News and Almanac

Columbia Bottom CA reopens May 30

St. Louis area residents soon will be able to view the confluence of America's two great rivers with the reopening of Columbia Bottom Conservation Area.

The Conservation Department soon will complete Phase I of development at the 4,300-acre area and will open the gates to the public at noon May 30. Visitors will find a brand-new observation deck at the rivers' confluence, 5 miles of paved road, 5 miles of limestone biking trail and 3 miles of hiking trail along the Missouri River. Boaters will be able to use the new boat ramp, and anglers will be able to wet a line at a new fishing pier.

Phase II development includes construction of a maintenance shop. Some parts of the area will remain closed to visitors as Phase III construction continues. Facilities still under construction include a visitor center, levees, water-control structures and pump stations for managed wetlands, and "exploration stations" to help visitors learn about river ecosystems. The Conservation Department hopes to finish the visitor center in time for the start of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial in the spring of 2004.

Trout Parks focus on children May 17

Youngsters will get their own special day for fishing fun May 17, when Missouri's four trout parks celebrate Kids Fishing Day. Free daily fishing tags will be available for youths age 15 and younger, and special kids-only fishing holes will be set aside at each park.

The events also typically include fishing instruction, fishing-related games, crafts and contests and drawings for prizes. Some parks also offer fishing instruction and free hot dogs and soft drinks.

For more information, visit the Conservation Department's web site,  or call:

* Maramec Spring Trout Park, near St. James, (573) 265-7801

* Roaring River State Park, near Cassville, (417) 847-2430

* Montauk State Park, near Licking, (573) 548-2585

* Bennett Spring State Park, near Lebanon, (417) 532-4418

Gypsy moth trapping resumes

May is when Missouri foresters' thoughts turn to gypsy moths, the winged pests that have devastated forests in the eastern and north-central United States.

The Asian moth is slowly extending its range east and south. Gypsy moth populations continue to increase in Wisconsin, northeastern Illinois and northern Indiana. The gypsy moth-infested area is northeast of a line extending from Wisconsin to North Carolina. However, it's also capable of leapfrogging to new areas by laying eggs on motor homes or other vehicles and equipment used by interstate travelers.

Foresters want to delay the gypsy moth's arrival in Missouri as long as possible. To prevent a leapfrog infestation from getting out of hand, they set out traps baited with female moth pheromones. This trapping doesn't fight an infestation, but the discovery of gypsy moths in an area gives foresters an early warning so they can nip it in the bud.

Starting this month, forestry officials will hang triangular orange cardboard traps on trees and fence posts throughout the state. They will monitor the traps through August. If you see a trap, please leave it in place so that it will be effective in detecting whether this damaging forest pest is entering Missouri.

If you have questions or concerns about gypsy moth traps, call (573) 751 5505 or (573) 882-9880, or e-mail Michael_Brown@mail.mda.state.mo.us, or foresthealth@mdc.mo.gov.

Visit the Missouri River this summer

This year's low flows on the Missouri River could be a bonanza for Missourians who enjoy picnicking, fossil collecting, camping, fishing and waterfowl hunting.

The river is most accessible and inviting for recreation when the water is low, exposing loads of sand bars, islands and sandy banks for people to explore and enjoy. Unless rainfall in much of the Missouri River Basin is above average this summer, the river is likely to be much lower than normal. It could even fall lower than the level the Conservation Department has recommended to accommodate both barge traffic and wildlife.

Unusually low water probably will expose the tops of rock dikes, making safe boating easier for pleasure craft. A low river also is more inviting because the current is not as swift, the water is clearer, and floating debris is scarce.

Once on the river, boaters will find a wealth of sandy beaches with shallow water off the main channel. These are perfect for camping, picnicking and family fishing trips. Low water also benefits anglers by concentrating fish.

The wealth of wildlife that inhabits the river corridor makes it an excellent place for bird watching, wildlife photography and other nature study. Deer, turkey, beavers, otters, minks, bald eagles, ospreys and a wide array of shorebirds are highly visible in the open landscape.

Beachcombing is a little-known opportunity on the Missouri River. An astonishing variety of collectibles appear when the river is low. One O'Fallon resident recently got the surprise of her life last winter when she discovered a 10,000-year-old skull of an extinct, ice-age bison on a sand bar near Weldon Spring Conservation Area in St. Charles County.

