Wild Turkeys and Creeks

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 15, 2010

Turkey Creek in Bollinger County read, ". . . a branch of Bear Creek in Wayne County, Turkey Creek is in the western part of Wayne Township and was named for the wild turkeys which old hunters found here."

Bollinger County had a Turkey Creek Post Office from 1915-22. The post office was there to serve a temporary sawmill camp located on Turkey Creek.

Another quote from the Ramsay files refers to Turkey Branch in Monroe County, ". . . a branch of Elk Fork-the wild turkeys which used to be abundant in this new county were especially numerous in this vicinity, also called Turkey Creek."

Two Turkey Creeks not listed by the U.S. Geological Survey were mentioned in the Ramsay files. One was in Marion County, and was described as a creek that flows into the Salt River in Ralls County, not far from Spaulding Springs. This creek has yet to be located. The second creek was actually called Turkey Branch, a small branch of Whip-poor-will Creek in Montgomery County. Another Turkey Creek was in Dade County, but was later renamed Maze Creek.

The most common name for a stream or creek in the state listed by the survey is Brush Creek. There are 53 Brush Creeks, followed by Turkey Creek with 40. Other creeks with notable numbers are Brushy (38), Indian (32), Bear (32), Goose (24), Spring (24), Coon (22), and Cedar (19). Eleven Deer Creeks were listed, along with six Elk Creeks and six Otter Creeks.

More than half of the Turkey Creeks in the state are located in what once was the transition zone between the deciduous forests of the east and the tallgrass prairies. This transition zone contained oak savannas and was the most productive wildlife habitat in the state. Crop fields and pastures have replaced the tallgrass prairies, and much of the timber along the streams has been removed. The creeks that were named by the early settlers because of the abundance of wildlife are still there, but the habitat has changed.

Turkey Creeks in Jasper, Stoddard and St. Francois counties are now in the city limits of Joplin, Puxico and Bonne Terre. Turkey Creek in Callaway County has a golf driving range on its banks, and the Turkey Creek in Atchison County is a drainage ditch. One of the two Turkey Creeks in Ozark County has been partially covered by Bull Shoals Lake, and part of one of the two Turkey Creeks in St. Clair County is under Truman Lake. No doubt some alterations in the habitat conditions surrounding the remainder of the Turkey Creeks in the state has occurred, though probably not to the same extent.

Fifty years ago, wild turkeys were in serious trouble, but thanks to an aggressive restoration program, the state's wild turkey population today may equal or even exceed that of 200 years ago. Our success in restoring wild turkeys in the last 50 years has been phenomenal and is just one of the many successful restoration programs carried out by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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