Thirty Years for Missouri's Natural Areas

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2007

Last revision: Dec. 3, 2010


Natural areas serve as living laboratories and outdoor classrooms for scientists and teachers to use for research and teaching. These areas also are important green space and provide outdoor recreation opportunities including hiking, birding, nature study, photography and, in many cases, hunting and fishing.

Natural Areas Stewardship

Today the natural processes of fire, flooding, native predators and grazers no longer sustain our ecosystems as they did prior to settlement. In many cases, non-native invasive species threaten our natural areas. Land cannot simply be designated as a natural area and left alone forever. Natural areas typically require some form of hands-on land management, such as prescribed burning, to restore or maintain their ecological integrity.

See a Natural Area Today

The best way to learn about our natural areas is to visit one. Some natural areas are remote and require good orienteering skills with map and compass to visit. But many are relatively easy to access and not far from metropolitan areas.

This article includes descriptions of and directions to 10 natural areas owned or managed by the Conservation Department. These areas have parking lots and either have trails or are relatively easy to traverse cross-country.

For more information about designated Missouri natural areas, see the links listed below or write to the Natural Areas Coordinator, Wildlife Division, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102.

Little Bean Marsh Natural Area

416 acres in Platte County
(816) 655-6250

Marsh, slough and bottomland forest rich in wetland wildlife in the Missouri River floodplain between Kansas City and St. Joseph. One and a quarter miles of disabled-accessible paved trail, viewing blind and viewing tower.

Driving Directions: Thirty miles north of Kansas City. From the town of Iatan on Highway 45, drive approximately three miles north. From the highway, turn west at the sign and follow the gravel road that ends at the trailhead and parking lot.

Maple Woods Natural Area

18 acres in Clay County
(816) 655-6250

Old-growth oak-maple forest in the Kansas City Metro Area. The area has a network of natural-surface hiking trails. The Conservation Department owns this land, and the City of Gladstone manages the site.

Driving Directions: Take I-435 to Highway 152. Go west on Highway 152 for 1.8 miles and turn south onto Route 1 for 0.5 mile, then turn west onto 80th Street. Look for the sign on the corner and follow this road, which becomes 76th Street, south and west 0.7 mile to the parking lot on the

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