As the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark's 1804-1806 journey approaches, the Missouri River offers a way of experiencing some of the wonder the Corps of Discovery felt as it explored uncharted territory.

Three brochures, "Upper Missouri River," "Middle Missouri River" and "Lower Missouri River," show accesses, conservation areas and other information about recreational opportunities. Single copies are available from Conservation Department regional offices in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis.

Missouri River navigation charts are available from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Two books, "Missouri River Navigational Charts--Sioux City, Iowa, to Kansas City" and "Missouri River Navigational Charts--Kansas City to the Mouth," cover all of Missouri's stretch of the river. They cost $8.50 each and are available from the Missouri River Information Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, P.O. Box 710, Yankton, SD, 57078, (866) 285-3219.

The U.S. Geological Survey Web site offers up-to-date river level information. --Jim Low

Rediscover Missouri on conservation trails

Missourians have an abundance of places to celebrate National Trails Day June 7. Conservation areas around the state contain more than 600 miles of hiking trails. They range from .2 to 18 miles long, and from paved, wheelchair-accessible trails complete with interpretive signs to pristine, rugged mountain trails. To learn more about conservation hiking trails, visit the MDC website or order "Conservation Trails" from The Nature Shop. The spiral-bound book covers 86 trails on 40 conservation areas. It costs $4 and is also available at conservation nature centers and regional Conservation Department offices statewide.

Bass fishing prospects bright

With the arrival of spring, anglers throughout Missouri turn to bass fishing to cure their winter blues. Fortunately, largemouth bass populations appear to be in excellent shape this year at many of our most popular waters, so fishing opportunities should be plentiful.

Harry S Truman Reservoir has enjoyed several good spawns the last few years, so there are plenty of fish in several different year classes. It's a good place to catch a lot of bass and a good place to catch bass 20 to 24 inches long.

Mark Twain Lake --High water has made spring bass fishing difficult here in recent years, but five years of good spawns promise to provide good numbers of quality fish. Most are in the 12- to 14-inch range. Anglers should find plenty of sub-legal bass, and many of these fish should reach 15 inches by summer's end.

Stockton Lake had an excellent spawn of both largemouth and smallmouth bass last year. Its smallmouth bass population is one of the best in the state in terms of both numbers and size of individual fish. It also has some largemouths in the 7- to 8-pound range.

Table Rock Lake's strong 1999 spawning class graduated to the 15-inch legal keeper size in 2002, and they should be even larger this year. Bass populations are described as excellent throughout the lake, but the James and Kings river arms have the highest densities. Spotted bass account for about 20 percent of the lake's total bass population, and the biggest number of those are found in the main part of the lake, especially along bluffs and rocky shelves. Smallmouth bass continue to increase in both size and range.

Bull Shoals Lake bass fishing has been tough in recent years, but last year's high water levels gave it a much-needed spawning boost. Anglers can expect the return of good bass fishing in two to three years. The majority of bass caught next year will measure 8 to 10 inches. Some will be pushing 2 pounds by the end of summer, and all of them should be 3 pounds by 2004.

Lake Norfork's bass are in excellent shape, thanks to consistent water levels during recent years' spawning seasons. Anglers consistently catch 3-, 4-, and 5-pounders there, with occasional 8- and 9-pounders. While only 10 percent of Norfork is in Missouri, Show-Me State anglers can fish any of the lake's impounded waters by purchasing a White River Border Lakes Fishing Permit. For $10, the permit also allows Missouri resident anglers to fish the Arkansas portions of Bull Shoals and Table Rock lakes.

Smithville Lake's overall bass numbers are fairly low compared to some other waters, but it could be a great place to go to catch a trophy. Bass 12 inches and larger dominate the lake. A good portion of those are larger than 15 inches. Don't be surprised if you catch an 18- to 20-incher. Anglers catch several 10-pound bass at Smithville most years, usually in the spring before the fish spawn.

Lake of the Ozarks will continue to be a great bass lake in 2003. Electrofishing surveys showed a lot of fish larger than 15 inches, as well as good numbers smaller than 15 inches. Spotted bass numbers over the 12 inch minimum length limit are fair. --Bryan Hendricks

Conservation donations suggested to honor St. Joseph newsman

The family of a newsman who spent many happy hours catching trout at Bennett Spring State Park has asked that he be remembered with contributions to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation.

Harold E. Mills, former managing editor of the St. Joseph News-Press, died Feb. 9 at the age of 86. His family, remembering his love of fishing and camping, thought it a fitting memorial to have contributions made in his name to support conservation.

The private, not-for-profit Conservation Heritage Foundation was established in 1998 to support fish, wildlife and forestry conservation programs in Missouri. Donated funds can be allocated by the foundation's board of directors for specific projects.

The foundation helps with conservation programs where funds are limited, putting in money where conservation needs are unmet.

Nature plates dish up support for conservation

Last year, Missourians spent $71,760 for nature-themed automobile license plates. In doing so, they helped make their state a more natural place.

The Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization, reinvested the money in projects ranging from disabled accessible fishing facilities and archery ranges to educational programs for youths and surveillance equipment to catch poachers.

Conservation license plates require a $25 annual donation. You can choose artwork of a white-tailed deer, a bluebird or a largemouth bass. The Missouri Motor Vehicle Bureau charges an additional $15 for the personalized plate number. For more information about conservation license plates and the work of the foundation, contact the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, P.O. Box 366, Jefferson City, MO 65102, (573) 634-2080 or (800) 227-1488.

Bobcats moving in with people?

Les Fortenberry was skeptical last December when his next-door neighbor reported seeing a bobcat between their houses in a Jefferson City area subdivision. His doubts disappeared a few weeks later when he watched a bobcat calmly walk down the hillside behind his home and right up to his deck.

"This was just about five minutes after noon," Fortenberry recalled. "At the time, I didn't realize how relaxed he was there. I was afraid he would run off before I could get my camera and take a picture of him."

Fortenberry did catch the cat on film at the foot of his deck, however. About a month later he had another midday sighting. This time, he captured the wildcat on video as it sat for half an hour in the shadows of a blackberry thicket just beyond Fortenberry's yard.

"He was looking right at my house. My theory is that he has noticed squirrels coming to our bird feeder, and he was waiting for a squirrel to cross that open yard."

"It's kind of funny," said Fortenberry. "I've seen fleeting glimpses of bobcats in the wild two times in my life before this. Now I've gotten to watch one close up for a long time right in town."

Wildlife Research Biologist Dave Hamilton, who specializes in furbearers, says such sightings aren't as rare as people think. He said that bobcats, while elusive, are very adaptable. They quickly learn what times of day people usually are present in an area and when it is safe to forage for rabbits, squirrels and other food. "Some of the neighbors kind of worry about having a bobcat around," said Fortenberry. "They asked me if I thought we should get it trapped out. But one guy who has a garden doesn't mind at all. He figures he can use all the help he can get keeping the rabbits out of his tomatoes."

How clean is your karst?

What is karst, and why care if it is dirty? Karst refers to land that has features such as caves and sinkholes. Karst features harbor a surprising variety of life, including many endangered animal species.

Karst features form when water erodes limestone bedrock. Over time, water dissolves holes in the rock. Some of the holes get large enough to form caves. When a cave collapses, you get a sink hole. If a sink hole forms under a creek, you get a "losing stream," where the water mysteriously disappears beneath the stream bed.

In non-karst landscapes, much of the pollutants and bacteria washed from the earth's surface by rainwater is filtered out as the water slowly seeps through millions of tiny pores and pockets. However, in karst regions, some runoff water bypasses this natural filtering system by running through caves and sinkholes and entering the ground water quickly with little filtering. In these areas, today's rain becomes tomorrow's drinking water.

Missouri's Ozarks, dotted with caves and sinkholes, is a prime example of a karst landscape. Its Swiss cheese geology affects the groundwater. Do you have an old well on your property that is not capped? Runoff water pours right into that well without any filtering. Or maybe you own a sinkhole full of trash, so rainwater seeps through that trash and then into your well.

There is hope for dirty karst. Simply removing trash restores sinkholes, caves or losing streams to a more natural state. Capping old wells prevents water from entering them directly.

