Places to Go

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From Missouri Conservationist: November 2017

Mudpuppy Conservation Area

By Larry Archer

Deceptively named area’s secret revealed.

Amidst the clear, gravel bottomed Little Black River, more than 1,000 acres of forest, and a 353-acre designated natural area in southeast Missouri, Mudpuppy Conservation Area (CA) hides a dirty little secret.

“We don’t have any mudpuppies here,” said Steve Paes, Mudpuppy CA manager. The area’s flora and fauna is diverse — deer and turkey hunting is considered good, as is the squirrel hunting, the area is included on the Great Missouri Birding Trail, and a variety of both upland and bottomland tree species can be found in its forests — but one thing you will not find is the aquatic salamander that is its namesake.

Perhaps that is because mudpuppy is more relatable — and easier to say — than the real reason this 1,400-acre parcel between Doniphan and Poplar Bluff was purchased in 1988: protection of the endangered Curtis pearlymussel.

Mudpuppy CA’s nearly 5 miles of riverfront along the Little Black River is home to the endangered freshwater mussel, and proper management of the area is key to its continued survival, Paes said.

“The riparian habitat protecting the river is the number one priority,” he said. “Everything is geared toward water quality and protecting the river.”

The Endangered Curtis Pearlymussel relies on the Ozark habitat of the Little Black River at Mudpuppy CA.

Mudpuppy Conservation Area consists of 1,404 acres in Ripley County.
From Doniphan, take Highway 160 east 6 miles, then Route BB north 4 miles.

N36° 42’ 22.9399” | W90° 42’ 9.0101” 573-226-361

What to do when you visit:

  • Bird Watching Included on the Great Missouri Birding Trail (
  • Camping Primitive, with no amenities provided
  • Canoeing Area includes 4.91 miles of Little Black River
  • Fishing Fair populations of bass, sunfish, and suckers
  • Hiking One-quarter mile Trout Lily Trail
  • Hunting Deer (good) and turkey (good). Deer and turkey regulations are subject to annual changes, so refer to the Spring Turkey and Fall Deer and Turkey booklets for current regulations. Squirrel (good) and rabbit (fair).

“We have a couple of big fields — 20-acre fields — near the river. I usually go there bird watching.” —Mudpuppy CA Manager Steve Paes

What to Look For When You Visit

  • Red-shouldered hawk
  • Swamp rabbit
  • Hooded merganser
  • White oak

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen

Staff Writer - Larry Archer
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Creative Director - Stephanie Thurber

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler