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Current River Natural Area

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Published on: May. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

fact that it was the first designated natural area in the state.

Conservation Department naturalists who visited the area were surprised to find that much of the surrounding forest was nearly indistinguishable in quality from the original 10-acre tract. Leo Drey had provided a buffer around the area by allowing only minimal salvage harvesting of storm-toppled trees.

Drey's conservative management of the forest created an opportunity to expand the original 10-acre natural areas to 256 acres in commemoration of the Current River Natural Area's 50th anniversary.

The addition is now the property of the L-A-D Foundation rather than Leo Drey himself, thanks to the most spectacular gift of real estate ever in the state of Missouri and perhaps in the nation. On July 6, 2004, Leo and Kay Drey signed over nearly the entire acreage of Pioneer Forest, some 144,000 acres, to the L-A-D Foundation for protection as a conservatively managed, producing forest in perpetuity.

In the article “Building Natural Wealth” in the November 2003 Missouri Conservationist, Leo Drey is referred to as “a Santa Claus for natural areas in Missouri.”

The new addition to the Current River Natural Area is certainly a spectacular gift. The area includes old-growth white oaks, a fen, small cliffs, a spring-fed stream, and part of the Brushy Creek Backpacking Trail.

A Remote Haven

The Current River Natural Area is in the 61,000-acre Roger Pryor Pioneer Backcountry, a large and undeveloped area of Pioneer Forest.

The natural area is remote and difficult to access. The 20-mile Brushy Creek/Crockertown Trail, still under construction, will pass through this forested tributary hollow. Access to the trail will be at Himont, in Shannon County. You can find more information about the area and the trail at <www.pioneerforest.com/PF_Recreation3.html>.

There is marvel in this place, and it is marvelous that Leo Drey has given us even more to explore.

The Current River Natural Area is more than massive trees coated with soft and moist, emerald moss. Melodic bird songs fill the forest, and each spring a profusion of wildflowers, including showy orchids and large and small yellow lady-slippers, bloom before dense leaf canopy blocks the sun. Satterfield Creek has carved a chute in the dolomite bedrock, and numerous springs moisten the soil.

Though a mile of maturing forest separates the Current River Natural Area from its namesake river, this old-growth forest is one of the most beautiful places within the river's watershed. Those who fought to preserve the Current River Natural Area more than 50 years ago obviously saw an inseparable connection between the river and this ancient forest of white oaks.

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