Activities for kids

Activities for kids

FORT BELLE FONTAINE

Fort Belle Fontaine was the first U.S. military post in the Louisiana Territory. It was established in 1805. Lewis and Clark’s ‘Corp of Discovery’ spent the final night of their expedition at the Fort in 1806. Military explorer Zebulon Pike also began trips up the Mississippi and along the Missouri Rivers from this site.

  1. Find the Grand Staircase. It was built by Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers during the Great Depression (1936-1940). This, and other limestone structures you will see, were part of a resort built to attract visitors to the area during that time. Walk all the way down one side of the staircase and count the steps. Remember how many! When you come back up later (you’ll be at the bottom for awhile), use the other side, and count again. As you face the river from the top of the staircase, which side has more steps? Left or right?
  2. Where is the Fort? Since the time Lewis and Clark stayed at Fort Belle Fontaine, the Missouri River changed its course. Their encampment site is now underwater! Here’s how you can tell about where it was: Stand at the top of the Grand Staircase and look across the river for a red and white mile marker on the opposite bank (at about 10 o’clock). The Fort was just about in the middle of the river, between you and the mile marker. Find it? Yes or no?
  3. Find Belle Fontaine Spring. The site was named “Beautiful Fountain” after the clear spring that flows from the limestone outcropping along the bank. Here’s how to find it: When you get to the bottom of the Grand Staircase, turn left and walk until you get to a park bench. From there, walk out toward the river. Head for the point. Before you reach the end of the point, look back over your right shoulder toward the bank. If the river isn’t up too high, you will see and hear the spring. Find it? Yes or no?
  4. Walk back to the trail and continue on until you reach the Outdoor Living Room (Picnic Area #5). Also built by the WPA, this is a place where visitors would hang out and relax. A waterfall used to cascade over the back rock wall into the pool below. Bet that looked cool! How many fireplaces are in the Outdoor Living Room?
  5. Keep going along the trail. Your next stop is the bathhouses. These were showers where people could rinse off after swimming. The picture on the left shows what it used to look like. It’s in ruins now. How many pillars are still standing?

Fort Belle Park Directions & Map:

Take Bellefontaine Rd. north until it ends at the park. Missouri Hills Home (state property) and St. Louis Metropolitan Police’s K-9 training facility are also located in the park, so you’ll have to check in at the guard shack before you enter.

For a Map of Fort Belle Fontaine Park, click on this website:
http://www.stlouisco.com/parks/trailmaps/trail-ftbelle.pdf