Private landowners who want to clean up their karst can get some financial help. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a program that provides financial and technical support to clean up, restore and protect karst features. The program is called the Endangered Species Landowner Incentive Program (ESLIP). ESLIP will help pay for capping wells, protecting karst features and other work that benefits endangered species.

If you have dirty karst on your property and need help cleaning it up, contact the nearest Conservation Department office. We will get you on the right track to cleaning up your karst.

--Sarah Howerton, Forester, West Plains

Gray wolf no longer endangered

Even though there are no gray wolves in the state, Missouri is included in an area where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has downgraded the status of gray wolves from "endangered" to "threatened."

In March, federal officials announced that a steadily growing wolf population in the western Great Lakes and successful reintroduction program in the northern Rocky Mountains had prompted them to change the status of the gray wolf. The action allows greater flexibility in managing wolves, including the ability to remove wolves that cause problems for livestock owners.

The new rule divides the United States' gray wolf population into three distinct segments. The Eastern Distinct Population Segment includes all the Northeast and Midwest, including Missouri and the three states with existing wolf populations; Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.

More information is available from USFWS, Gray Wolf Review, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111-4056, phone (612) 713-7337, e-mail graywolfmail@fws.gov.

Special offer for hunters & anglers at Wonders of Wildlife

Missouri's hunters and anglers are invited to enjoy the outdoors indoors with special admission rates to the Wonders of Wildlife (WOW) museum in Springfield.

With nearly 250 live animal species, huge aquariums and interactive displays, WOW is a 92,000-square-foot conservation Mecca. The attraction also celebrates America's hunting and fishing heritage.

Present your valid Missouri hunting or fishing permit to receive the following rates for yourself and all members of your party: $9 per adult, $5.75 per child (ages 4-11). It's WOW's "thank you" to hunters and anglers for their year-round contributions to conservation. For details, call (877) 245-9453, toll free, or visit online.

Family Fishing Fair

On June 7, join the Conservation Department and Trout Unlimited for the annual Family Fishing Fair at Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery in Branson.

From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., learn how to cast, how to tie fishing knots and how to find, clean and cook fish. You can also have the chance to make a fish bandana to take home.

The Fishin' Magicians comedy act will perform at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. New this year, the P. Buster Beaver Team will be on hand to talk about pollution. The Show Me Missouri Mobile Fish Aquarium will be set up at the hatchery June 5 9.

The hatchery is located 5 miles south of Branson on Highway 165. For more information, call (417) 334-4865, ext. 0.

Raytown youth wins Arbor Day poster contest

Alex Rinas, a fifth-grade student at Norfleet Elementary School in Raytown, is the Missouri state winner in the 2003 Arbor Day National Poster Contest. Rinas was honored April 4 in Raytown during a tree planting ceremony on the Norfleet Elementary School grounds. He was also recognized March 13, when he attended Gov. Bob Holden's signing of the Missouri Arbor Day Proclamation at the Capitol in Jefferson City.

Judges from the Conservation Department, the Missouri Community Forestry Council, the Missouri Parks & Recreation Association, and Forest ReLeaf of Missouri picked Rinas' entry from more than 1,000 entries submitted by fifth-graders from 30 schools.

The contest, sponsored nationally by the National Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota Motor Corp., asked students to create a poster reflecting the theme "Trees are terrific... from acorn to oak!"

Rinas received a $50 savings bond from Forest ReLeaf of Missouri and a framed certificate. His art teacher, Becky Needham, received a Trees Are Terrific Curriculum Kit, and the Conservation Department planted a commemorative tree on the school grounds.

Rinas' poster will go on to the national competition. The winner, his or her parents, and the teacher of the winning student will receive an expense-paid trip to Arbor Day headquarters in Nebraska City, Neb. In addition, the national winner will receive a $1,000 savings bond and lifetime membership in the National Arbor Day Foundation. The winner's teacher will receive $200 for classroom materials.

The National Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to tree planting and environmental stewardship. Visit  for online learning opportunities and to request specific educational materials. --Donna Baldwin

Fishing nets economic benefits for Missouri

The average angler spends more than $1,200 each year on fishing equipment and trips, according to the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). In 2001, Missouri anglers' purchases of fishing-related equipment alone totaled $832,776,355. Those purchases helped fund approximately 15,000 jobs in the state.