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Rural Missouri Magazine

The Cup Tree
Gravois Mills, MO

by Bob McEowen

One of Missouri’s more unusual roadside attractions has to be “The Cup Tree.” Known to visitors of the Lake of the Ozarks west side for decades, this once stately old oak is now but a shadow of its former “glory.”

Located near Gravois Mills, five miles down State Road 135-3 — otherwise known as Cup Tree Drive — the oak stump covered with cups has been a favorite destination for lake visitors since the 1950s. Originally owned by local resident Fred Moore, the phenomenon’s origins are a mystery shrouded in years of ever-changing explanations and folklore. The current owner is no more forthcoming with a plausible explanation as to why generations of tourists have left cups, saucers and even tea and coffee pots dangling from the tree.

Today, only about 10 feet of hollow trunk remains. The remnant of the original black oak still bears cups but not nearly as many as in the past, locals say.

Nearby, on the same property, a new Lake landmark has developed. “The Shoe Fence,” is a short section of wire fence that each season attracts a bewildering assortment of footwear. Shoes hang from every strand and post. Some are in pairs, others are placed individually. Some bear autographs or inscriptions honoring the placer or an event in their lives. The owner of the property claims 1,000 people a year stop by to see the two oddities.

To reach The Cup Tree and Shoe Fence take Highway 5 (north from Laurie or south from Gravois Mills) to State Road 135. Watch for Road 135-3, or Cup Tree Drive. Turn and drive 5 miles.

Rural Missouri December 2014
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