Ten miles east of Brookfield on the south side of Highway 36, Mussel Fork Conservation Area fronts about two miles of Mussel Fork Creek. With a wide range of habitat types covering more than 2,000 acres, the area serves as habitat for hundreds of native Missouri plants and wildlife species, and offers plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities throughout the year.
Visitors will appreciate the area’s landscape for its diversity and beauty. Southward-draining, closely spaced streams create a pattern of long, narrow ridges and wooded stream valleys. Before settlement, this rolling landscape included oak savannas on the ridges and more densely forested areas along the steeper slopes. Lowlands next to Mussel Fork Creek were prone to flooding and included a complex pattern of wet prairie, marshes, small lakes and ponds and riverbank timber. These natural communities were home to a wide diversity of plants and animals.
Today the area’s managers are restoring ecosystem processes, such as prescribed fire, that create a diverse prairie-savanna-woodland mosaic, much like that of the historic landscape. Prescribed fire cleans out encroaching saplings, removes leaf and woody litter and stimulates plant growth, resulting in a rich ground flora of wildflowers, grasses and sedges. The area’s well-managed woodlands provide excellent habitat for wildlife, including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, bobwhite quail, red-headed woodpecker, Coopers’ hawk, Indiana bat, three-toed box turtle and eastern grey treefrog.
In January, several hunting seasons are open, including furbearer, rabbit, squirrel and crow. Trapping is allowed by special permit only. Visitors to the area may also pursue deer with bow and arrow, or hunt quail through January 15. Antlered or antlerless deer may be taken on an Archer’s Hunting Permit; however, no archery antlerless permits may be used.
Area ponds offer winter fishing opportunities for bass, catfish and bluegill. Hiking and birdwatching are also great winter activities, particularly after a snow event, when tracks and other wildlife signs can be seen and identified. On a sunny day after a fresh snowfall, quail, turkey, sparrows, chickadees, titmice and woodpeckers will flock to foodplots and other open fields to forage and sun themselves.
—Bonnie Chasteen, photo by Noppadol Paothong
Recreation opportunities: Birdwatching and wildlife viewing, primitive camping, fishing, hiking on mowed service roads and hunting for deer, quail, rabbit, squirrel and turkey
Unique features: Two miles of Mussel Fork Creek and four fishable ponds
Call (660) 646-6122 or visit our online atlas, keyword, "Mussel".
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