Attraction Category: Ozark Highlands
Located within the eastern Ozarks is an area known as the Old Lead Belt. This area was the nation’s major source of lead metal for more than 60 years; it is part of the great Southeast Missouri lead district, the premier lead mining district of the world. Serious small-scale mining for lead began in Southeast Missouri about 1720. A large demand for lead in the late 19th century brought major corporate enterprises to the Old Lead Belt. More than 1,000 miles of abandoned multilevel mine tunnels, with 300 miles of underground mainline railroad tracks are testimony to 108 years of persistent mining operations in this area. St. Joseph Lead Co. dominated ore production and became the heart of the Old Lead Belt, continuing operations in this district until 1972. In 1975, the company donated the 25 buildings of their largest mine-mill complex and the surrounding land to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. These properties became Missouri Mines State Historic Site and St. Joe State Park. The 19,000 square-foot mine-mill powerhouse has been developed into a large museum that interprets Missouri’s mining history and displays old mining machinery and an outstanding mineral collection. Related books, minerals and mineral jewelry are sold in the museum shop.