THE KANSAS CITY region may make for miles of urban sprawl, but one portion of this area remains untouched. Maple Woods Natural Area (NA) occupies 39 acres of natural forest and woodlands surrounded by the City of Gladstone and the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Impressive stands of black maple, a variety of sugar maple, are accompanied by scattered northern red oak, white oak, bur oak, bitternut, shagbark hickory, red elm, basswood, black walnut, and white ash. The diverse forest boasts spectacular fall colors and a wonderful winter display. Ephemeral wildflowers including Solomon’s seal, Dutchman’s breeches, bloodroot, and bellwort, join the varied tree stands during their spring bloom when they capitalize on the abundant sunshine on the forest floor and set seed before the tree canopy fully leafs out.
Also during spring, songbirds such as thrushes and warblers migrate through the area, while those looking for birds this winter can expect to see northern flickers and downy, hairy, and red-bellied woodpeckers.
Visitors are invited to explore this area rich in natural history and wildlife diversity using the 1.4-mile Maple Woods Nature Trail. No hunting is permitted on the area, but there is no limit to the natural wonders attentive hikers might discover.
Maple Woods NA preserves this area’s natural history, displaying a small slice of what the northern Kansas City area looked like before the city became what it is today. The old-growth forest is a fond reminder of the wild lands that dominated this region only 200 years ago.
Nearly destroyed at one point, the remnant forest of Maple Woods NA was almost turned into a residential area and shopping mall in the early 1970s. To salvage the valuable land, now recognized by the National Park Service as a National Natural Landmark, a coalition of local citizens along with The Nature Conservancy acquired the site, which the Missouri Department of Conservation purchased in 1978. Today Maple Woods NA is owned by the Conservation Department, which leases the land to the City of Gladstone for management and maintenance.
Maple Woods NA is located 1.25 miles east of North Oak Trafficway on 76th Street in Gladstone. More information, including an area map, is available at the website listed below.
—Rebecca Martin, photo by David Stonner
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler