Points of Interest:
- See wet-weather waterfalls and interesting rock formations carved from ancient St. Peters sandstone.
- Keep your eyes and ears peeled for over 40 breeding bird species.
- See over a dozen natural community types supporting over 400 native plant species.
Just an hour west of downtown St. Louis is a different world that seems far removed from the city. These hills forming the watershed of LaBarque Creek conserve a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial life. LaBarque Creek supports 36 native fish species, including five native darters, making it the most diverse tributary to the Meramec River in the St. Louis area. Some of these colorful fishes indicative of good water quality include the rainbow darter, bleeding shiner and southern redbelly dace. Terrestrial natural communities range from desert-like sandstone glades with prickly pear cactus juxtaposed in close proximity to moist box canyons harboring species more common in Missouri during the last Ice Age, such as fir clubmoss and Forbes’ saxifrage. Both sandstone and dolomite outcrop here leading to the development of highly acidic soils to those nearly neutral in pH. This wide range of soil acidity levels means that there are many different niches for native plants. Some tolerate nutrient-poor acid soils such as the low bush blueberry while others such as green violet require base-rich, low acidity soils. Today Conservation Department staff are restoring the glades and woodlands using a combination of prescribed fire and thinning. In the spring look and listen for the blue-gray gnatcatcher and summer tanager in the dry woodlands high in the landscape. Down in the rich forested ravines you might spot an Acadian flycatcher or hear the song of the wood thrush. Along the creeks be on the lookout for the northern parula. Up on the wooded hills red-eyed vireos can be heard through the summer months.
This natural area is a part of the LaBarque Creek Conservation Area and Don Robinson State Park. To access the natural area from the LaBarque Creek Conservation Area follow these directions: from Eureka, take Highway W south for about 2 miles to Highway FF. At the “T” intersection go right (west) on to Highway FF. Proceed south on Highway FF for about 4.5 miles. Then turn left (south) on to Highway F. In about 100 feet turn right (west) on to Doc Sargent Road. Follow this west about 0.8 mile to Valley Drive. Turn left (south) on to Valley Drive and the parking area will be on your right (north) in a few hundred feet. A three mile hiking trail loop leads through the area. Hunting is permitted on the Missouri Department of Conservation's portion of the natural area.
To access the natural area from Don Robinson State Park: from Pacific, head south on Highway F, crossing over the Meramec River. Continue south onto Highway Nn to its intersection with Byrnesville Rd. Turn east onto Byrnesville Rd and follow it to the park entrance sign. Note that hunting is not permitted on the state park portion of the natural area.