SCHELL CITY, Mo. – Major flooding this spring and summer along the Osage River has delayed a major renovation of wetlands and a lake at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Schell-Osage Conservation Area. But the project will move forward as weather and soil conditions permit, said Chris Daniel, MDC wildlife management biologist. Some opportunistic waterfowl hunting will be available at waterfowl hunting zones through self-registration at area headquarters. There will not be a morning drawing for hunting positions during the 2019-2020 duck season.
MDC has long planned improvements to Schell Lake and water control structures such as levees and a water pump for wetlands adjacent to the lake. The project will improve fishing in the lake and provide better wetland habitat for a range of wetland species, including waterfowl and shorebirds. Renovations at Schell-Osage will move forward with help from a $1 million match grant from the federal North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). MDC and Ducks Unlimited (DU) will use the grant to match the $3.5 million that has been dedicated from a diverse group of conservation partners to make the area better for waterfowl, wildlife watchers, hunters, and anglers.
The area was closed to waterfowl hunting during the 2018-2019 seasons so the project could begin. Schell Lake and wetlands were drained. But severe flooding starting last October and persisting through August in the Osage River basin has delayed construction work. Some of the traditional hunting pools will again be open for hunter use during the coming waterfowl seasons, Daniel said. But hunters should expect limited water and habitat, as well as unprepared blinds until project completion. Portions may be closed to the public intermittently due to construction so please check for periodic updates at area headquarters.
Renovation work will continue as weather allows. A project completion date has not been determined. Levees will be reconfigured with designs that are less prone to flood damage, new water control structures will be installed, a pump will be added to improve water management, and Schell Lake will be improved for fish and anglers. Schell Lake is not currently available to anglers.
The waterfowl hunting zones are closed to all uses except waterfowl hunting from Oct. 15 to Feb. 15. The wildlife refuge and waterfowl refuge closures are posted and remain in effect on the same acreage as in the past. Access to these areas will be closed from Oct. 15 to March 1. Anglers are still able to fish in Atkinson Lake, except when it is closed as refuge.
Truman Lake’s upper end is fed by the Osage River, which borders the 8,633-acre conservation area in Vernon and St. Clair counties. The lake and river are open for fishing. Upland fields and forests that are not within a wildlife refuge boundary will remain open to hunting, hiking, and birding.
The public can follow plans and work progress via a periodically updated webpage at https://short.mdc.mo.gov/Z5C. Those interested will also find a link on that page to sign up for updates via email.
For information about other MDC wetlands and waterfowl hunting opportunities, visit http://mdc.mo.gov.