St. Louis area residents never have to look far for a place to enjoy nature. Besides Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center and dozens of minimally developed conservation areas, river accesses and community lakes, this 6,987-acre area in St. Charles County has been a haven for nature-lovers since 1947. The trails are favorites of birders and nature photographers. The area’s extensive road system allows visitors to drive or stroll between 32 fishable lakes and ponds, five wildlife viewing ponds and picnic areas. Visitors may be puzzled when they encounter dozens of concrete bunkers around the area. These are relics of munitions manufacturing on the area during WWII. The area office is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The Black River below Clearwater Lake has lots of spotted and largemouth bass, with 15-inch fish not uncommon. You also could catch a walleye worth cash. The Conservation Department has marked 248 walleyes with reward tags worth $10 to $100. Besides giving lucky anglers cash, reporting tagged fish helps biologists manage walleyes. Sportsman’s Park, Hilliard and Hendrickson accesses all have boat ramps, as do Markham Springs Campground and Clearwater Dam. Canoe/kayak accesses include Hammer Conservation Area and Mill Springs Park. For more information, contact Paul Cieslewicz, (573) 290-5730, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 26 miles or so of the Des Moines River upstream from its confluence with the Mississippi River are wide and muddy. Big blue, flathead and channel catfish swim up from the larger river to forage for food along the banks. Sturgeon hang out around the mouth. Two miles of river frontage at Frost Island Conservation Area enable anglers to reach those hungry fish. The Fort Pike Access, about a mile upriver from Frost Island, has a boat ramp. Bank fishing, trotlines, bank poles and limb lines are popular fishing methods here, with live chubs, bluegill or bullheads for bait. Night crawlers and crawdads sometimes work, too. Fish the deep water along cutbanks at night for best results. Water levels are quite variable in the summer, so check the gauge height at waterdata.usgs.gov/ia/nwis/rt ahead of time. Boaters must watch for constantly shifting sandbars in the shallow river. Missouri anglers can fish the Iowa side of the river, but check for what is permitted in the Wildlife Code (available at permit vendors).
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