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Lovers Leap, Hannibal

4.7
#9 of 14 in Things to do in Hannibal
Outdoor Activity
There are at least eight geological formations in Missouri known as Lover's Leap. One of these formations is located on the southeast edge of Hannibal and is a major Mississippi River promontory exposing a cap of Burlington Limestone, and underlying Hannibal Shale and Louisiana Limestone formations. These high bluff promontories inspired local legends involving an Indian maiden who commits suicide with her lover or jumps to her death to avoid marrying a warrior she despises.

Mark Twain's older brother, mid-19th century Hannibal newspaperman Orion Clemens, not only loved good stories but made them up, too. Hagood said the legend about Hannibal's Lovers Leap is a shining example of Orion Clemens' imagination at work. "Orion's story went that the Indians on the Missouri side of the river were at war with the Indians on the Illinois side," Hagood said. "There was an Indian princess on the Hannibal side and an Indian brave on the Illinois side. The tribes being at war made it impossible for them to be together. But he came over to see her and they went out to the scenic view at Lovers Leap. Well, the braves from her tribe surrounded them. They knew the suitor would be killed by the Missouri braves, so they threw their arms around each other and jumped off." Since the tracks to Chicago hadn't been laid, the plunge was probably wet, if not fatal. But the sentimental shouldn't fret, Hagood said, since it was all a product of Orion Clemens' imagination. One contemporary excursion boat captain in Hannibal spins a happier ending to the local legend as he carries passengers past Lovers Leap Park: the leapers plopped onto a grain barge, floated downriver to New Orleans and opened a gift shop."

There are several possible sources for Hannibal's local legend including one that claims it was the work of the imagination of Hannibal newspaperman Orion Clemens, Mark Twain's older brother. The following is an excerpt from "History Of Marion County" by E. F. Perkins in 1884: "Lover's Leap" is a large bluff in the southern part of Hannibal. It was given this name about 1840, by some genius who applied to it the scene of the oft repeated story of the Indian Maiden who dashed herself down from a rock precipice rather than wed a warrior she did not love. From Winona, Minnesota, to the mouth of the Ohio there are not less than a dozen "Lover's Leaps" and "Maiden Rocks," all with the same legend, and each with the same claim to being the only genuine "Leap"--all others being mere imitations and deceptions--"beware of counterfeits." The Hannibal "Lover's Leap" has just as good claim to the distinction of being the locality where the dusty maiden distributed herself along the sides and among the rock at the base, as any other bluff or declivity. Since the whole story is an invention of a romantist and he who is deceived thereby is not wise---an Indian girl marries the "buck" selected for her by her father, and is indifferent about the matter altogether. Should she remonstrate at the selection made for her, a few applications of a rawhide or a keen hickory switch, applied to her bare back soon overcome her objections. Along with the legends of lovers leaping to their deaths, there is a documented story of the use of Hannibal's Lover's Leap by the Millerites. Millerites were the followers of the American Baptist preacher William Miller who prophesied the Second Coming of Christ. Miller's third prediction of the date of Christ's return was October 22, 1844 and on this day Millerites in the Hannibal area abandoned their crops and stores, put on long white robes, and gathered at Lover's Leap only to be ultimately disappointed.

Lover's Leap is a 5-acre of city park directly off MO- 79. The park includes a picnic shelter, benches, and historical information. Visitors will find panoramic views of Hannibal, the Mississippi River (photo left,) and miles of Illinois farmland. The stone cliff is fenced off to prevent modern lovers or others from jumping.
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
72 reviews
Google
4.6
TripAdvisor
  • Great location for viewing the river and the town below. We saw barges and a riverboat pass while we were there. As at all lover's leaps, the Indian legend is alive here as well. Nice brief visit but ...  more »
  • Wow! How can something so cool be free? You probably already know that the view is amazing. I'm here to tell you it's worth it. I've researched this since, and a woman drive through the fence, but her...  more »
  • Great view of the river and town of Hannibal. Take a pic and leave. Most likely wouldn't stay more than 10 minutes in less you were having a picnic. No picnic table though.  more »
Google
  • A steep hill, a steep precipice. Lover's Leap affords magnificent views of Hannibal and the Mississippi. Plaques in the park tell of the sad stories connected with this place.
  • Incredible views. Nice place to just watch the world go by.
  • Lovers Leap is a great view! Just a few minutes down the road from Main street.
  • Beautiful view of the river, and over looking down town!
  • Neat little spot with magnificent views. It is a steep drive up, but we'll worth it. There is a small pavillion to enjoy a good meal with the whole family.

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