Places to Go

By |
From Missouri Conservationist: Oct 2014

Spring Creek Gap Conservation Area

With its combination of forests, woodlands, steep topography, dolomite glades, and old fields, this is an extremely scenic area, especially during the fall color change.

This Maries County gem offers visitors a glimpse of quality Ozark glade and woodland habitats in central Missouri — if they’re willing to hike its rugged hills!

This wooded conservation area originated as the Vichy Tower Site with a purchase of 280 acres in 1948. The name was changed to Spring Creek Gap State Forest after a 1978 acquisition of an additional 1,495 acres. It has since grown to 1,819 acres and is now known as Spring Creek Gap Conservation Area (CA).

One local name for the area is “Little Idaho,” a tribute to the steep, rugged topography that ranges from 760 feet along the intermittent Cedar Creek that bisects the area to just over 1,100 feet on the wooded ridges. There are no designated trails on Spring Creek Gap CA, but foot traffic is allowed on the primitive maintenance roads used by area managers. Users are encouraged to navigate thoughtfully in order to avoid a more strenuous hike than they may have intended.

Visitors will find an array of notable woodland and glade natural communities, especially in the 692-acre Spring Creek Gap Glades Natural Area. This natural area encompasses the central and eastern portions. A large complex of dry chert and dolomite woodlands gives way to open dolomite glades, where exposed bedrock and thin soils support a variety of wildflowers and animals well-adapted to these sites and their harsh, dry, and sunny conditions. Fall foliage can be stunning on the area, especially across sweeping vistas of the surrounding landscape. One of the best views reveals itself within a five-minute walk north along the ridge road from the southern parking lot.

Management on the area is focused on maintaining and enhancing its natural glade/woodland complex, as well as the forests found along the creek and up the north-facing slopes. Visitors may see examples of tree removal geared to favor hard mast and stimulate the growth of plants on the woodland floor. This management benefits many species of songbirds, reptiles, and amphibians that call the area home, along with good numbers of squirrels, deer, and turkey that provide rewarding hunting opportunities.

Spring Creek Gap CA is about 10 miles south of Vienna and 14 miles north of Rolla off of Highway 63; turn east on Old 63 for about a quarter mile to the area.

—Adam Jones, area manager

  • Recreation opportunities: Hiking, wildlife viewing, and hunting for squirrel and turkey under statewide regulations; deer hunting allowed except archery (antlerless-only and firearms antlerless-only permits are not valid, closed during antlerless portion).
  • Unique features: Glades, managed woodlands, Cedar Creek, Spring Creek Gap Glades Natural Area.
  • For More Information: Call 573-815-7900 or visit

This Issue's Staff

Editor In Chief - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Managing Editor - vacant
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer/Editor - Brett Dufur
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler