Into the Wild: Marsh

By | March 1, 2016
From Xplor: March/April 2016

Life squishes out of every soggy corner in a marsh. To see it in action, pull on your mud boots and head into the wild.

What Happened Here?

This is the entrance to a crayfish house. Crayfish tunnel down into soggy ground to stay cool and wet. As they dig, the clawful crustaceans use their legs and mouthparts to roll mud into little round blobs. They carry the blobs to the surface and stack them to form a chimney.


Scan the shallow waters of a wetland and you’ll likely spot 3-foot-tall mounds of mud and vegetation tucked among the cattails. These are muskrat houses. If you watch a mound closely, you may see its furry brown builder swimming nearby.

Take a Closer Look

Swish a dip net through some murky marsh water and you’re likely to find baby dragonflies, damselflies, and mayflies squirming in the mesh when you bring the net up. The young insects, called larva, don’t look anything like their parents.

  • Dragonfly
  • Damselfly
  • Mayfly

Where to Go

From March to May, Missouri’s marshes offer perfect pitstops for thousands of migrating ducks, geese, and shorebirds making their way north. Visit one of these wetlands to witness the migration sensation.

  1. Fountain Grove Conservation Area
  2. Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area
  3. Columbia Bottom Conservation Area
  4. Four Rivers Conservation Area
  5. Duck Creek Conservation Area
  6. Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge


Visit a marsh in March and you’ll hear spring in full swing as a chorus of frog love songs overflows each shallow pool.

  • Spring peeper: Peep, peep, peep (like the “ping” made by striking the high note on a xylophone)
  • Chorus frog: Crrrreeeeeeep (similar to the sound made by running your fingernail over the teeth of a comb)
  • American toad: Brrreeeeeeeee (a high-pitched, musical, drawn-out trill)

Heads Up!

Mosquitoes love marshes. Keep the bloodsuckers at bay by spraying yourself with insect repellent.

Look: Great blue heron

Great blue herons have two ways to catch dinner. Sometimes they wade sloooowwly through shallow water, hoping to ambush unwary fish, frogs, and snakes. At other times, they stand motionless and wait for fish to swim within range of their long, flexible necks and dagger-like beaks.

And More...

This Issue's Staff

Brett Dufur
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White