Historical Land Use
Original inhabitants of the area were Native Americans of the Missouri, Osage, Fox, and Sac tribes who depended upon the abundant wildlife resources (SCS 1992b, 1975). The first white settlers of Missouri, the French, laid claim to much of the area in 1712. The United States took ownership in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The Fabius River was named around 1800 by a Spanish surveyor, Don Antonio Soulard. Treaties signed with native tribes in 1804 and 1816 designated the area north of the Fabius River and 30 miles west of the mouth of the river as Indian territory. The last treaty in 1824 permanently turned the region over to the United States. The natives were taken to reservations around 1840. White settlers from Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Virginia were already arriving by that time and quickly established farming as the region's economic base.
Lewis County was founded in 1833 and originally included Clark, Knox, and Scotland counties. Present boundaries for the counties in the basin were established between 1825 and 1845. Human population in the region grew rapidly from 1840 to 1920, then declined. For example, the population of Lewis County increased from 6,578 in 1850 to 16,724 in 1900. By 1980 it had dropped to 10,901 (SCS 1992b). Other basin counties exhibited similar demographic trends, except Marion County, where the population has been relatively stable since 1900.
Much of the presettlement landscape of the basin was prairie (Schroeder 1982). The proportion of prairie land in Lewis, Knox, Scotland, and Schuyler counties ranged between 30% and 55%. Prairies of the basin were usually long and narrow since they were located on the narrow uplands or ridges along the three main, parallel-flowing streams. Wet, bottomland prairies occurred on nearly all floodplains. Wooded areas were found across the steeper rolling hills and adjacent to streams.
Modern Land Use
Characterization of modern land use (Figure Lu01) was based upon the 1992 National Resources Inventory conducted by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, currently the Natural Resources Conservation Service (Table Lu01; SCS 1992a). Nearly 70% of the land in the watershed is used for agricultural purposes. Approximately 387,600 acres are cultivated for crops, and another 234,400 are in pasture. Only about 14% of the basin is forested (including grazed forest land).
County crop production reports indicate that soybeans are the most important field crop in terms of acres planted and harvested (Sallee et al. 1996). Corn and wheat rank second and third. Annual livestock production in the counties of the basin ranges from 25,000 to 28,700 cattle and 8,000 to 32,500 hogs.
Soil Conservation Projects
Under the authority of the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act (PL 83-566), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers three soil conservation projects in the basin (Table Lu02). The Bear Creek project, completed in 1981, included 66 land treatment structures, 7 flood retardation structures, and 3 grade stabilization structures. Troublesome Creek and Grassy Creek projects are ongoing. In the mid 1970s, a watershed project for the Upper and Lower Middle Fabius drainage was proposed and investigated. Project planning was terminated in 1982 due to lack of support by local landowners; however, resource inventories and assessments were prepared (SCS 1977, 1978). In addition to these projects, NRCS administers three EARTH and four SALT (Special Area Land Treatment) projects in the basin that may impact a total area of 77,910 acres (Table Lu02).
There are 12 public areas totaling 13,053 acres within the Fabius River basin (Table Lu03). All areas except Ella Ewing Lake and Henry Sever Conservation Area provide access to basin streams. Deer Ridge Conservation Area, the largest publicly owned tract in the basin (6,921 acres), offers access to both the North Fabius and Middle Fabius rivers. Although many of the areas have developed parking lots adjacent to the streams, Soulard Access on the Fabius River provides the only concrete boat ramp. Five rock barbs (jetties) have been constructed at this site to decrease streambank erosion, improve stream habitat, and provide bank fishing access. Several accesses are located within a few miles of each other and provide excellent drop-off and pick-up points for one-day fishing/float trips (e.g. Dunn Ford to Blackhawk; Sunrise to Soulard). The Missouri Department of Conservation also manages the fisheries of nine small public impoundments in the basin with a combined total of 700 surface acres.