Explore this Southeast Missouri area’s abundant forests and the state’s deepest natural pond using 19 miles of multiuse trails.
If you plan to be in southeastern Missouri this spring, be ready to find an array of natural wonders hidden among the trees of Castor River Conservation Area (CA). This Bollinger County area features 9,491 acres of forests and fields that are home to abundant wildlife and one designated natural area.
Named for its dominating feature, Blue Pond Natural Area highlights a special aspect of Castor River CA. At about 66 feet, Blue Pond is the deepest natural pond in Missouri; its depth and immensity make it unlike any other sinkhole in the state. Accompanying Blue Pond are four permanent streams: Castor River, Grassy Creek, Trace Creek, and Pond Creek. The latter, a spring-fed creek formed in part from the spring that created Blue Pond, leads to several spring-fed pools before joining the Castor River.
A variety of wildlife includes deer, turkey, salamanders, and terrapins. Bird watchers will be pleased to find pileated woodpeckers and wood thrushes.
Visitors can explore the area’s wildlife and natural features on foot, bicycle, or horseback using a 19-mile trail system, easily navigable with an interconnected color-coding system. A 9-acre lake offers fishing for bass, catfish, and sunfish, while hunters can search the woods for deer, turkey, and squirrel in season. Castor River CA’s 12-position shooting range provides single-projectile target practice at 25-, 50-, and 100-yard distances.
Castor River CA’s active timber-management program works to improve and maintain quality in the area’s plentiful forests. Using primarily uneven-age management techniques, area managers annually complete 40 to 150 acres of timber stand improvement. Forest management also includes yearly inventory of 1,000 acres of forest as well as timber sales to salvage damaged trees after storms.
The area’s other management practices include maintenance of 46 acres of wildlife food plots, an ongoing eradication program for invasive exotic species, and regular controlled burns to improve wildlife habitat, control understory vegetation, and improve oak regeneration.
The main tract of Castor River CA lies 12 miles west of Marble Hill, accessible on both sides of Highway 34. For more information about Castor River CA, including an area map and brochure, visit the website listed below.
—Rebecca Maples, photo by David Stonner
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