Just a 45-minute drive from downtown St. Louis, this Jefferson County area contains some of the highest quality woodland, glade, and sandstone cliff natural communities in the region.
Labarque Creek Encompasses acres of the upper LaBarque Creek watershed, one of the most pristine and diverse watersheds within the Meramec River basin. The Department acquired the area through several land acquisitions that began in 2007. The area shares a portion of its southern boundary with Don Robinson State Park, a new park currently under development. A 3-mile hiking trail loop on the area wanders along LaBarque Creek, travels through woodland ridgetops and along open glades and shaded forests, crossing a portion of the state-designated natural area. Visitors can access the trail at a public parking lot located at the northern tip of the area.
LaBarque Creek’s landscape, fish, and wildlife are very diverse, so there are many things to discover. You may see Fremont’s leather flower emerging atop a dolomite glade, red-backed salamanders hiding in the moist duff beneath a downed tree, or sphagnum moss and ferns clinging to the shaded walls of a wet sandstone cliff. The area supports more than 584 species of seed-bearing plants, 115 species of bryophytes (mosses, liverworts, and hornworts), 49 breeding bird species, and over 53 species of fish. In fact, fish diversity is almost three times greater than that of nearly all other Meramec River tributaries. The unique geological features of the area can be admired year-round — waterfalls among the sandstone box canyons and rock shelters in the rainy months give way to large ice flows in the winter.
Current management efforts focus on restoring the sandstone and dolomite woodlands and glades that have become overgrown with fire-intolerant tree species (sugar maple, ironwood, and Eastern red cedar) over the last century due to the absence of natural disturbances such as fire. Woodland thinning is a management tool that is currently used to remove many of these tree species as well as some oaks that have become overstocked. Visitors may see large areas of downed trees on the area, but these areas provide important habitat for various wildlife. Increased acorn production in the large standing oaks provide forage for many animals. Integrating prescribed fire with tree thinning also helps stimulate the habitat for more woodland characteristic species like silky aster, Missouri black-eyed Susan, purple prairie clover, and chinkapin oak.
—Raenhard Wesselschmidt, area manager, LaBarque Creek Conservation Area
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler