Off the beaten path, Clear Creek Conservation Area in rural Vernon and Barton counties escapes the notice of most recreationists. But a beautiful, diverse mosaic of woodland, savanna and native prairie awaits motivated hunters, birdwatchers, hikers and anglers in November.
Clear Creek runs through the eastern portion of the area, and its wooded basin provides great habitat for both deer and turkey. This part of the area is also the farthest from either of the two parking lots, and few visitors seem willing to hike the 1.25 miles into the woodland. The lack of human activity has allowed the deer and turkey populations to remain relatively high—something hunters willing to make the extra effort will appreciate.
Rabbit and quail hunting are quite good on the area’s central grassland portion, where several brush piles provide great cover.
The area’s large tract of native prairie is highly diverse. In fact, Department biologists have identified more than 200 different plant species on it. This exceptional diversity and productivity have allowed the Department to contract native seed dealers to harvest grass and wildflower seeds. This harvest also serves the Department’s efforts to reconstruct prairie throughout the district and region.
A highly diverse native prairie and adjacent savanna also mean a high number of grassland bird species. Visitors can expect to hear, see or find evidence of grasshopper sparrows, Henslow’s sparrows, dickcissels, indigo buntings, scissor-tailed flycatchers and the like.
Although the area has no dedicated hiking trails, its access trail into the wooded Clear Creek basin offers hikers a chance to enjoy the area’s fall color, birds and other wildlife. Because one hunting season or another applies nearly every month of the year, it’s always a good idea to wear blaze orange when hiking on conservation areas.
The Department stocks only sunfish in the area’s five ponds, but these little fighters still make for good sport on a crisp fall afternoon. Don’t forget to bring your pole and tackle—and even a few kids to add smiles and squeals of delight to the experience.
—Bonnie Chasteen, photo by Noppadol Paothong
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Writer/Editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler