New water control structure at Four Rivers Conservation Area will help MDC manage wildlife habitat

News from the region
Kansas City
Published Date

Nevada, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) recently finished construction of a water control structure project at the August A. Busch Jr. Memorial Wetlands at Four Rivers Conservation Area. The project will improve wetland habitat management in Unit 4, which has pools important for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. The Unit’s pools are also popular with waterfowl hunters, especially Pecan Slough in Pool 15.

“We’re going to be in a lot better state for managing water in the unit,” said Shane Allen, MDC wildlife management biologist. “The old structure was damaged and was leaking.”

MDC’s Four Rivers Conservation Area is in a generally low-lying area where the Marmaton, Little Osage, and Marais des Cygnes rivers merge to form the Osage River northeast of Nevada, Mo. Most of the conservation area is in Vernon County, with a portion in Bates County. The area has important wetland and upland wildlife habitat.

The new water control structure in Unit 4 enables MDC to hold water in pools to benefit migrating birds during the autumn and spring seasons. But it also allows drainage in spring and summer, the season when moist soil plants like smartweed grow and create wildlife food sources such as seeds and insects.

Like many wetlands in western Missouri this autumn, Unit 4 needs rain and plenty of it to refill. The unit was drained earlier to create dry conditions to make the water control structure replacement possible. That has coincided with drought. Conditions are still dry in Pool 15 and throughout the area.

“We’re at the mercy of the weather now,” Allen said. “As soon as we get some decent rain and a little flooding, we’ll be able to hold water in the unit.”

However, the drought has also benefited MDC’s habitat management on the area, including in Unit 4 and Pools 15, 16, 17, and 18.

“We were able to disc hundreds of acres in the wetlands,” Allen said. “That set back the woody plants we don’t want and promoted more early succession plant growth that benefits waterfowl. It looks absolutely amazing out there in terms of food sources.”

MDC will also be replacing several other water control structures in Unit 1 and Unite 2 as well as installing new concrete floodways. The additional work is slated to begin after waterfowl season if weather conditions allow. Portions of the area may be subject to periodic closures during construction.

For more information and maps about the Four Rivers Conservation Area, visit