This month fix up a daypack and head to Painted Rock Conservation Area. Seven miles southwest of Westphalia on Highway 133 in Osage County, this 1,490-acre area is one of the most scenic in the Department’s collection of public conservation lands. Aside from breathtaking views and excellent wildlife watching, it also offers camping, fishing and hunting in season.
The Osage River—the largest Ozark river in Missouri—borders the property on the west. The area supports a mixture of Ozark and big-river fauna, including the federally endangered pink mucket mussel and the state endangered elephant ear mussel. Six ponds in the oak-hickory forest are managed primarily for wildlife. Timber harvesting is managed to improve wildlife habitat, and 15 acres of open land serve as wildlife food plots. Twenty-five acres of limestone glades are maintained using prescribed fire to control small invasive trees, such as Eastern red cedar. As a result, an abundance of spring wildflowers grow in these glades, which also support invertebrates such as the glade tarantula and striped scorpion.
The 1.6-mile Osage Bluff Scenic Trail winds through the forest and along high river bluffs. It passes a Native American burial cairn constructed between 500 and 1,500 years ago, just one bit of evidence that Native Americans used this land as early as 9,000 years ago. Further down the trail, you’ll find the first observation deck, which overlooks Bloody Island to the north.
Where the trail drops down to the river bottom, watch and listen for woodland songbirds such as the yellow-bellied sapsucker, hermit thrush and yellow-rumped warbler. Keep your eyes open for trillium, bloodroot and other wildflowers this month, too. The south overlook, high upon a 140-foot cliff, provides a sweeping view of the river valley. Turkey vultures soar along the bluffs in spring and summer, and you may see bald eagles flying over the river in winter.
Along the trail route you will pass an impressive outcropping composed of three different rock types—dolomite, dolomite/purplish chert and sandstone.
Primitive camping is allowed at a number of designated sites on the area. Anglers can pursue a variety of fish in the Clubhouse Lake and the Osage River, including bass, catfish and bluegill. Hunters will find good populations of deer, turkey and squirrel during designated hunting seasons.
—Bonnie Chasteen, photo by David Stonner
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
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Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
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Photographer - David Stonner
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