Little Lost Creek
some fire-tolerant trees.
Historically, the location and extent of savannas changed with the climate. During dry periods, wildfires burned more frequently and intensely. As a result, savannas were pushed into the woods. During wetter periods, savannas could return to the prairies.
In the mid-1900s, many of these ridgetops were cleared and/or converted to agricultural use. This mostly involved pushing back trees and converting fields to fescue grass. Fescue may be good in some respects for livestock, but it's not useful to wildlife. In the last several years, we have been working hard to convert these fields back into native vegetation.
Crossing the area diagonally from northeast to southwest is Little Lost Creek itself. This is a medium-size, intermittent creek that eventually feeds into Lost Creek, and then into the Missouri River. This section of the creek is pretty far up in the headwaters and typically stays dry much of the year. However, even in the dog days of summer, a few pools support small populations of fish, crawdads and amphibians. The creek also contains a few wet-weather waterfalls and a sandstone chute.
The Conservation Department acquired Little Lost Creek Conservation Area in 1980. Long before then, the area saw a lot of use and abuse. In the early 1900s, almost all marketable timber that was accessible was harvested. Later, in the 1930s, woods were pushed back as far as possible and burned repeatedly to improve grazing conditions for livestock. Meanwhile, many exotic species, such as fescue, sericea lespedeza and autumn olive, were introduced to the area.
Some of those practices were clearly not good for the land, but people working land in the past had to manage their land in a manner that best benefited them, not the land itself.
Fortunately, Little Lost Creek's hills have proven forgiving. With some hard work and patience, much of this landscape is now healthy and supports strong, diverse populations of flora and fauna.
Equally important to maintaining Little Lost Creek Conservation Area for healthy plant and animal populations is providing opportunities for visitors to enjoy the area. The area has a number of trails, mostly along the ridgetops, which are fairly easy to hike. However, there are a few stretches that can really get your heart pumping.
Area maps, including topographic maps, can be found at each parking lot. Take a few minutes to study the map and choose a route you can handle. Bug spray will prove helpful in the summer.
Trails are open to hiking year round. However, from the end of spring turkey season to the beginning of fall turkey season (generally mid-May to mid October), some trails are also open to bicycle and horseback riding. During this period, trails stay fairly dry and are less vulnerable to soil compaction and can handle the extra traffic. The restricted period is designed to reduce conflicts with other area uses such as deer and turkey hunting.
The area is a great place for birdwatching, photography, and general nature viewing. Ovenbirds, wood thrush, and American woodcock are just a few of the bird species you might encounter. It is rare to visit the area and not see at least a few deer or turkey.
Also, Little Lost Creek Conservation Area supports hundreds of different species of wildflowers and other unusual plants, including gray headed coneflower, compass plant and prairie willow. In the spring and fall, each visit will treat you to a new and exciting display of colors. Autumn colors on the area's rolling, forested hills provide a dazzling display of colors.
Primitive camping and picnicking are available at the four parking lots. However, restrooms, running water or trash receptacles are not available, so plan accordingly.
Little Lost Creek Conservation Area is open to hunting under statewide regulations. The only exception is that only antlered deer may be taken during firearms deer season. The area does not have any roads open to vehicles, so most hunting requires a hike into the area.
To reach Little Lost Creek Conservation Area, take Highway 70 to the Pendleton/New Truxton exit (exit 188, 5 miles west of Warrenton). Go south on Highway B for about 1.5 miles to the intersection of Highway B and Highway EE. Take either highway and go about 4 miles. There are two area parking lots on each highway. At each parking lot, you will find a supply of area maps and regulations. For more information, contact the Warrenton Forestry Office at (636) 456-3368.