Something wonderful happens in Missouri each fall. September begins with a flurry of fall activities — a new school year, football season, family barbecues — but there is a subtle, yet significant, change happening in the background. Missouri is transitioning from a landscape of green to a vibrant autumn hue. For a state with abundant trees and forests, when the fall colors peak, it is a majestic sight to behold.
A must-see annual fall event is the Department’s Poosey Conservation Area driving tour near Chillicothe in northwest Missouri. Thousands of people journey to the area in October for a scenic tour of the 5,900-acre area. There are key stops along the way, highlighting how conservation practices on the area benefit wildlife, forestry, and native plants. Down south in the Ozarks, we also have another great scenic driving tour at Peck Ranch Conservation Area, but among the fall colors, you also get to see and hear the distinctive bugling of elk in October. Perhaps a little subtler, but still just as spectacular, are the colors of native grasslands in the prairies around our state. All of these opportunities provide a chance to see Missouri conservation at its finest — abundant, thriving, and up close.
Although more than 90 percent of Missouri’s land is privately owned, part of the Department’s mission is to provide outdoor opportunities on public lands for citizens to enjoy year-round. The Department holds 800,000 acres in public trust for conservation and public use across the state, which may seem like a large number, but only represents less than two percent of Missouri’s total state acreage. These areas provide recreational opportunities for fishing, hiking, hunting, wildlife watching, camping, boating, shooting, and conservation education for all ages. Conservation areas also provide a unique opportunity to conserve natural diversity and, at the same time, provide conservation-related recreation and education opportunities. Surveys continue to show strong citizen support for maintaining, and even expanding, the number of acres of public land available for all to enjoy.
Even with Missouri’s diverse urban and rural populations, most Missourians live within 30 miles or less of a conservation area. You may be familiar with conservation areas nearby, but there are still more conservation areas around the state to be discovered. The Department has a convenient Conservation Area Atlas online (mdc.mo.gov/atlas) where you can search conservation areas by county or region, as well as browse recreational opportunities available and driving directions for each of those conservation areas.
Whether you like to hike a trail, watch birds, take photos, fish, hunt with family, learn new outdoor skills, or enjoy the sunset from a scenic bluff, the Missouri outdoors is the place for you. There is no better or more beautiful season than right now to discover nature. We have nearly 1 million acres waiting for you. Get exploring!
Robert L. Ziehmer, director
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