Most visitors to mid-Missouri wouldn’t think to visit McBaine, a tiny rural village with not very much except a diner called Lucy’s.
But there’s also something very much worth the trek: a giant, old bur oak tree that many people just refer to as the Big Tree. According to estimates from the locals, it’s probably about 350 years old, which is older than the United States!
Come by any time of day or night, and you are likely to see people at the Big Tree. It’s the kind of community place that people come to for picnics or dates, engagements, late-night parties and all sorts of other events. Many bikers stop by, too, since the tree is located near the MKT biking trail.
The reason people come is because it’s the biggest bur oak tree in the state, and one of the three biggest in the country. When you’re driving toward it, it really doesn’t look that big, because it’s surrounded by a field of soybeans and there’s not much around to help judge its scale. But once you get up close, you realize how very big this tree is. It’s some 24 feet around. Simply huge.
There’s lots of stories about the tree, too. The owner of the land where the tree is located says there’s an old story about a man who got shot underneath the tree years ago. The tree has been in his family for six generations.
But the tree won’t live forever, and it’s already in decline. It’s consistently producing dead branches. Some tree experts cut off the dead branches last year when they spruced it up, but there still are more dead limbs developing this year.
For anyone who likes trees, or even people who don’t, the Big Tree is well worth a visit.
Getting there is fairly straightforward. The Big Tree is on Burr Oak Road, which is named after the tree, though misspelled. The closest major city nearby is Columbia, and if you follow Providence Avenue out of Columbia, it turns into Burr Oak Road and you are there. It’s also located just a little past Eagle Bluffs nature reserve, which is an excellent place to go hiking or to have a picnic.
While there isn’t a whole lot of things to see in rural mid-Missouri, the Big Tree is a notable exception. It’s a beloved local landmark that is well worth a visit.
Source: Interviews I conducted and first-hand observation at the Big Tree