Weldon Spring Hollow
Points of Interest:
• See forests and bluffs as Lewis and Clark might have seen them.
• Explore rugged river hills with a diverse bird life.
• See great views of the Missouri River valley.
Natural History: Scenic and rugged upland and bottomland forests along with 100 feet tall bluffs overlooking the Missouri River occur here. Along the lower slopes and stream terraces you will find mesic forest dominated by century old northern red oak, bitternut hickory, basswood, sugar maple and white ash that rise over a hundred feet tall and grow up to 40 inches in diameter. Lower down along the stream are large sycamores. In the spring these mesic forests support a profusion of ephemeral wildflowers that capitalize on the sunlight on the forest floor before the heavy shade of summer like Dutchman’s breeches. Note that many of the seeds of these spring ephemeral wildflowers are distributed by ants. By summer a dense shrub layer of pawpaw, spicebush, and tree saplings provides habitat for the Kentucky warbler, wood thrush and American redstart. High in the canopy of a sycamore you may be able to spot a yellow-throated warbler.
Along the middle and upper slopes dry-mesic upland forests of century old white, red and black oak and shagbark hickory predominate. In recent years Conservation Department staff have been working on control of the invasive, exotic bush honeysuckle in these forests through the conservative use of herbicides and prescribed fire. The pernicious bush honeysuckle rapidly spreads to take over wild lands and parks crowding out native plants and dependent wildlife. In addition to bush honeysuckle the native sugar maple can become invasive.
The upland forests and woodlands of Weldon Spring Hollow are good places to spot a red-eyed vireo, scarlet and summer tanagers, eastern wood-pewee, red-bellied woodpecker, ovenbird, or black-and-white warbler. Gray squirrels and wild turkey are typical game animals. The forests also provide habitat for a number of reptiles and amphibians including the wood frog and the ringed salamander, species of conservation concern. Ringed salamanders are only known from the Ozark region, which this area is right at the north end of.
Occasionally nesting on the limestone bluffs here are the maxima subspecies of Canada geese, the subspecies of Canadian goose that was originally found nesting in Missouri by early explorers but were thought to have been eliminated from the state until a study in 1973 found over 150 nesting in the Missouri River bluffs from Jefferson City to St. Charles. On April 26, 1843, naturalist John James Audubon passed this area on a steamboat paddling upriver and noted a “wild goose” on the shore. This may have been one of the cliff nesting geese of Weldon Spring Hollow. Weldon Spring is named for John Weldon who came to this area with a Spanish land grant in 1796. The funds to purchase Weldon Spring Conservation Area in 1979, including the natural area, came in large part from the 1/8th cent conservation sales tax.
From the intersection of Highway 40/61 and Highway 94 in Weldon Spring travel west on Highway 94. Continue past Highway D and in 1.1 miles look for the parking lot on the left (south) side of Highway 94. At the parking lot is the trailhead for the Lewis and Clark hiking trails that provide excellent access to the natural area. The Lewis Trail is an 8.2 mile loop and the Clark Trail is a 5.3 mile loop. Both trails provide access to the forests and scenic bluffs of the natural area. Hunting and fishing are permitted.