Irish Wilderness


Area Status: Open
Creek within the Irish Wilderness Area

The 16,277-acre Irish Wilderness is a dense forest of oaks and hickory that was designated in 1984. Here you'll find sinkholes, disappearing streams that reappear downstream, and Whites Creek Cave, (please note that Whites Creek Cave is closed to the public).

Wilderness Area History

In the mid 1800’s a Catholic priest dreamed of a place where Irish immigrants could escape the oppression of urban life in St. Louis. In this wild area of the Ozarks, Father Hogan established a settlement that would forever bear their name, Irish Wilderness. The Irish Wilderness, caught in the middle of the Civil War, became a “no man’s land” and was raided by both Union and Confederate troops as well as bushwhackers (highwaymen). It is not certain what happened to Father Hogan’s Irish immigrants, but after the war they were gone.

After the Civil War the area was logged, farmed and grazed until it couldn’t support vegetation before being abandoned. The land was purchased by the USDA Forest Service when the Mark Twain was created. During the 1930’s it was replanted by the CCC.

Terrain and Topography

This area has karst topography, with many sinkholes, caves, sinks and seeps. Terrain ranges from about 1,100 feet to a little over 2,000 feet across the wilderness. Located within the wilderness are Fiddler and Bliss Springs, off the Whites Creek Trail. There are short spur trails that lead to each of them.

The area is generally rolling hills with steeper bluffs located near the Eleven Point Wild and Scenic River. Whites Creek flows through the wilderness and flows year-round and flows into the Eleven Point River.

Trails

The major way of travel within the Irish Wilderness is the 18.6 mile Whites Creek Trail.

Wilderness Environment

Visitors may see snakes, bear, deer and other typical Ozark wildlife. This area is known for having a high concentration of bear. Please ensure that when visiting you are being Bear Aware.

As you hike through these wilds, you may encounter typical Ozark wildlife: deer, squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, fox, bobcat, coyote, turkey, vulture, hawk, and owl. Watch your step lest you disturb a sleeping copperhead, rattlesnake, or eastern cottonmouth.

Within the wilderness you will see a variety of trees, including oak, hickory, shortleaf pine, dogwood, persimmon, and sassafras.

Maps and Brochures

At a Glance

Area Amenities: Tent camping,Parking
Fees: There are no fees at any trailheads or access points for the Wilderness.
Permit Info: Commercial use will not be permitted. Special uses will not be permitted, except for access to surrounded private property.
Open Season: January - December
Usage: Light
Restrictions: In the Wilderness
  • No camping within 100 feet of an established trail, stream, body of water, cave, rock, shelter, other occupied campsites or other restricted camping areas.  
  • No building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, or stove fire within 100 feet of an established trail.
  • No groups larger than 10 people
  • No possessing or using a bicycle, wagon, cart, or other mechanized or motorized vehicle.
  • No riding, hitching, tethering, or hobbling a horse or other saddle or pack animal in violation of posted instructions.
  • Picketing horses or mules within 100 feet of water or trail is prohibited.
  • No storing equipment, personal property, or supplies.
  • No disposing of debris, garbage, or other waste
  • Practice Leave No Trace outdoor ethics
  • Whites Creek Cave is closed to protect Indiana Bats
Closest Towns: Doniphan, Van Buren
Water: None
Restroom: None
Operated By: USDA Forest Service
Information Center: Eleven Point Ranger District
Email | Phone and Address

General Information

Directions:

There are two trailheads to access the Wilderness and Whites Creek Trail. Brawley Pond Trailhead is on the northern end of the wilderness and Camp Five Pond Trailhead is on the northeastern portion of the wilderness.

The southern portion of the wilderness can be accessed via boat/canoe/kayak from Whites Creek Float Camp on the Eleven Point Wild and Scenic River. There is no parking or vehicle access at Whites Creek Float Camp.

Camp Five Trailhead

From Van Buren

  • Take US 60 west for 10 miles
  • Turn left to go south on Highway J
  • Drive about 16 miles south and the trail head road is on the right.

Brawley Pond Trailhead

From Van Buren

  • Take US 60 west for 10 miles
  • Turn left to go south on Highway J and drive about 10 miles south and turn right on Highway K.
  • Take Highway K for 2.8 miles
  • Turn right onto County Road 158 for .3 miles
  • Turn left onto County Road 160 for .2 miles.
  • At the 90 degree turn right to stay on County Road 160 for 1/10 of a mile
  • Turn left onto County Road 163 for .4 miles and the trailhead will be on the right

General Notes:

The Ozark climate is mild enough to make Wilderness visits feasible throughout the year, as long as visitors bring proper gear. When possible, take advantage of this opportunity and plan your 'visit outside the peak spring and fall use seasons.

Private Property – there is a lot of private property around the wilderness. Please be aware of where you are traveling.

Safety Information

Wilderness has inherent dangers, and is a primitive setting where you meet nature on its own terms.

