June is a great time to enjoy prairie wildflowers and colorful birds at this northwest Missouri area.
The Wayne Helton Memorial Wildlife Area near Bethany in Harrison County is a living monument to Missouri’s tallgrass prairies and to Wayne Helton, who served as the conservation agent for Caldwell and Daviess counties from 1941 until 1965. The Department established the area in 1969 with the purchase of 440 acres from Helton’s widow, Nina Pauline Helton. The purchase of several additional tracts since 1969 has increased the area to its current size of 2,560 acres.
This large, diverse area features old fields, forests, cropland and two small wetlands. The area’s northwest corner includes the Helton Prairie Natural Area, one of north Missouri’s best examples of native, deep-soil tallgrass prairie. Nearly 200 varieties of native prairie plants have been identified on the 30-acre natural area.
At Helton Prairie you will see what many early European settlers found in Missouri north of the Missouri River. The area supports plants characteristic of upland prairies (for example, rattlesnake master, pale purple coneflower, prairie blazing star, rigid goldenrod, lead plant, compass plant and white prairie clover) but also an abundance of more moisture-loving prairie plants, such as bunch flower, tall coreopsis, sweet coneflower, closed gentian, Culver’s root and water parsnip.
While you’re enjoying the wildflowers, keep an eye out for a host of native insects that help shape the prairie community. From ants to butterflies, myriad insect species play integral roles in the ecology of our remnant prairies. In addition to prairie wildflowers and native insects, you will also see and hear a great variety of birds, including indigo bunting, dickcissel, horned lark, sedge wren, rose-breasted grosbeak, blue grosbeak, orchard oriole, eastern bluebird, yellow-breasted chat and summer tanager.
Because of the area’s size and diversity, the Department manages it for a wide range of game and nongame wildlife. Management activities include farming, prescribed burning, edge feathering (cutting down and leaving trees to create a shrub-like transition between crops or pastures and woodlots) and food plots.
To get to the Wayne Helton Memorial Wildlife Area, go nine miles east of Bethany on Highway 136 to Route CC. Turn south (right) on Route CC, and go three miles to the Area. To plan your visit and download the area’s brochure and map, see the Web page listed below.
—Bonnie Chasteen, photo by David Stonner
Recreation Opportunities: Bird watching, wildflower viewing, camping, fishing, hunting and trapping with a special use permit.
Unique Features: The area features the 30-acre Helton Prairie Natural Area, one of the last deep-soil tallgrass prairie remnants in Missouri.
For More Information: Call 660-646-6122 or visit mdc.mo.gov/a6902.
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler