Head to southern Missouri to see one of the state's natural wonders
When Hellmuth Dwyer was a little girl, she and her four brothers spent every summer on a farm in Shannon County, deep in the heart of the Ozarks. Leaving the city streets of St. Louis behind, they morphed into country kids—riding ponies, swimming in the creek, runningbarefoot, fishing, and learning to love nature and the outdoors.
Today Mary and her husband, Dr. Joseph Dwyer, live on that farm, and Mary is as passionate about the Ozarks as she ever was—maybe more so. She has spent the last three years transforming the farm into a vacation getaway and is now ready to greet guests and share the wonders of Wild Creeks at Sinking Creek Farms.
“This is not a resort, and it’s not a hotel,” says Mary. “It’s an escape to the farm, thefarm that I love and my family loves. We’re hoping that others will love it, too.”
Nestled deep in the hills and hollers of the Ozark Mountains between Salem and Eminence off Highway A, the 2,500-plus acres of Wild Creeks offer visitors a chance to truly get away from it all. Three renovated farmhouses provide comfortable lodgings with all the modern conveniences amid a setting that differs little from what early settlers saw. “This is a working hay farm,” says Mary, “but the woods, hills, caves, creeks, and springs are pure Ozarks.”
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
“We want people to come here and enjoy the farm the way Mother and Daddy did,” says Mary, referring to her late parents, George and Mimi Hellmuth. “Daddy just loved the farm. He was classically educated and traveled the world, but he thought this was the most beautiful place on earth.” George bought the first 80 acres along
Sinking Creek in the early 1950s, and then just kept buying neighboring farms as they came up for sale. After both parents passed away, the kids kept the farm, dividing it up among themselves.
Brother Daniel and his wife, Nicola Macpherson, own and operate Ozark Forest Mushrooms on one section of the property. They also have a vacation rental house, in addition to the ones operated by Mary. Brothers Nicholas and George each own parcels of land, and brother Ted comes to visit often. The love of the farm is being passed down to the new generation. Mary’s five children and seven grandchildren enjoy coming to the farm, just as she did when she was a child. And now the public can come and enjoy it, too.
STAR ATTRACTION: NATURAL TUNNEL
The farm’s main attraction is The Sinks, a natural geological wonder that has beenoff-limits to the public since 1980. As the only navigable natural tunnel in Missouri, it is about 200 feet long, 30 feet wide, and, depending on the water level, offers just enough clearance for a kayak or canoe to float through—although in you may need to duck to keep from hitting your head on the ceiling. On either end of the tunnel is a swimming hole and picnic area.
Sinking Creek flows through the tunnel and was the force responsible for the tunnel’s creation many eons ago. The creek, a crystal clear, spring-fed Ozarks stream, gradually wore away a crevice, enlarging it to cavern dimensions and creating the tunnel, thereby shortening its previous course by more than one-half mile.
Depending on which map you use, the creek may be spelled Sinking or Sinkin, the latter spelling probably simply dropping the “g.” Around the bend from The Sinks is the famed Blue Hole, a swimming hole that has tempted generations of kids with its cool waters on hot summer afternoons.