Places to Go

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From Missouri Conservationist: Mar 2016

Schell-Osage Conservation Area

This 8,633-acre area was one of Missouri’s first managed wetlands, and it continues to be a hot spot for waterfowl hunters and birdwatchers today.

Nestled on the south bank of the Osage River in Vernon and St. Clair counties, Schell-Osage Conservation Area is a premier destination for birders. Waterfowl, bald eagles, various shorebirds, and many neotropical migrants use the area’s diverse habitat to forage and rest during migration.

Waterfowl hunters have access to 1,400 acres of managed wetlands, providing both wade-and-shoot and blind-hunting opportunities for up to 38 parties.

During the Middle Zone portion of duck season, hunting positions are allocated through a daily drawing held at the area headquarters. Waterfowl numbers typically peak in the third week of November, often exceeding 125,000 ducks and geese.

Anglers will find ample opportunities at Schell- Osage throughout the spring and summer. The area’s 461-acre Atkinson Lake and 365-acre Schell Lake provide quality catfish fishing and tremendous spring crappie fishing, producing stringers of hefty white crappie. Shoreline access to the Osage River also provides an opportunity for catching spoonbill and catfish on a regular basis. Access to these areas is restricted from October 15 through January 31, since these areas are part of the waterfowl refuge.

Purchased in the late 1950s, Schell-Osage opened to the public in 1962 as one of Missouri’s first managed wetland areas designed to provide habitat for migrating waterfowl and opportunity for hunters. Historically, the area was covered in upland and wet prairie, with pecan-oak-hickory forest in wet areas and easternmost sections. Today, small remnant prairies are all that exist of the once-vast native grasslands that covered western Missouri. The area’s uplands are now a mix of old fields, grassland, woodland, and cropland ideal for many species.

Visitors may find areas of ongoing brush removal, which is part of an aggressive effort to restore nearly 600 acres of grassland and old field habitats using seed harvested from local native prairies. Rabbit, quail, deer, turkey, and grassland birds have already benefited from over 150 acres of newly planted grassland.

As part of the Department’s Golden Anniversary Wetland Initiative, the area’s wetlands will be receiving a much-needed redesign in the next couple years.

Josh Cussimanio, area manager

Schell-Osage Conservation Area

  • Recreation Opportunities: Waterfowl, turkey, and archery deer hunting; birding and wildlife viewing; fishing
  • Unique Features: Woodlands, grasslands, prairie, wetlands, lakes, Osage River
  • For More Information: Call 417-432-3414 or visit

This Issue's Staff

EEditor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler