CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) announces the opening of Blue Spring Branch Conservation Area (CA) in Perry County. The area encompasses Ball Mill Resurgence Natural Area as well as an additional 71-acre tract, known as the Riney Tract. Ball Mill Resurgence and the Riney Tract are owned by the L-A-D Foundation and managed by MDC. The Riney tract includes woodland stream frontage and restoration of native grassland.
"The L-A-D Foundation hopes to help protect a portion of Perry County's original landscape for residents of the area and visitors to enjoy and learn from," said John Karel, president of the L-A-D Foundation.
Leo Drey, L-A-D founder, purchased the Ball Mill Resurgence Natural Area from Perry County residents Elmer Shafer and Paul Lowes in 1978. Drey and his wife Kay donated that land to the L-A-D Foundation and in 1979 it was recognized as a Missouri Natural Area, ranking among the state's most important natural features.
Ball Mill Resurgence Natural Area is a 19-acre tract located about six miles north of Perryville, near Saline Junction. It includes a short walking trail that encourages visitors to explore the forested area and learn about how water influences the karst landscape, both above ground and below.
Ball Mill Resurgence acts as a sinkhole most of the time, funneling surface water downward through a hole at the base of a 50-foot limestone bluff. Following heavy rain events, it is often roaring with water when it backs up and exits the hole like a spring.
The 71-acre Riney addition straddles Blue Spring Branch. There is a small parking area on the east side of the road, but most of the land is across the county road to the west. From a high point of more than 580 feet visitors have an outstanding view across the Mississippi River to the river hills in Illinois. The conservation area will be open to hunting under special provisions.
State and federal officials recently determined that the entire area is important habitat for the federally endangered grotto sculpin, which depends on the underground streams within the area's extensive cave systems. Ryan Dirnberger, MDC's area manager for Blue Springs Branch CA, said the MDC will continue work to restore native grasslands, woodlands, glades and stream bottom areas to benefit wildlife.
"We'll continue to improve the habitat while promoting outdoor recreation opportunities in this unique area," Dirnberger said, adding that the restoration efforts promise improved habitat for bobwhite quail, grassland birds, pollinators, deer and turkey.
MDC's mission is to manage Missouri's fish, forest, and wildlife. The L-A-D Foundation was established in 1961 and has been active mostly in southeast Missouri acquiring and protecting outstanding natural areas in Missouri. In addition to Blue Spring Branch CA, L-A-D leases six other areas to MDC.
To get to Blue Springs Branch CA, take Highway 61 north from Perryville, then Route V north until the pavement ends and follow County Road 916 into the area. For more information on this and other Missouri Conservation Areas, go online to mdc.mo.gov.