JEFFERSON CITY, Mo – See some of Missouri’s first free-ranging elk in nearly 150 years, along with other wildlife, while also enjoying fall foliage through a self-guided driving tour at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Peck Ranch Conservation Area.
Over the past three years, MDC has been working with local communities, landowners, conservation groups and others to restore more than 100 elk from Kentucky to a 346-square-mile restoration zone in this rugged area of the Ozarks. The heart of the restoration zone is Peck Ranch Conservation Area in northwest Carter County and eastern Shannon County.
Late September through early November is a prime time to see bull elk bugling against a backdrop of fall foliage as they woo cow elk into small groups called harems. The best times to see elk and other wildlife are right after sunrise and right before sunset.
MDC can’t guarantee an elk sighting, but the tour is a beautiful drive though fields, forests and glades infused with fall color during October and November. Visitors may also catch sightings of deer, turkey, and other wildlife.
The tour route begins at the Peck Ranch CA office and is marked along the way. Driving tours are open sunrise to sunset seven days a week, unless closed because of inclement weather. Visitors are encouraged to take photographs and get out of vehicles for better views, but should not disturb elk or other wildlife in any way. Gravel roads on Peck Ranch CA may not be accessible to vehicles without adequate ground clearance. Some roads may be impassible at times due to high water at stream crossings.
Note that elk driving tours will be closed for deer hunting in the area Oct. 5 and 6, Nov. 1-3, Nov. 16-26 and Dec. 7 and 8
For more information on elk driving tours, call the MDC Elk Info Line at 855-C-MDC-ELK (855-263-2355).
For more information on Peck Ranch Conservation Area, visit tinyurl.com/qew7ptj.
While in the area, also visit MDC’s Twin Pines Conservation Education Center located near Peck Ranch one mile east of Winona on Route 60. Twin Pines is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. For more information on Twin Pines, call 573-325-1381, or go online to mdc.mo.gov/node/293.
Just north of Peck Ranch lie the MDC Rocky Creek and Current River conservation areas. Both have several gravel roads open to vehicle traffic and also provide wildlife viewing.
The nearby communities of Eminence, Ellington, Winona and Van Buren also offer fall events and other outdoor activities. Visit them for a bite to eat, a bit of shopping, an overnight stay, and a variety of outdoor adventures.