Loess hills provide hiking options
By Larry Archer
In the hills above the Missouri River floodplain south of St. Joseph, a system of trails takes visitors throughout the 2,281-acre Bluffwoods Conservation Area (CA).
“The area has an extensive trail system and one of the trails is ADA; we usually refer to it as the Forest Nature Trail,” said Bluffwoods CA Manager Lonnie Messbarger.
As an ADA-accessible trail, the Forest Nature Trail is paved and relatively level, but the nonpaved trails offer more of a challenge, Messbarger said.
“The natural surface trails do have some pretty steep parts of it,” he said. “Bluffwoods has some pretty severe terrain because it’s right on top of the loess hill mounds that can have 300–400-foot elevation changes pretty quick.”
That erodible quality of the area’s loess soil gives the area a unique feature not often found in northwest Missouri. In drainage areas, the soil has washed away, exposing the bedrock below and giving the creeks an “Ozarkian” look, he said.
“You just don’t see rock waterfalls and rock ripples in a lot of the creeks in this part of the world; they’re mostly dirt,” he said. “You get some pretty neat features, but you’ve got to go find them.”
Bluffwoods Conservation Area consists of 2,281 acres in Buchanan County. From St. Joseph, take Highway 59 south 8 miles, then east on Bethel Road 0.6 mile to area entrance. 39.6372, -94.9314 short.mdc.mo.gov/Z7E 816-271-3100
Discover more nature at mdc.mo.gov/field-guide
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