A few years back, I noticed a table among the vendors at the BDB100 Expo. The gentleman manning the table turned out to be Dirk Merle, and he was promoting a ride called the Pedestal Rocks 40 at Witts Springs. Few folks were familiar with the tiny burg of Witts Springs, but it is on the highland near Richland Creek, a whitewater gem in the heart of the Ozarks, and for many years a destination for me and other serious paddlers who watch the river gauges like investors watch the market.
What Dirk and the community had planned was a forty mile road ride along Highway 16 from Witts Springs to Pedestal Rocks, twenty miles to the west, and back. For those unfamiliar with the area, there are few, if any, flat stretches. The ride was being held in conjunction with a community fundraiser and potluck. I posted about it at the time but did not ride.
The start of last year's road ride. The scenery is spectacular when the fog clears.
That first year, 35 riders showed up, and the ride was declared a success. Word spread that the ride was excellent and that the hospitality was unbeatable. For year 2, the Lick Fork gravel ride was added and 65 riders participated.
Gravel rides are of 15, 30, 45, and 62 miles. There are hills!
By year 3, word was getting out and there were 135 riders, though the weather was cool, drizzly and foggy.
This is year 4 and there is already a big buzz as riders share their experiences and recruit their friends to join them for this unique ride. Lodging is available in the area, though it is scattered. Camping is available at the Witts Springs Community Center, with access to bathrooms and hot showers. There is also primitive camping a few miles away at Richland Creek.
I know that a group has rented a large nearby lodge and there may still be an opportunity to get in on that. PM me if interested and I'll put you in touch with the queen of that operation.
While the road ride is hilly, don't let that intimidate you. Most of the ramps are of moderate grade as Highway 16 follows a ridge line and few riders seem interested in a "race pace" experience.
There are road rides of 10, 20, 40, 50, and 62-miles, so everybody can play!
The gravel riders reported a slightly different experience. The 62-mile route goes down to Richland Creek and includes some 7000 feet of climbing. Most riders chose the 30-mile course last year and I would guess that most rode mountain bikes, so don't let lack of a gravel-specific bike be an impediment.
The folks of Witts Springs host a community potluck Saturday evening and it is amazing!! I think most people were really surprised and the warmth and the extent of the hospitality. The locals are genuinely glad to have us visit and it shows.
Unlike last year, this fall is promising to be a colorful one, and there is no better way to see it than from your bike on the Ozark Plateau. I just hope we have clear weather so that we can truly enjoy the rare scenery.
In addition to the ride, you are in the heart of Buffalo River Country, so there are opportunities to hike, float, or paddle whitewater. Richland Creek requires advanced boating skills, but hiking along Richland and Falling Water Creeks is outstanding.
Check out the website link for more details.