Where the River Bends
other urban conservation facilities. They would help provide educational and interpretive programs to local schools and other visitors with an emphasis on large river systems, the confluence and the ecological, cultural and historical significance of the area. Researchers have located several Native American sites on the tract, and Leifield says Columbia Bottom may also include a spot that was once a Spanish fort.
Hunting at Columbia Bottom will be closely managed. The tract will have some managed wetland pools (see the map) that can be flooded with pumps and seasonal wetlands in some years. These wetlands, located on a great waterfowl flyway, will attract ducks and geese during migrations. "I personally feel we should have a waterfowl hunting program, even if it's on a small scale," Leifield says. "Some wetland pools will be managed as refuges, while others will be open to controlled hunting."
Crop fields along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers are often good sites for dove hunting, and Columbia Bottom will offer that, too. Wheat stubble and sunflower fields will attract the birds. Hunting will be allowed half-days only, and regulations will require the use of non-toxic shot.
"There are a lot of deer on the area," Leifield says. "We did a survey and found 85 deer, so we estimate there are at least 100 deer. When you consider there are 900 forested acres, that's a pretty good deer population." The world-record non-typical buck deer was caught in a fence near the area and found dead there in the past, so the site has the potential to grow big bucks. The archery regulations will divide the long season into segments, and as many as 35 archers may be selected for each. A muzzleloading rifle season may be considered at some time in the future.
The area has at least one turkey flock. The conceptual plan calls for expanding the amount of forest on the area, and that may allow turkey numbers to expand. At two places on the southern edge of Columbia Bottom the levee is right on the edge of the river. The Conservation Department is considering setting the levee back 1,000 feet in these areas, and allowing the intervening land to flood and naturally regenerate forest land. Some tree planting will also be done to establish mixed hardwoods for wildlife habitat.
"Some people think we shouldn't have any levees and let the whole area flood," Leifield says. "We struggled with those issues and considered all of the options, from leaving the levee where it is to removing it altogether. But there is private land nearby and we can't compromise their flood protection. We want to protect, too, the wetland habitat and public facilities we develop. Another factor is that the levee we have now is not real high, so some years it is going to flood anyway." Major floods in 1993 and 1995 left behind sand deposits and other flood debris.
Fishing will be from the bank in either of the two rivers, in a couple of scour holes on the area or from boats launched at the planned boat ramp. Bank fishing and jug fishing for catfish will probably be popular in warm weather. The boat ramp may include a disabled accessible bank fishing facility.
Planners are thinking of a surface similar to that of the Katy Trail for hiking and biking trails at Columbia Bottom. Conservation planners are talking to the Confluence Greenway Group, an organization that has developed a trail and linear park from the St. Louis Arch north to the Chain of Rocks Bridge. The idea is to link the trail to the trails at Columbia Bottom.
The Conservation Department is looking for groups, such as Ducks Unlimited, the Audubon Society, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or even St. Louis-area businesses, to act as partners in putting facilities on the area.
Columbia Bottom is a historic site. St. Louis is situated where it is because of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The Missouri River was the river road to the Rocky Mountains and their wealth of fur. It was also the path Lewis and Clark followed in their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase for President Thomas Jefferson. Now, heading into the 21st century, the confluence of the two rivers will provide both a sense of history and a unique recreational resource for a growing metropolitan area.
"Plenty of people are enjoying the area already," Leifield says. To reach Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, go north about 2.5 miles from the I-270 Riverview Drive Exit. Riverview Drive becomes Columbia Bottom Road at its junction with Larimore Road.