Tupelo Gum Pond
Sinkhole pond at Tupelo Gum Natural Area
Points of Interest:
- See an ancient sinkhole pond swamp and marsh.
- Look for water tupelo, a tree species normally found in the Mississippi delta.
- Enjoy the chorus of frogs in the spring at dusk.
Natural Features Description:
Sinkholes are formed from the collapse of an underground cavity or the slow dissolution of underlying calcareous bedrock. Sinkhole ponds form when the bed of a sinkhole is lined with impermeable clay and organic matter deposits that prevent water from draining. This sinkhole pond is typically wet in the winter and spring but can dry up in the summer and fall. Amphibian species such as spring peepers, gray treefrogs, spotted salamanders and American toads utilize these seasonal wetlands for raising their young. Interestingly sinkhole ponds in the Ozarks harbor wetland plant species more typically found in the southeast coastal plain such as the water tupelo trees found here. Unfortunately beaver have girdled and killed many of these trees. Although beaver tree harvest is a natural process, there are only two sinkhole sites left in Missouri to support water tupelo. Hence the beaver are being controlled here. In wet years look for the blooms of American lotus in the center of the pond and rose mallow along the pond’s fringe. This water source in an otherwise dry landscape is important for a variety of wildlife from deer to salamanders. Another interesting facet to the pond is that over thousands of years tree pollen has collected and been preserved in the pond’s sediments. Scientists have taken core samples from the pond’s sediments and determined that the trees growing around this pond between 12,000 to 20,000 years ago were mainly jack pine, a species now found native 500 miles to the north of here. The pollen record from 3,000 to 12,000 years ago was poorly preserved. Water tupelo and buttonbush pollen were common in the past three thousand years.
This natural area is within the Mark Twain National Forest. From Winona head west 4 miles on Highway 60. Turn left (south) on to Shannon County Road 617. Proceed south on 617 for 8 miles to a “Y” intersection. Here turn left on to Forest Service Road 3239. Travel about 2 miles on 3239. Pull off on 3239B and walk south to the pond. Hunting is permitted. A map and compass are recommended to explore this area.
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