without disturbing or scaring off wildlife. We left all electronics at home, except for a cell phone, so silence and peacefulness enveloped us. We’d ride miles and not see anyone. We felt like we were in a different world where time slowed down. It was a great escape from modern life.
The birdwatching was excellent. Hawks, eagles and vultures circled overhead, woodpeckers drilled for insects, ducks and geese swam in ponds, blue herons and egrets fished in vast wetlands, and lots of bluebirds, goldfinches, cardinals and songbirds darted through the green canopy around us. Rabbits raced through the underbrush, woodchucks stood to watch us pass, and deer and turkey foraged in the fields. We saw more turtles dozing on logs, frogs, grasshoppers and salamanders than we could count. One day we saw a large black snake contentedly sunning itself on the rocks near the trail.
Machens to North Jefferson:
The Katy Trail State Park’s easternmost trailhead is Machens. The trail then follows the northern bank of the Missouri River from St. Charles to North Jefferson. On this stretch, dolomite and sandstone cliffs, covered with vegetation and trees, hug the trail as it winds through rich bottomland farms and forests.
Near the eastern end of the trail, about five miles of the Katy Trail traverse the 8,359-acre Weldon Spring Conservation Area, which offers additional hiking, biking, fishing and hunting opportunities. Though few remnants remain today, during World War II, more than 5,000 people worked here in more than 1,000 buildings producing 700 million pounds of TNT. Later, the U.S. Army built a uranium ore processing plant and then later produced herbicides. In 1985, the U.S. Department of Energy took over the site and cleaned it up.
From within Weldon Spring Conservation Area, the Hamburg Trail offers access to the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area, a 6,987-acre area containing 3,000 acres of forest in addition to grassland, cropland, old fields, prairie and wetlands. The area has a visitor center, boat rentals, picnic areas, pavilion, hiking trails, fishing jetties, fishing docks, staffed firearms range, archery range and viewing blinds. There are 32 fishable lakes and ponds totaling 550 acres and hunting opportunities.
The 223-acre Grand Bluffs Conservation Area is located in Bluffton. A two-mile hike through maple and oak forests leads to an observation deck located high atop some of the tallest bluffs along the trail, offering majestic views of the river