Dispersed throughout this 2,970-acre area in the Missouri Ozarks are rivers, wetlands, and forests containing some of the state’s oldest white oaks. Little Black Conservation Area (CA) in Ripley County showcases a variety of natural Ozark specialties for visitors to discover.
Among these are two designated natural areas, Fern Nook Natural Area (NA) and Overcup Fen NA. High-quality forest resources and old growth stands dominate Fern Nook NA. The natural area features a broad range of tree species including sweet gum, ash, elm, sugar maple, pecan, bitternut hickory, white oak, shumard oak, and bur oak. Upland areas in Fern Nook NA also support pine, black oak, and post oak, and one northern slope holds Missouri’s oldest known white oaks, dating back to the early 1600s.
The name “Fern Nook” comes from a nearby historic post office. Today some of the oldest known oak trees in Missouri are within 10 miles of the Grandin Mill site, once one of the largest timber mills in the nation.
Overcup Fen NA boasts bottomland forests with overcup oaks as well as four unique, spring-fed wetlands known as fens. Fens form when groundwater percolates to the surface. Fens often harbor rare plant and animal species; in fact, Overcup Fen NA supports a population of the federally endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly.
Two rivers accompany Little Black CA’s two natural areas, the North and South prongs of the Little Black River. The area offers fishing opportunities for bass, suckers, and sunfish, as well as hunting for deer, turkey, and small game. Bowhunters can gear up for their seasons at Little Black CA’s archery range featuring 34 targets, four of which are disabled-accessible.
Little Black CA is the site of a large shortleaf pine and oak woodland restoration project. At the turn of the century extensive shortleaf pine and oak woodlands were present on the rolling terrain of the Ripley County Ozarks, but these have greatly diminished due to lack of fire and overabundance of trees. Today foresters are using selective thinning and prescribed fire to restore this natural community rich in native plants and animals.
Little Black CA is located 8 miles north of Doniphan off Highway 21 and Route NN. For an area map and brochure, visit the website listed below.
—Story by Rebecca Martin, photo by David Stonner
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler