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White Ranch CA

Watch wildlife and witness forest regeneration at this Howell County area.

Grab your binoculars and outdoor gear, and head to White Ranch Conservation Area (CA) 11 miles south of West Plains this month. You’ll find good birding and beautiful wildflowers, as well as a range of opportunities to pursue almost any outdoor activity. You’ll also get to see this forested area’s early response to regeneration treatments following the 2009 ice storm.

The 6,614-acre White Ranch CA, named for former owner Harry White, is divided into three tracts. The main tract features the 6-acre White Ranch Lake, a gravel boat ramp, a 50- and 100-yard rifle range, several picnic tables and two miles of the South Fork of the Spring River.

Although the area has no trails, the many miles of gravel access roads are open to horseback riding, biking and hiking. The parking lot, ranges and public restrooms are accessible to disabled users. Anglers will find good fishing for bass, catfish and sunfish in the lake and the Spring River. Breeding birds are very active along the Spring River corridor in spring. Species you might see or hear include belted kingfishers, great crested flycatchers, wood thrushes, white- and red-eyed vireos, northern parulas, Louisiana waterthrushes, Kentucky warblers, common yellow throats, summer tanagers and red-winged blackbirds.

In the drainage south of road number eight, you’ll find an incredible species-rich glade/fen complex. A glade is a dry, rocky, desert-like area, and a fen is a type of wetland. This unusual mix of habitat types supports diverse wildflowers and native grasses, such as wild sunflower, wood mint, purple prairie clover, wild petunia, prairie rose, slender mountain mint and big bluestem.

You may notice some recently cut sections of forest. These are regeneration or “shelterwood” cuts that managers conducted in response to the January 2009 ice storm, which severely damaged large swaths of the area. These shelterwood cuts “start the forest over,” while leaving some trees across the landscape for wildlife dens, cover, nesting and seed production.

While regeneration treatments may look a bit rough, they will quickly grow into dense, shrubby thickets favored by quail, rabbits and songbirds, providing visitors with many opportunities to hunt and enjoy wildlife well into the future. To plan your visit, download the area’s brochure and map at the Web page listed below.

—Bonnie Chasteen, photo by David Stonner

Recreation opportunities: Bird watching, wildflower viewing, camping, canoeing, fishing, hunting and target practice

Unique features: Hardwood forest, glade/fen complex and two miles of the South Fork of the Spring River

For More Information Call 417-895-6880 or visit mdc.mo.gov/a8333.

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