May is a great time to visit this botanically unique river-hills area in Hannibal.
If you love to bird and botanize, grab your binoculars and field guides, and spend a day at Julian Steyermark Woods CA.
The Conservation Department purchased this scenic, mostly wooded 73-acre tract, located within the Hannibal city limits, from Mrs. H. J. Freiling in 1979. The area was named for Dr. Julian Steyermark, the noted botanist who wrote Flora of Missouri, the encyclopedic guide to Missouri’s native plants.
The area is a prime example of river hills woodlands bordering the Mississippi River’s west bank. Mature sugar maple, basswood, blue ash, black walnut, Kentucky coffee tree, northern red oak and white oak trees dominate the rich woodlands. The understory contains a wide variety of small trees and shrubs, such as pawpaw, bladdernut and ironwood. As you hike, you may notice forest regeneration treatments scattered throughout the area. These help maintain the area’s natural diversity.
Because the area is unglaciated, it harbors a wide range of plants that were here before the glaciers, as well as plants that the glaciers pushed south. One example is red-berried elder, common in northern states, but found only along northern Mississippi River bluffs in Missouri.
The forest floor is rich with wildflowers and ferns. An extensive plant survey conducted the same year the Department bought the area found more than 135 plants, some of which are rare, endangered or unusual. These include amethyst shooting star, rose turtlehead, wild sarsaparilla and white-flowering trillium, as well as maidenhair and Christmas ferns.
Mushroom hunting is permitted at the area, and you might have good luck on moist, north-facing slopes. A good guide to Missouri’s mushrooms is our new Missouri’s Wild Mushrooms, available at www.MDCNatureShop.com.
Birders will see and hear a wide variety of woodland songbirds, including bluebirds, cardinals and warblers. Eagles nest in the vicinity along the Mississippi River, so you may see them soaring overhead.
Because Steyermark Woods CA is located within the city limits of Hannibal, hunting is prohibited.
Begin your visit with a trip to the area’s webpage (listed below) for driving directions, regulations and a map.
—Bonnie Chasteen, photo by Cliff White
Recreation Opportunities: Nature study, wildlife viewing and hiking
Getting There: Travel north of Hannibal on Highway 168, then go one mile east on County Road 410. Plan to park at the pull-off along County Road 410.
For More Information: Call 573-248-2530 or visit www.mdc.mo.gov/a7934.
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler