Visitors to Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, just south of Arcadia, Missouri, have an opportunity to visit one of the state's geological treasures.
At 132 feet, Mina Sauk Falls are the tallest in Missouri. They are breathtaking during wet weather, and well worth the three mile walk to see.
How did the Falls get its name? There are many variations of the story, but the following is probably the most common. It was told by "Old Uncle Jim Connelly" to the Kansas City Star in 1953--
"Uncle Jim's favorite story probably is one about Taum Sauk, the Piankashaw Indian chieftain after whom the mountain is named, and his daughter, Mina Sauk, for whom the beautiful waterfall on the northwestern slope of the mountain is named.
"Long before the white man came here," Uncle Jim relates, "this land of flowers, now called the Arcadia Valley, was the hunting grounds of the Piankashaw Indians. The Piankashaws had a famous chieftain, Sauk-Ton-Qua. Because the name was hard for the white man to pronounce, he was later call Taum Sauk."
"Taum Sauk was wise and although the Piankashaws were not as large a tribe as the Cherokees or Osages, he was able to hold his territory against their invasions. The Piankashaws lived in comparative peace in and around the Arcadia Valley, where they hunted and fished and raised a little corn in the summertime. In the winter they would move to the limestone bluff shelters along the Mississippi river and stay there until warm weather."
"Taum Sauk's beautiful daughter, Mina Sauk, was greatly desired by all the young warriors in the tribe. However, Mina Sauk met a young Osage warrior in the woods and lost her heart to him."
"For a long time he wooed her secretly, but one day she was discovered in the arms of the young Osage. The young warrior was captured and taken before the chieftain. He was tried and condemned to death."
"He was executed on the slopes of Taum Sauk Mountain, where a great porphyry outcrop form an escarpment overlooking Taum Sauk creek and facing Wildcat mountain. The young warrior was tossed from the parapet down a succession of benches on the mountainside, thrown from bench to bench with the spears of warriors. He fell bleeding and dying in the valley below."
“The grief-stricken maiden was restrained by the tribal women from interfering with the execution. But at the fatal moment, she broke loose from her captors and threw herself to death on the same benches."
"The old Indian legend says that this displeased the great spirit, and that the earth trembled and shook, and the mountain cracked. Then a stream of water poured forth and flowed down the rock benches, washing away the blood."
"The place is still known as the Mina Sauk falls and along the edges of the rivulet, even today, there grow little flowers with crimson blossoms which the Indians believed got their color from this ancient tragedy."
Is the legend true ?
Almost certainly not. But it makes a terrific campfire story.