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It's A Natural!

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Published on: May. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

People travel every which way to experience nature and enjoy the outdoors, sometimes logging thousands of miles in order to escape the hubbub and stress of urban life.

Missourians who travel that far are passing plenty of tourists seeking the same experience. Only they are coming to Missouri to enjoy our natural beauty.

Missouri is unique among other states. It's the melting pot of northern conifers, western plains, southern swamps and eastern hardwoods. Our state is carved by the country's largest rivers. Our soils are a mix of river sediment, glacial till and remnants of ancient sea floors. Our wildlife and native plant species mirror this outstanding diversity. Missouri's rivers include some of the best float streams in the country, and our many reservoirs offer great fishing and outdoor fun. Best of all, Missouri offers visitors plenty of public land for recreation.

Most Missourians, including those who live in our biggest cities, can enjoy an outdoor experience within an hour of their homes. Conservation Department facilities are located near or in population centers. Urban nature centers and conservation areas offer a doorway into the natural world.

Nature Centers charge no admission to visitors, and most of their programs are free. Bring a sack lunch and enjoy the day amid naturally beautiful surroundings. Use our facilities to relax, to learn about nature and to meet new friends.

Runge Conservation Nature Center

Enjoy the natural wonders of Missouri and the fish, forests and wildlife found there.

Inside the nature center building, you will find a 200-seat auditorium, three classrooms, an indoor wildlife viewing area, a nature library and a small gift shop. You can also explore more than 3,000 square feet of exhibits that lead you through an assortment of Missouri's myriad habitats. Featured in the exhibit area are a 3,580-gallon freshwater aquarium, live amphibians and reptiles, hands-on activities for children and much more.

Venture outside to explore two miles of hiking trails that wind through prairie, wetland and forest habitats. The Naturescape Trail is accessible to people with disabilities and provides examples of backyard landscaping to help attract wildlife to your property.

Runge Conservation Nature Center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Runge Programs

Summer Splash - July - Join us for special "Summer Splash" programs. These two-hour programs involve lots of hands-on activities, and snacks are provided. Check our newsletter or call for specific dates and times.

Holiday Array - December 27, 28 - Spend time at Runge Conservation Nature Center during the holidays. We will have crafts, music, programs, refreshments and lots of natural fun waiting for you.

Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center

Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center is nestled in a quiet corner of a busy city. Leave the chaos of the urban world and escape to the 112-acre nature center, where you can learn about the fish, forest and wildlife of Missouri.

The educational and entertaining indoors exhibits highlight the many benefits of conservation. Two levels of modern exhibits geared for kids of all ages explain how all the pieces of the natural world fit together. A 3,000-gallon aquarium contains native Missouri fish, turtles and other aquatic life. A wildlife viewing area with large windows offers a clear view of bird feeders. A marsh harbors deer, squirrels, turkeys, woodpeckers and other wildlife.

Outdoors, you can leisurely stroll through a native oak/hickory forest or hike on our three paved trails. Sloping rocky woods provide a haven for beautiful wildflowers, towering trees and tangled vines. Seasonal creeks and a pond accent the trails and are good places to see wildlife activity.

Learn even more about fish, forests and wildlife by attending a program or a guided hike. For more information about the nature center and its programs, call (314) 301-1500.

August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area

The August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area offers 6,987 acres where you can enjoy Missouri's fish, forests and wildlife. The area both provides critical habitat for fish and wildlife in a rapidly developing area near St. Louis and provides the urban public a nearby place to enjoy outdoor recreation.

New indoor exhibits include a large aquarium with fish that inhabit the lakes on the area, a tree with secret hiding places and a prairie habitat with lifelike mounts. Other exhibits help visitors learn more about our state's natural resources.

The Busch area has several hiking trails and an auto tour. Self-guiding brochures for the auto tour and several of the trails are available at the office and at some trailheads.

Programs on aquatic and forest ecology, birds, trees and reptiles are available for everyone. You can also join our staff for a spring frog walk, a fall color hike or an owl prowl.

Public fishing is available on 32 lakes that range from one to 182 acres. Fishing and disabled-accessible restroom facilities are available on eight lakes, two of which have disabled-accessible floating fish docks.

You can also enjoy hunting, trapping, dog training, field and retriever trials, horseback riding and nature photography. Or you can target practice at the shooting range. Next time the kids say there's nothing to do, bring them to the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area and discover the outdoors!

For more information about programs, area and building hours, or for fishing information, call (636) 441-4554 or visit us online at <www.mdc.mo.gov>.

