Places to Go

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From Missouri Conservationist: Oct 2013

Grand Trace Conservation Area

Find a trace of Northwest Missouri’s natural history and heritage at Grand Trace Conservation Area (CA) in Harrison County. Once home to numerous Native American hunting camps littered with crisscrossing trails, this area, encompassing more than 1,500 acres, preserves the namesake Grand Trace trail that connected small, seasonal villages to the St. Louis trading center where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers meet.

While pioneers settled in the area around 1840, today the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) maintains Grand Trace CA’s 100 acres of native prairie alongside more than 800 acres of forest and woodland. Grand Trace CA has the potential to showcase three distinct northern Missouri habitat types: prairie, woodland-savanna complexes, and old-growth oak, and hickory forest.

Most of Grand Trace CA’s woodlands reside on the area’s steeper slopes and along small creek bottoms. The remaining 705 acres of the area consists of various open lands including native prairie, old fields, and non-native grassland. Grand Trace CA features 100 acres of native prairie.

The management of these three habitat types is currently and will continue to be the focus of management efforts. MDC managers maintain open lands using techniques such as farming, haying, prescribed burning, controlling undesirable woody cover in grassland areas, and planting food plots for wildlife. Certain types of woodland management practices are also used to maintain proper habitat at Grand Trace CA.

While Grand Trace CA does not contain any designated trails, adventurous hikers might seize the opportunity to retrace the steps of early Americans who traveled the original Grand Trace trail. A day spent exploring the area could include bird watching and wildlife viewing, as well as fishing at one of two fishing ponds. Anglers’ prospects are good for bass, catfish, and especially bluegill. Hunters are welcome as well for deer, turkey, quail, rabbit, and squirrel seasons. Primitive camping is available at four shaded gravel pads with fire rings.

Grand Trace CA can be easily reached from the town of Bethany. From the west end of Main Street in Bethany, take Route W north 2.5 miles, then travel west on Route F for 5.5 miles to the area’s west entrance. As always, for more information about Grand Trace CA including an area map and brochure, visit the website listed below.

—Rebecca Martin, photo by Noppadol Paothong

  • Recreation opportunities: bird watching, fishing, hunting in season, nature viewing, primitive camping, wildlife viewing
  • Unique features: This area features three distinct habitat types — prairie, woodland-savanna complexes, and old-growth oak and hickory forest — and the wildlife that reside in them.
  • For More Information: Call 660-646-6122 or visit

This Issue's Staff

Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler