Points of Interest:
• Enjoy a hike along a highly scenic State Outstanding Resource Water.
• Look for flowering rose azaleas in the spring.
• See ancient sandstones covered with ferns, mosses, and lichens.
Natural History: Pickle Creek, an Outstanding State Resource Water, winds its way for two miles through narrow and scenic sandstone valleys. This high-quality Ozark stream has a sustained flow and a sandy bottom owing to its carving through the ancient Lamotte sandstone formation. Sandstone bluffs and ledges border the stream in many places. The water is often tea-colored but has good clarity. These waters support at least 20 native fish species. The fish fauna includes fishes of the prairie faunal region (e.g., red shiner, sand shiner, Johnny darter) and the Ozark faunal region (e.g., bleeding shiner, Ozark minnow, rainbow darter) and thereby is deemed as a transitional fish community composed of species spanning two regions. Along Pickle Creek ancient Precambrian igneous rhyolite and granite rocks are exposed which underlie the Lamotte sandstone above. These rocks had a volcanic origin in contrast to the sandstone which formed along the edge of an ancient sea. Also exposed is a small area of gneiss, a 1.5 billion year old metamorphic rock rarely exposed in Missouri.
Along the stream the valley slopes and ledges support rose azalea, one of Missouri’s showiest flowering shrubs. The forests and woodlands along Pickle Creek are dominated by white oak, shortleaf pine, and scarlet oak with flowering dogwood and low bush blueberry in the understory. The pine and the blueberry along with bracken fern and an abundance of mosses and lichens are indicative of the acidic soils developed from the sandstone bedrock. This area supports many plant species that are more common in the forests of the eastern U.S., including cinnamon fern, royal fern, partridge berry, and a number of species considered to be relicts of the Pleistocene glaciation – rattlesnake plantain, hay-scented fern, ground pine, and smooth white violet (the last three also species of conservation concern). On the ridges and slopes above the creek park staff are restoring shortleaf pine woodlands using prescribed fires to restore a structurally varied and diverse landscape. Look and listen for the pine warbler, summer tanager, blue-gray gnatcatcher, white-breasted nuthatch, worm-eating warbler, and black-and-white warbler in the dry piney slopes above the creek. Along the creek you might spot a Louisiana waterthrush, Acadian flycatcher, or northern parula.
From the intersection of Highways 67 and 32 in Farmington take Highway 32 east for 12.5 miles and turn right (south) onto Highway 144. Travel 3 miles on Highway 144 to the park entrance. Follow the main park road to the park office. Because of the fragility of the sandstone soils and geologic features, visitors are asked to stay on the Pickle Creek Hiking Trail that provides access to this natural area. The Pickle Creek Trail starts near the picnic shelter between the park office and the campground. Hunting and fishing are not permitted.