Busch Programs

Wetlands for Kids - April 6, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. - This event offers plenty of hands-on activities for the whole family. Identify duck species in the "Duckwing Maze," crawl through a beaver lodge or learn what lives in the water. You can also sample waterfowl treats, learn how to call a duck, practice your skills at the shooting range, see and touch live wetland creatures, watch Labrador retrievers at work, create a wetland scene at the art station and much more!

Kids Fishing Fair - May 18, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. - Only kids age 15 and under will be able to fish lakes 1, 2 and 15. Missouri Department of Conservation staff will be on hand to help kids bait hooks, cast, catch and land their fish. Stations will be set up where the whole family can learn about filleting and cooking fish, casting, tying knots, baiting hooks, boating safety, catch-and-release fishing, fly tying, and more. Participants must bring their own fishing equipment and bait. Each child attending will receive a free fishing goody bag.

Some parking is available at Lakes 1, 2, and 15. A bus will be available to shuttle families from the main parking lot to the lakes.

Rockwoods Reservation

Rockwoods Reservation is an 1,843-acre state forest and wildlife oasis in western St. Louis County. Established in 1938, it is one of the oldest Conservation Department areas and is an important bastion of conservation education in a fast-developing metropolitan area.

Rockwoods harbors a rich diversity of plant and animal life, as well as springs, caves and rock formations. Cool, moist, north-facing ravines and lush creek bottoms contrast with arid, rocky ridgetops and south slopes. The terrain is reminiscent of the Ozark hills, and many plants and animals found there are also found here. Wildlife plantings, brush piles, controlled burns and exotic plant removal are used to maintain and increase the area's wildlife diversity.

Rockwoods Reservation's fascinating cultural history dates back to the late 1700s, when trappers passed through the valley. In 1800, Ninan Hamilton received a Spanish Land grant and started a farm here. Hamilton Creek, which flows through the area, is named for him. Visitors will find remnants of extensive limestone, clay and gravel quarrying. Interpretive signs throughout the area highlight special features or demonstration areas, such as prairie habitat, butterfly gardening, birdfeeding, backyard habitats and the history of lime kilns on the area.

The Conservation Education Center contains a "Please Touch Table," along with exhibits on pond and stream life, area history and diversity, live animals and information about Missouri's fish, forest and wildlife resources. Take a hike, explore the prairie or attend one of the diverse education programs, including Cave Crawls, building a bluebird house, papermaking, pond exploration, Owl Prowl and Night Sounds. For more information about the area and its programs, call (636) 458-2236.

Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery Conservation Center

Located below Table Rock Dam in Branson, Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery is Missouri's largest trout hatchery. The facility has been operational since 1958 and hosts nearly 250,000 visitors annually.

In addition to displays explaining how trout are raised, there is also a 12-minute introductory video on trout production across the state. The 3,500-gallon indoor aquarium provides close-up looks at rainbow and brown trout of various sizes. Self-guided tours are available year round. Guided tours are offered weekdays between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

In addition to seeing and feeding fish, you can enjoy seasonal displays in the Conservation Center. Live displays include amphibians, reptiles, spiders and warm-water fish. Hikers can enjoy the four trails located on the hatchery grounds. Three of the trails meander along the shore of Lake Taneycomo, and the fourth ascends a rugged hillside.

A picnic area and pavilion near the lake are good places to enjoy lunches and snacks. A naturalist is available from May through September to give guided hikes and programs from the overlook area.

All programs and events at Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery are free. We offer two special events each year. Family Fishing Fair is held on the Saturday of Free Fishing Weekend in June. It emphasizes fish, aquatic habitats and fishing opportunities. Visitors can learn how to tie flies, cast a spinning or fly rod, select bait and fillet a fish. Vulture Venture is a unique event held on the last weekend of February. It highlights the often misunderstood black and turkey vultures which roost by the hundreds along Lake Taneycomo. Visitors get to see a live vulture presentation, participate in vulture games and observe roosting vultures through spotting scopes. The Conservation Center also provides monthly programs or projects that are announced in local newspapers. For more information, contact:

Shepherd of the Hills Conservation Center, 483 Hatchery Road, Branson, MO 65616, (417) 334-4865, <shepherdvc@mdc.mo.gov>.

Springfield Conservation Nature Center

Located in southeast Springfield, just west of the busy US-60/US-65 interchange, the Springfield Conservation Nature Center offers the peace and quiet of an Ozark forest amid the hectic pace of the city. Here, the sounds of traffic and smells of asphalt give way to bird calls and the earthy fragrance of damp leaves.

