Points of Interest:
• Explore one of the most scenic and rugged Ozark natural areas from the geologic wonder of Rocky Falls to the wide-open views from atop Stegall Mountain’s glades.
• Investigate the beauty of Rogers Creek, a high-quality Ozark headwater stream.
• Look for characteristic birds and reptiles in the restored woodlands and glades.
Natural History: The rugged Ozark landscape of Stegall Mountain contains a cross-section of Ozark natural communities of the Current River Hills region. On top of that the area features Rocky Falls, a scenic shut-ins where Rocky Creek in wet weather tumbles down a 40 foot cascade. Rhyolite rocks form the core of Stegall and Thorny Mountains and were formed over a billion years ago. On lower slopes soils have developed from dolomite and chert deposits as well.
Rogers Creek flows along the south side of Stegall Mountain and on east for five miles through the area. This creek’s upper watershed is nearly contained on Conservation Department lands. Twenty five native fish species live in the creek including the colorful southern redbelly dace, bleeding shiner, rainbow darter, and longear sunfish. The stream banks are lined with alder and Ward’s willow that shade the streams’ riffles and pools.
The rocky slopes of the natural area contain large igneous glade openings with extensive bedrock areas covered in lichens that support exquisitely camouflaged lichen grasshoppers. Scattered across these rocky barrens are little bluestem grass and a number of wildflowers You may also be lucky enough to see the colorful collared lizard that inhabits these glades. Unfortunately collared lizards and other glade reptiles are illegally collected for pets and this has decimated populations of glade lizards at some sites. Please only take pictures of these wonderful collared lizards, known locally as “mountain boomers.” Intermingled with the glades and surrounding them are dry woodlands with gnarled oaks and hickories. Growing underneath these oaks, hickories and pines are a variety of native legumes that provide an important wildlife food.
Research conducted on fire scars recorded in tree rings has shown that fires historically swept through this area on average every five years in the 1800s. Thinning and prescribed fires have been used to manage the glades and their associated woodlands resulting in an increase in the population and genetic diversity of the collared lizards. The forests and woodlands are good places to find whip-poor-wills, scarlet tanagers, worm-eating warblers, red-eyed vireos, black-and-white warblers, and red-bellied woodpeckers. Scattered stands of shortleaf pine occur here as well.
The Mid-Continent Iron Company smelted low-grade iron ore and made wood alcohol seven miles away in the early 1900s which lead to much of the region’s timber being cut down. In 1945 the Missouri Department of Conservation bought what became Peck Ranch Conservation Area for wild turkey restoration. Today the hills and hollows of this area are much quieter than they were 90 years ago and the turkeys have been restored.
This large natural area can be accessed from three primary sites. Rocky Falls – the National Park Service maintains a parking lot and picnic ground here and access to the neat Rocky Falls. From Winona travel 9 miles north on Highway H. Turn right (east) on Highway NN and follow it for 2 miles and turn right (south) onto Shannon County Road 526. Go 0.3 mile and bear left to the road fork to the picnic ground and parking area. A short trail leads to the falls. 0.5 mile downstream from Rocky Falls (an old roadbed parallels the creek here and serves as a trail) the Current River section of the Ozark Trail (see http://www.ozarktrail.com or call 573-436-0540) intersects Rocky Creek. If you head south on the Ozark Trail it heads up Kelley Hollow and then heads up hill to the top of Stegall Mountain. From Rocky Creek the Ozark Trail goes for 5 miles across the natural area.
Peck Ranch Conservation Area – Ozark Trail trailhead access. From the junction of Highway 19 and Highway H in Winona, travel east 5 miles on Highway H to the entrance sign, then head right (east) on County Road 311 (gravel) for about 5.75 miles. Before the gravel road heads south down a hill look to the north side of the road for a parking lot and Ozark Trail trailhead. From here you can head north on the Ozark Trail which will cross over Stegall Mountain. The trail goes for 5 miles through the natural area.
Peck Ranch Conservation Area – Stegall Mountain fire tower access. From the junction of Highway 19 and Highway H in Winona, travel east 5 miles on Highway H to the entrance sign, then head right (east) on County Road 311 (gravel) for about 3.25 miles. Turn left (north) onto the gravel road that heads to the tower site. This road goes for 1.5 miles through the natural area and dead-ends in a parking lot. The road crosses the upper tributary of Rogers Creek. From the parking lot you can hike up the tower road to the fire tower for great views of glades and Ozark hills.
A map and compass is recommended to explore the area. Hunting and fishing is permitted on Conservation Department and Ozark National Scenic Riverways lands.