Steeped in history and home to one of the last cypress-tupelo swamps left in Missouri, this Stoddard County area has a diverse suite of habitats that offer a wide variety of recreational opportunities.
The land that is now called Otter Slough Conservation Area was acquired in three land purchases that began in 1944 with the acquisition of the 244-acre Bradyville Tract and ended in 1988 with a 3,500-acre purchase from Gaylon Lawrence. Perhaps the most historic purchase was in 1978, when the Department purchased the 1,244-acre Greenhead Hunting Club from the Charles Miller family. The area headquarters is reminiscent of the log cabins where Miller and his guests stayed after sharing waterfowl hunts on the cypress-tupelo swamp that is now Otter Lake. Seven waterfowl hunting blinds are still maintained on the lake in close proximity to the historic blinds, but duck hunters today are more likely to communicate via text message during the hunt, rather than the old crank telephones that used to be in each of the hunting club’s duck blinds.
Otter Slough is one of Missouri’s top public waterfowl hunting destinations and can accommodate up to 34 hunting parties when the 2,500 acres of managed wetlands are completely flooded. During peak migration, duck numbers on the area can grow to more than 60,000, and about 100 lucky hunters per day draw out for a hunt to experience the large flocks of waterfowl flying overhead.
Most of the wetlands are dedicated to the management of native moist-soil plants that waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife eat. Managing for these plants requires area staff to mimic natural water fluctuations and accommodate a wide range of species. The fall and spring shorebird migration can be quite impressive. Visitors can test their bird identification skills as tight knots of shorebirds dart across the mudflats that are created with a combination of disking and shallowly flooding or slowly dewatering the impoundments. A wide variety of forest birds also may be seen or heard while enjoying our nature trail or hiking to the Bradyville Natural Area. Several geocaching sites are also located on the area.
The great number of waterfowl hunters that visit Otter Slough in the fall are only rivaled by the many anglers who flock to the area’s managed fishery, Cypress Lake, during the spring spawn. In the spring and summer, visitors can paddle a canoe through Otter Lake and view the wide variety of wildlife that call it home.
If you plan a trip in late summer, be sure to call the headquarters first because Otter Lake is drained periodically to promote a healthy ecosystem. Managed archery deer hunts throughout the fall and rabbit hunting after the close of duck season provide further hunting opportunities on this diverse area.
—Kevin Brunke, area manager
Editor In Chief - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
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