  • Bring a map and compass, and first aid kit.
  • During temperate months, be prepared for biting insects, poison ivy and high temperatures.
  • Be advised of hunting seasons.
  • Avoid using the trail during excessively wet periods.
  • Be sure to tell someone your plans,
  • Don’t hike the wilderness alone and
  • Carry extra supplies so you are prepared to take care of yourself in case you get lost, injured, or delayed.
  • The universal distress signal is  three of anything: shots, shouts, smokes, whistles.
  • Be prepared to sanitize water for drinking

For more safety tips visit the Safety section of the website.

Maps

Quadrangle maps for this wilderness are: Wilderness, Riverton, and small sections in Handy and Bardley. The Whites Creek Trail is entirely in the Wilderness and Riverton maps.

They are available for sale at Forest Service Offices or on the USGS Website.

 


Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

Activities

Dispersed Camping

Recreation areas with activity Dispersed Camping:

Protect the solitude; seek out campsites in the Wilderness that are out of sight and sound of trails and other camps. When sharing an area keep a low profile and maintain the solitude.

Dispersed camping is the term used for free camping anywhere in the National Forest OUTSIDE of a designated campground.

Dispersed camping means there are no toilets, no structures, no trash cans, no treated water, and no fire grates.

There are extra responsibilities required for this type of camp. It's a must to educate yourself before you try it, but we hope the adventure of dispersed camping in the Mark Twain National Forest calls to you!

  1. Pick a Campsite and follow the Leave No Trace Principles
  2. Camp 100 feet away from trails and water sources.
  3. Treat any water found in the area before consuming it.
  4. Human waste (Feces) must be buried at least 6 inches deep and covered.
  5. Pack out all of your garbage.

For more information on Dispersed Camping visit our dispersed camping page which has information on picking a campsite, how to protect water quality, and campfires!

Difficulty Level: Easy

Day Hiking

Recreation areas with activity Day Hiking:

Visiting the Wilderness is a primitive experience: trails are not well marked, and there are no bridges crossing streams.

Be aware of natural hazards that may occur within the Wilderness, and take precaution to maintain your safety.

We recommend you download a digital map or obtain a print map before heading into the wilderness.

Whites Creek Trail

The Whites Creek Trail is a 18.6 mile trail within the Irish Wilderness. Trails within the wilderness are not signed or marked, except at junctions.

The major trailhead into the Wilderness is Camp Five Pond located off Highway J.

There are three short spur trails from the main trail at Fiddler Spring, Whites Creek Float Camp, and Bliss Spring. There is also trail access at Brawley Pond Trailhead.

Fire Information None
Elevation desc Varies with area
Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Backpacking

Recreation areas with activity Backpacking:

Visiting the Wilderness is a primitive experience: trails are not well marked, and there are no bridges crossing streams.

Be aware of natural hazards that may occur within the Wilderness, and take precaution to maintain your safety.

We recommend you download a digital map or obtain a print map before heading into the wilderness.

Whites Creek Trail

The Whites Creek Trail is a 18.6 mile trail within the Irish Wilderness. Trails within the wilderness are not signed or marked, except at junctions.

The major trailhead into the Wilderness is Camp Five Pond located off Highway J.

There are three short spur trails from the main trail at Fiddler Spring, Whites Creek Float Camp, and Bliss Spring. There is also trail access at Brawley Pond Trailhead.

Fire Information No
Elevation desc Varies with area

Horse Camping

Recreation areas with activity Horse Camping:

Dispersed camping is allowed within the wilderness.

Whites Creek Trail

The Whites Creek Trail is a 18.6 mile trail within the Irish Wilderness. Trails within the wilderness are not signed or marked, except at junctions. This trail can be moderately challenging and advanced hikers will enjoy hiking this trail through the wilderness. Whites Creek Trail is also a popular destination for equestrian use.

Horse Riding

Recreation areas with activity Horse Riding:

Visiting the Wilderness is a primitive experience: trails are not well marked, and there are no bridges crossing streams.

Be aware of natural hazards that may occur within the Wilderness, and take precaution to maintain your safety.

We recommend you download a digital map or obtain a print map before heading into the wilderness.

Whites Creek Trail

The Whites Creek Trail is a 18.6 mile trail within the Irish Wilderness. Trails within the wilderness are not signed or marked, except at junctions.

The major trailhead into the Wilderness is Camp Five Pond located off Highway J.

There are three short spur trails from the main trail at Fiddler Spring, Whites Creek Float Camp, and Bliss Spring. There is also trail access at Brawley Pond Trailhead.

Viewing Scenery

Recreation areas with activity Viewing Scenery:

Eleven Point Wild and Scenic River

The Eleven Point National Wild and Scenic River meanders through the picturesque Ozark hills of southern Missouri. Its course is cut in the shadows of steep bluffs, through sloping forested valleys, and low-lying riparian ecosystems. Barely more than a small stream at its upper reaches near Thomasville, it gains considerable width and depth as its proceeds south-eastward.

Access to the Irish Wilderness from the Eleven Point Wild and Scenic River is from Whites Creek Float Camp, a short spur trail will connect you to the Whites Creek Trail, located within the wilderness.

Amenities

Tent camping: Yes
Parking: Brawley Pond Trailhead: 4 vehicles; Camp Five Pond Trailhead: 12 vehicles

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Location

 
  Area/Length : 
16,227 acres

  Latitude : 
36.742238

  Longitude : 
-91.2046827

  Elevation : 
500-850