoy the view.
8. Quilt Barn Trail
Part of the enjoyment of this area is the rolling hills and country scenery. Keith and I were enthralled by the variety of barn quilts we saw on various visits. We learned that you can go online and obtain a list of the locations of the various barn quilts and hit the road to view them!
Perryville also has a wonderful American Tractor Museum, if like us, you are into old iron. There are bike trails, and a bike hostel called Caroline’s is available to stay in as well. There are also many historical museums and stops in this area with festivals that will draw you back again and again!
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