Rockwoods Reservation celebrates 75 years as Missouri’s first conservation area

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Wildwood, Mo — Rockwoods Reservation Conservation Area in Wildwood turns 75 this month. On Thursday, June 27, the area will hold a special celebration from 1 to 9 p.m. to commemorate the event.

The 1,880-acre area also happens to be the first conservation area purchased by the Conservation Commission. Rockwoods Reservation was established in 1938 by Missouri’s fledgling Department of Conservation (MDC). The Department itself had just undertaken its mission to protect and manage the state’s fish, forest and wildlife resources only a year earlier. Today the agency manages approximately 1,000 such areas across Missouri.

To commemorate its 75th-year milestone, Rockwoods Reservation’s Anniversary Celebration will offer a number of special naturalist-lead programs from 1 to 5 p.m. designed to illuminate the colorful history of the area in engaging and interactive ways. They will include “Living in Rockwoods Wilderness,” “Historic Farming,” “Rockwoods Forest, Past, Present and Future,” and “Buried Treasures of Rockwoods.”

From 5 to 7 p.m., the site will host a Family Picnic where visitors can enjoy a picnic dinner surrounded by the wooded hills of Rockwoods. Families are invited to bring their favorite outdoor foods. Picnic tables and grills will be provided for their use. There will also be photo opportunities with Smokey Bear and the historic MDC Forestry Truck.

An Ozark Mountain concert in the Rockwoods Valley rounds out the evening from 7 to 9 p.m. Master folk musicians Cathy Barton, Dave Para, Mike Fraser and Tenley Hansen will offer an open-air performance of traditional Ozark music played on fiddle, banjo, mandolin, and guitar, and backed up by tight vocal harmonies.

The Rockwoods Reservation 75th Anniversary Celebration is a free event, but advanced registration is requested by calling 636-458-2236. The area is located off Highway 109, north of I-44 and south of Highway 100.

Prior to becoming a conservation area in 1938, the land that is today Rockwoods Reservation experienced a varied history.

After first being inhabited by a number of Native American cultures, the area was settled and farmed around 1800 by the Hamilton family of Kentucky, for which the area’s Hamilton Creek was named. In 1854, the land was purchased by the Woods Christy Lumber Company, who performed extensive logging operations. After much of the timber had been removed, the Cobb-Write-Case Mining Company acquired the area in 1868. A thriving mining community was established during the following decades by the Glencoe Lime Company to quarry the area’s plentiful limestone. When that company went bankrupt in 1938, the newly-formed Missouri Department of Conservation was able to acquire the property through the efforts of a group of St. Louis businessmen led by Albert P. Greensfelder.

In the 75 years since its acquisition, sound conservation practices have allowed Rockwoods Reservation to flourish as it continues to recover naturally. It is now managed for both wildlife diversity and human recreation, once again offering an ideal place to discover nature.