Fire And Water

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

persimmon trees, as well as many other interesting features common to Ozark glades.

In addition to the service roads, visitors to Fiery Fork CA can also walk two developed trails that traverse both ends of the area. The longer trail runs 1.25 miles and starts at the first campground at the center of the area. It climbs 273 feet before topping out on a flat ridge with an elevation of 955 feet. It runs across the ridgetop and then descends gently back to the trailhead. A short loop at the bottom takes you along the banks of the Little Niangua before rejoining the main trail.

The other trail is about a quarter mile long. It begins at the campground on the southeast end of the area and runs up the hill. Retrace your steps back to the campground.

The campsites are spacious, grassy, level and well-shaded. All are equipped with fire rings and picnic tables.

To go to Fiery Fork CA, take Highway J north from Highway 54 east of Macks Creek. Cross the Little Niangua and then go left on Highway 7. Turn left at the brown, cantilevered sign.

Mule Shoe Conservation Area

Don't let the name fool you, there's nothing homely about Mule Shoe Conservation Area.

Located in eastern Hickory County, it covers 2,423 acres of Ozark hill country about 24 miles southwest of Camdenton, and about 28 miles southeast of Warsaw. It comprises two separate parcels about three-quarters of a mile apart.

One of Mule Shoe's most appealing attributes is its remoteness, which gives it an authentic air of peace and solitude. Except during hunting seasons, it is largely deserted, which is surprising considering the array of recreational opportunities it provides.

For example, the south parcel fronts one mile of Little Niangua River shoreline, with plentiful access for paddlers and anglers. Campers can relax in two campgrounds, and hikers can explore both parcels on a variety of trails and gated roads.

The south parcel contains a diversity of terrain that provides habitat for many plant and wildlife species. A relatively wide floodplain skirts both sides of the Little Niangua, giving it an appearance remarkably similar to streams in the upper Great Plains. The river bottom is low and grassy, with a tall canopy of mature cottonwood and sycamore trees. Bordering the wooded bottoms are grassy fields that harbor rabbits, songbirds and limited numbers of bobwhite quail. Wild turkeys and white-tailed deer also use these areas.

Because the woods are open and free of thorns and briars, walking the bottoms is a treat. There, you may see several species of songbirds, raccoons and even an occasional beaver. Watch your step, though, because the bottoms also harbor healthy numbers of snakes.

Towering over the valley is a phalanx of hardwood-covered hills that reach elevations of 1,000 feet. Exploring the hills, you can see tall limestone bluffs and dolomite glades. A main road leads to the top of the biggest ridge. From any point along this route, you can walk down any of the gated service roads that branch off in all directions.

To reach Mule Shoe Conservation Area, take Highway F north from Highway 54, and then go east on road 96 (gravel), which leads to the area.

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