Points of Interest:
• Explore large areas of old-growth forest and woodland on rugged mountainous slopes reminiscent of the Appalachians.
• Look for the Big Creek Crayfish – only found in Missouri’s St. Francis River basin.
• Enjoy a great place to find characteristic resident and migratory Ozark birds.
Natural History: Mudlick Mountain rises over 880 feet above the Big Creek valley below and includes some of the most significant remaining old-growth forest and woodland stands of the St. Francois Mountains region. On the east and north slopes mature and old-age northern red oak, white oak, black oak, black gum, scarlet oak, and mockernut hickory tower over flowering dogwood and sassafras in the understory. Numerous areas of blow-down and storm damaged trees occur – all part of a natural disturbance process that results in a structurally varied or heterogenous landscape. Forest birds include the worm-eating warbler, red-eyed vireo, pileated woodpecker, and barred owl. On the west and south facing slopes you will find dry woodlands with 200 year old gnarled white oaks, shortleaf pine, and lots of lichen covered igneous rocks. Farkleberry and low bush blueberry are common here and scattered glade openings support little bluestem, pine-weed and common rushfoil.
Moist igneous cliffs and talus slopes loom over Big Creek on the north end where the uncommon yellowwood tree occurs. This tree is more common in the Appalachian forests of the southeast. Also inhabiting the moist, moss covered rocks of the north facing slopes along Big Creek is the four-toed salamander, a species of conservation concern, and a species considered to be a “glacial relict.” These species were more common in Missouri 12,000 years ago when the climate was colder due to widespread glaciation.
Big Creek, an Outstanding State Resource Water, flows for a mile through a canyon-like gorge. The gravel wash community along its banks includes the Ozark endemic, vernal witch hazel, along with ninebark and sandbar willow. Big Creek supports a number of fishes, including logperch and the telescope shiner. The stream is also the world’s center of distribution for the Big Creek Crayfish. This crayfish is found only in the St. Francis River basin of Iron, Madison and Wayne Counties and nowhere else in the world. Look for the belted kingfisher, red-shouldered hawk, great blue heron, and northern parula along the creek.
Mudlick Mountain is comprised mainly of dellenite, a type of granite, formed over a billion years ago when this mountain was part of a volcanic mountain chain. From the top of Mudlick Mountain you can look north to the domes of the other St. Francois Mountains and to the south you see the deeply dissected tabletop hills of the Ozark Plateau. The park was established in large part due to the work of Governor Sam A. Baker who grew up in the nearby town of Patterson. The park was established in 1927 and much of the facilities were constructed by a Civilian Conservation Corps crew in the 1930s.
From Des Arc at the intersection of Highway 143 and Highway 49 travel east and south on Highway 143 for 11 miles to the park entrance. Alternatively the park is 4 miles north of Patterson on Highway 143. The 1.5 mile Shut-Ins Trail hiking trail loop and the 12 mile Mudlick Mountain hiking trail loop provide access to the natural area. Stop by the park visitor center for information. Bring a map and compass for exploration. Hunting is not permitted. Fishing is allowed.