Places to Go

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From Missouri Conservationist: May 2016

Mark Youngdahl Urban Conservation Area

This 85-acre area in St. Joseph offers multi-use trails, bird watching, native grasses, wildflowers, and various tree plantings — all within the city limits.

This Buchanan County area is located in the middle of St. Joseph and offers a wide variety of outdoor activities to enjoy in May. These 85 acres of gently rolling land offer good opportunities to view wildlife, which can include songbirds, quail, rabbit, raccoon, fox, and even deer.

The 2 miles of foot trails accommodate a wide range of users from exercisers, hikers, bikers, and those with disabilities. The three-quarter-mile Ridge Trail and two-third-mile Pond Trail are asphalt-surfaced and accessible to wheelchairs. All trails offer good views of the area and surrounding city. While bicycles are allowed on the area trails, they must yield to pedestrians. This urban area also offers a place for many visitors to walk their pets, which are welcome as long as they are kept on a leash and their droppings picked up. Trashcans and even a doggy cleanup station are provided, thanks to the local Friends of the St. Joseph Animal Shelter.

Remember to bring binoculars to view wildlife like songbirds, waterfowl, frogs, and turtles that frequent the area’s 2-acre marsh and fishless seasonal wildlife watering holes. Birds found throughout the area include eastern kingbirds, different types of warblers, orioles, woodpeckers, and various waterfowl.

The warm-season grass and wildflower plantings on the area offer an opportunity to experience what early settlers may have seen as they passed through the area’s loess-hill landscape. A variety of native wildflowers can be seen in full bloom on these grasslands from mid-spring to late summer. Many types of pollinators, including butterflies, bees, and other insects frequent these plantings, providing opportunities for wildlife photography of many different species. The area was named after Mark Youngdahl, a Missouri State Representative from 1970 to 1990. Mr. Youngdahl was very active in St. Joseph and was instrumental in the Missouri Department of Conservation’s purchase of the land so the city’s residents and visitors could enjoy nature inside the city limits.

The area’s main parking lot is located off 36th Street and has ample parking for cars or buses. The area’s privies, water fountain, and picnic pavilion are all located within close proximity. A second, smaller parking lot is located just off 32nd Street and offers good access to the area’s second pavilion. Both offer picnic tables and aboveground barbecues and can be used on a first-come, first-served basis.

—Lonnie Messbarger, area manager

  • Recreation Opportunities: Wildlife viewing, bird watching, outdoor photography, hiking, bicycling
  • Unique Features: Native grassland, woodland, forest, small wetland, fishless wildlife watering holes
  • For More Information: Call 816-271-3100 or visit

This Issue's Staff

Editor - 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