Let MDC help you discover nature through a summer "staycation"

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Birdwatching, hunting, angling, camping, hiking, cycling, horseback riding, nature photography – what more could an outdoor enthusiast want in a summer vacation? If you live in Missouri, these and other outdoor adventures are never far. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) can help you find them

More than 1,000 conservation areas (CAs) let Missourians discover nature on “staycations” without breaking the family budget. These include hundreds of undeveloped forest, prairie and wetland areas, dozens of lake and stream accesses and 18 nature and visitor centers. MDC also maintains 79 shooting ranges, five with full-time staff to teach shooting skills and ensure safe operation.

To help you explore this wealth of opportunity, MDC provides a searchable online Conservation Atlas database at http://bit.ly/d41rtR. You can even do a “Detailed Search” for CAs by available activities, from horseback riding to canoeing or goggle-eye fishing. Or, filter search results by disabled-accessible offerings, designated trails or shooting ranges.

A search for “horseback riding” turns up 45 results, from Lawrence County to St. Louis County. Searching for areas to go crappie fishing provides 18 options, from Buchanan County to Cape Girardeau County.

Tailor trips to your time and budget by narrowing searches to a particular region or certain counties. Smart “staycationers” can see new sights every day while sleeping in their own beds every night.

You can also focus your search on available facilities and services, including visitor centers, picnic areas, pavilions, wildlife viewing blinds, boat rentals or primitive campsites. You might choose to spend your vacation visiting all 18 MDC nature and visitor centers around the state.

You could focus your search on specific natural features such as lakes, ponds, glades, forests, springs or streams. A “staycation” might focus on “hiking” in areas with “wildlife watering holes” in the “Central Region.” This search combination turns up three areas: Fiery Fork CA in Camden County, Scrivner Road CA in Cole County and Spring Creek Gap CA in Maries County.

Replace “wildlife watering hole” with “named prairies,” and the Conservation Atlas directs you to Hite Prairie CA in Morgan County or Sears Memorial Wildlife Area in Audrain County.

Changing the search combination to “bird watching,” “springs” and “individual campsites” gets you 15 choices scattered throughout the St. Louis, Kansas City, Southeast, Southwest, Ozark and Central Missouri regions.

Boaters and anglers can choose from hundreds of fishing accesses on major lakes and rivers, plus small community lakes. A search for fishing lakes and ponds in the Ozark Region finds 11 such areas.

With the online Conservation Atlas, you can plan an exciting summer “staycation” that fits your interests and budget perfectly. You might even find yourself taking mini-staycations throughout the year.

-Rebecca Maples-