If you’re looking to experience the true Ozarks, this conservation area offers a unique sampling of habitat, history, and hills.
Shortly after the formation of the Missouri Conservation Commission, a steep and rugged tract of land within the geologic region known as the Gainesville Monadnocks was purchased for the purpose of a wild turkey refuge. The year was 1940, and the land that surrounded the Caney Creek drainage became known as the Caney Mountain Refuge. The refuge took its name from the creek as well as the abundant stands of giant river cane located along the creek banks. This area of Ozark County was one of the last strongholds for turkeys in the state. A. Starker Leopold, son of conservation pioneer Aldo Leopold, was hired by the Commission to conduct turkey research there and prepared the area’s first management plan. Leopold’s old log cabin is still on the area, and it is a fascinating historical piece for visitors.
A lot has changed since those early days, but management for deer, turkey, squirrels, and other game species continues on the area’s current 7,899 acres. Hunting is permitted under statewide regulations on portions of the area, and managed hunts are held annually in the former turkey refuge on the area. Staff annually plant 60–80 acres of green browse plots as supplemental food sources for wildlife and use prescribed fire to maintain diverse native plant communities.
The 1,330-acre Long Bald Natural Area contains some of the best examples of glade and woodland systems in the state, and it includes a wide range of plant and animal species that are adapted to live in this dry and rocky habitat. Some of these species include the eastern collared lizard, eastern wood-peewee, summer tanager, and indigo bunting, as well as the brilliant blooms of coneflowers, blazing star, and Missouri evening primrose.
Several miles of gravel roads are suitable for taking a driving tour to view the scenic overlooks, trying to catch a glimpse of a black bear, or to take in fall color. Along the road on the Preston Flats Ridge, visitors can enjoy a picnic lunch while overlooking the entire Caney Creek drainage. There are three designated hiking trails and a 6.5-mile multiuse trail that loops through the area. In addition, overnight camping is permitted in three separate campgrounds.
Caney Mountain is a great place to step back in time and enjoy the stillness and solitude found in these Ozarks hills. The main entrance to the area is located 6 miles north of Gainesville on Hwy 181.
—Randall Roy, area manager
For More Information: Call 417-679-2363 or visit mdc.mo.gov/a5202.
Editor In Chief - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer/Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler