Boone’s Lick historic site is the remnant of an old salt mine that operated during the 1800s. A walk down the tree-shaded stairs leads you to the salt springs, creeks and areas where workers once toiled over salt furnaces, even during hot summer months.
Tourists are guided along the salt-making process and can look at preserved remains of the old mine.
Jeff Arnold, who lives within a mile radius of the site, said he enjoys bringing his two daughters down to the old salt mine because it is peaceful. He said they sometimes bring picnic lunches with them.
His 9-year-old daughter, Hilarie, said she and her family enjoy the salt creek that runs next to the site. Arnold’s 3-year old daughter, Andrea, also enjoys the trip to the creek.
“We like to run around it, me and my daddy,” Andrea said.
Now quiet, the area 100 years ago was bustling with activity. Michael Dickey, historic site administrator for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said a job in the salt mines would have been unpleasant but profitable at a wage of probably $7 or $8 per month. Salt sold for $2.50 a bushel.
The salt lick had its share of tragedy, however. The land was originally granted to James Mackay by the Spanish in 1797. In 1799, Daniel Boone and his family arrived in Missouri and received land grants for the same land. Brothers Jesse and James Morrison leased the springs from Boone in 1804 and began salt production in cooperation with Daniel Morgan and Nathan Boone, who later sold their interests. They were prosperous for a while, but in 1833, soon after James Morrison’s 16-year-old son died after falling into a salt-vat, the government ruled that land ownership belonged to the Mackay family and the land was returned to them.
All that remains now of the salt lick is preserved at the site or at the Visitor’s Center at Arrow Rock. Dickey said the soil’s salinity helped preserve items much better than they would have been preserved in regular soil.
Those interested in the old-fashioned salt production technique can see a mini-model of the operation at the Arrow Rock Visitor’s Center.