MDC's Big Buffalo Creek offers colorful spring hikes

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Kansas City
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Cole Camp, Mo. – A flower show is underway at the Big Buffalo Creek Conservation Area. Flowering dogwood trees are splashing white blooms across the forest understory. Lavender-flowered trilliums poke skyward from the leaf-covered ground, one of many wildflowers in bloom. Spring is a colorful time to hike at public lands owned or managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). Big Buffalo Creek is an especially showy wildflower haven in hills bordering the lovely clear-water stream that lends the area its name.

"Right now, the flowers are pretty amazing," said Jake Willard, MDC resource forester. "The dogwoods, serviceberry and redbuds are all blooming. The area is unique in that it's a wild part of the Ozarks that's close to Kansas City."

Forest covers the hills and hollows at the 1,977-acre area, which is southeast of Cole Camp and southwest of Stover, off the beaten path. Big Buffalo Creek Conservation Area is within a few hours driving distance of Kansas City and even closer to cities such as Warrensburg and Sedalia. For information, a map and directions to the area, visit

The area has six miles of multi-purpose trails, a fishing lake, a small camping area, a fen natural area and two streams. In April, wildflowers such as violet wood sorrel, toothwort, spring beauty, bellwort and blue phlox are in bloom, said Larry Rizzo, MDC natural history biologist.

"This is also a good place to see birds," Rizzo said. "It's a good place for warblers, their peak migration is usually in the first week of May."

The area attracts birds such as Rose-breasted grosbeak, tanagers, orioles and other species.

MDC manages conservation areas for healthy forests, wildlife habitat and streams. But MDC staff also works with private landowners in the entire Big Buffalo Creek watershed in Benton and Morgan counties. The goal is good water quality in streams and productive upland forest or grazing systems. People, fish and wildlife all benefit from good management practices. For more information on how MDC assists landowners, visit

Conservation areas throughout Missouri offer a wide variety of outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, turkey hunting, birding and photography. To find an area near you, visit