Visitors can enjoy three miles of hiking trails meandering through 80 acres of forests, glades and wetlands. Boardwalks and bridges allow passage across marshy areas where turtles and frogs abound and provide scenic views of Galloway Creek, Lake Springfield, and limestone bluffs adorned by ferns and wildflowers. The area features a restored savanna and limestone glade, allowing visitors a glimpse of what the area looked like before settlement.

Programs and guided hikes offered year-round allow visitors to learn more about conservation and nature. From hands-on programs designed to introduce toddlers to the wonders of nature to instructional programs for adults on how to backpack, hunt or fish, there's something for everyone at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center.

A Conservation Kids Club designed for children ages 7 to 12 and a Conservation TEEN club for ages 12 to 17 keep youngsters coming back, while special events draw large numbers of families who enjoy experiencing nature together.

The Springfield Conservation Nature Center area is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. from March 1 to Oct. 31, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. the rest of the year. The building is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round. The area and building are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. For more information about the nature center and its programs, call (417) 888-4237.

Springfield Programs

Insect-O-Rama - August 23, 7-9 p.m. - Insects both fascinate and "bug" us, but what would a summer evening be without them? Join insect specialists for an evening devoted to discovering insects. Bring your entire family and participate in some creepy, crawly fun! Open to all ages. No registration required.

Primitive Skills Day - October 13, 1-5 p.m. - See demonstrations of flint knapping, bow and arrow construction, basketry, hide-tanning, making cordage out of plant fibers, beadwork and fire making by some of the Ozarks' best primitive skills specialists. Open to all ages. No registration required.

Halloween Happening - October 24 or October 25, 6-9 p.m. - Get ready for some nighttime fun and surprises on this guided Halloween hike. You'll learn fun facts and meet interesting characters along the way. Be prepared for entertaining and extraordinary sights-but no frights. Open to all ages. No registration required.

Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center

Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center is nestled in the center of 1,100 acres of forest, glade, prairie, ponds, open fields, creeks and savannas. This jewel is a haven for wildlife and those interested in viewing that wildlife.

White-tailed deer can be seen at dusk and dawn almost daily in the fall, winter and early spring. Kids delight at seeing flocks of wild turkeys in the fields and around the nature center. Lizards, raccoons and an unusual assortment of songbirds complete the picture of this wild mecca. You can comfortably watch wildlife from inside the nature center. The Wildlife Viewing Room has large windows for observing chickadees, cardinals, titmice, nuthatches, finches and an array of woodpeckers.

Pack a lunch and enjoy one of the area's two sack-lunch pavilions. Walking one of the five hiking trails, the visitor will soon forget the stresses of urban life. Two of the trails are paved; one of them is fully disabled-accessible. The three remaining trails are wood-chipped and lead you through the forest and over waterways. Wooden overlooks provide spectacular vistas. The Bethany Falls Trail is rated the finest hiking trail in the Kansas City area. This 1.3-mile trail winds through massive Bethany Falls limestone outcrops and is a treat for those visiting eastern Jackson County.

The nature center contains a 3,000-gallon aquarium filled with native fish and reptiles. Hands-on exhibits enthrall youngsters of all ages. Conservation programs for all ages are offered at the nature center and a monthly newsletter is free to all who subscribe. For those who want to give back to the community, the nature center and Conservation Area offer various volunteer opportunities. Conservation and educational items are available in the center's gift shop to take home the memories of the day's adventure. Just 20 minutes east of Kansas City, Burr Oak Woods welcomes the weary and rejuvenates their spirit.

Burr Oak Woods Programs

Prairie Day - June 8, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. - Experience what life was like on the prairie in the mid-1800s. Hear the story of the buffalo soldiers and their role in the westward expansion, walk through the Missouri Freetrappers encampment, play old time games, learn about herbs, ride a wooden wagon drawn by a team of horses through the prairie and meet noted author Laura Ingalls Wilder. See and touch live animals, learn about the prairies of today and what you can do to help this important habitat. Enjoy a free lunch of prairie dogs and buffalo chips while listening to old-time fiddlers and watching cloggers. Prairie Day has something for everyone.

Burr Oak Woods 20th Anniversary Blow Out - October 19, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. - You've never been to a birthday party like this one. We will have games, activities and balloons, and Smokey Bear will be here to help us celebrate. On Burr Oak Woods' 20th anniversary, we're going to kick loose and have some fun. You'll enjoy yourself and learn a lot. What better way to observe the spirit of a conservation nature center!

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