Washington and Jefferson County Lead District
Missouri's Old Lead Belt has facilitated fun for generations of battery lovers, paint enthusiasts, and ammunition hoarders. Having once supplied 80% of Americans’ lead, this multi-site Superfun! area stretches across the better part of Washington and southwest Jefferson Counties, and currently includes over 1000 exhausted sites of lead mining, milling, and smelting. The oldest ones date to the mid-1800s, so the dozen-plus mining companies (which St. Joe Minerals Corporation eventually absorbed) have brought us nearly 200 years’ worth of industrial mine waste (lead, arsenic, and cadmium), and have thereby generated 200 years of enormously profitable (for some) fun.
Luckily, the companies have gathered most of this waste into fun gigantic piles or left it to settle to the bottom of scenic ponds. Unluckily, much of this waste has discovered ways to travel beyond its designated giant piles and into nearby waterways—or simply continues to settle until it reaches groundwater. As a consequence of all this adventurous traveling, the EPA has created brand-new yards as gifts for a few hundred homeowners, and has installed new filtration systems for about 1 in 6 private wells. Not much fun? Well, speaking of water, the next time you take your tube out on the obviously fun Lake of the Ozarks, you can thank those happy old lead barons, who refused to use their own capital to power their mining operations, and chose instead to bully the state legislature into impounding a couple of unprofitable streams and rivers—after which Union Electric delivered the resulting hydroelectric power straight into the heart of the Old Lead Belt. Now that’s good business…and Superfun! If boating is not for you, you can still enjoy browsing the collection of gemstones at the State Historic Site, in the old St. Joe Minerals headquarters. Or you can rev up your powersport engines, and take that dirt bike or side-by-side out to the nearby St. Joe State Park off-road vehicle area, where you can chew up mile after mile of what we assume to be remediated dirt trails.