Scouts Explore Department Lands
Prairie Conservation Area in Vernon County. Choice locations for observing deer and turkey from tent blinds are the Lamine River Conservation Area in Cooper County, Woodson K. Woods Conservation Area in Crawford County and Peck Ranch Conservation Area in Shannon County. Scout leaders may purchase the Missouri Nature Viewing Guide, describing conservation areas with possibilities for seeing plants, birds and mammals at many Conservation Department offices.
Scouts can plan canoeing and fishing trips between Conservation Department river accesses. Locust Creek, Gasconade, Meramec and Lamine rivers have Conservation Department access sites spaced for day-long or overnight floats. Camping on gravel bars or river banks on conservation areas requires a free special use permit from the local Conservation Department office. We try to take one canoe trip per year to trotline fish for big flathead catfish. The Scouts learn how to tie a trotline and proper placement based on habitat conditions in the river. We caught a 45-pound flathead on our first attempt on the Lamine River Conservation Area.
The fish was too heavy for any of the Scouts to lift into the canoe. So I reached over, grabbed it by the mouth, cut the line and hook off and threw the fish into the center of the canoe. All three Scouts started to climb out of the canoe into the water, where they felt safer. I had to hold the fish down in the bottom of the canoe to keep the Scouts from getting out.
Cave exploration is an unusual and exciting outdoor experience for Scouts on Conservation Department lands. Smittle Cave on the Fuson Conservation Area, Wright County, is the fifth largest cave in the state. It is an easy cave for novices to explore. The cave is open from April 15th to May 7th and the month of September when federally endangered Indiana and gray bats are not using the cave.
Caving offers the opportunity to learn about Missouri's geology and the unique species found only in caves, such as the pipistrelle bat, cave salamander, cave cricket and grotto salamander. Other easily accessible caves include Watkins Cave on the Bois D'Arc Conservation Area in Greene County and Lonehill Onyx Cave on the Meramec Conservation Area in Franklin County.
Our last trip to Smittle Cave was unforgettable and a tribute to the Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared." While we were in the cave a hard rain produced a flash flood in the creek between the