In 1971 Dr. Ralph Perry, a Kansas City physician, and his wife, Martha, donated 40 acres of land in west-central Missouri to the Conservation Department. Perry postponed retirement for several years so that he could continue to make monetary contributions to expand the area. With this generous beginning, the Conservation Department has continued adding to the Ralph and Martha Perry Memorial Conservation Area.
The Perry area is located along Hwy. 23 north of Knob Noster. The bulk of the area is in the northeast corner of Johnson County, but its boundaries extend into both Pettis and Saline counties. The area contains 4,053 acres and features a diversity of terrain and habitats. Approximately 50 percent of the area is located in the floodplain of the Blackwater River and Peavine, Brush, Panther and Goose creeks. The other 50 percent varies from rolling upland to steep river bluffs.
The Conservation Department developed the area with a variety of open cropfields, native grass plantings, cool season grass plantings, old field manipulations, pond and lake development, wetland development and bottomland hardwood reforestation. Facilities include two access points to the Blackwater River, a shooting range for rifles, handguns and shotguns, primitive camping sites, several parking areas, a shorebird viewing area and 18 acres of fishing impoundments.
The Ralph and Martha Perry Conservation Area has a lot to offer anyone who likes to explore, hunt, fish, sightsee or have a place to drive on Sunday afternoon. Visitors quickly find that the area offers much more than a parking lot by the river, some yellow management signs and a shooting range.
In February of 1996, the Conservation Department created 737 acres of wetlands in six wetland pools on the area. Approximately 400 acres will be seasonally flooded timber, 252 acres will be managed as moist soil habitat and 5 acres as emergent marsh. As part of this large project, the Conservation Department will reestablish 400 acres of bottomland hardwoods. An additional 120 acres will be managed through a timber management plan.
A cooperative partnership with the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, Ducks Unlimited, MARSH PROJECT, National Wild Turkey Federation, Wildlife Forever and the McDonnel Douglas Foundation made development of the wetlands possible.
These wetlands have improved habitat for 23 species of waterfowl and many nongame species as well. Rare and endangered species, such as bald eagles and trumpeter swans, use these marsh units. The controlled drawdown of marsh units will attract shorebirds and other waterfowl. Visitors can see shorebirds, waterfowl and other species of wildlife at a 125 acre waterfowl refuge.
The 7 miles of Blackwater River within the Perry Conservation Area is one of the few portions of unchannelized river still left in the Blackwater River drainage basin and offers good fishing for channel and flathead catfish, carp, crappie, bluegill and green sunfish. The steep muddy banks limit access and challenge the adventurous, but the best fishing can be at bridge crossings. Fishing is also good in 7-acre Guier Lake for bass, bluegill and channel catfish.
Visitors may see deer, waterfowl and squirrels and fair numbers of quail, rabbits and turkeys. You may see river otters in or around the wetland pools and the Blackwater River. Many other furbearers are on the area and can add to the excitement of enjoying a woods trail or walking the wetland levees.
Editor - Tom Cwynar
Assistant Editor - Charlotte Overby
Managing Editor - Jim Auckley
Art Editor - Dickson Stauffer
Designer - Tracy Ritter
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Photographer - Jim Rathert
Photographer - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Joan McKee
Composition - Libby Bode Block
Circulation - Bertha Bainer