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Located within a hours drive from the St.Louis metro area, Meramec State Park lies in the northeast corner of the Ozarks. For those on a time budget, its proximity to the city allows the visitor to experience a slice of what a Ozarks outdoor experience is all about. The stars of this park are the Meramec River and the park`s 42 caves. The Meramec River offers excellent Smallmouth Bass fishing and is served by several canoe outfitters. Over 16 miles of trails wind through the park offering access to several wild caves. At the time of this writing access to these wild caves may hinge on the granting of a access permit,contact the park office for details. Fisher Cave is the largest of the park`s caves and offers ranger guided tours from April to October for a very reasonable fee. Campers are not left out with 210 tent and rv sites on offer, contact the park office for seasonal availability. Cabins are also available on a seasonal basis. Contact information and address is 2800 South Highway 185, Sullivan Missouri 63080. Phone # 573-468-6072.

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Once upon a time there was a great grassland,an American Serengeti if you will,populated by vast herds of Bison and Elk.Covered by a rich assemblage of grasses and wildflowers,this great prairie nurtured a suite of grassland dependent birds and mammals such as the Prairie Dog. The prairie region ran from the Tallgrass regions of the Mississippi River valley, to the Shortgrass Prairie lying in the rain shadow of the Rockies. The easternmost part of the prairie, the Tallgrass region, received the most precipitation. Grasses growing here such as Big Bluestem can grow seven to eight feet in height. Pioneers told stories of children becoming lost in this ocean of grass,never to be seen again. Today only 0.5 percent of this original Tallgrass Prairie remains,the rest having succumbed to the plow and urbanization. These soils are some of the richest in the world,underlying the nation`s bread basket region,so their crop growing potential was quickly exploited. Here in Missouri the Tallgrass covered much of the northern and western parts of the state, with fingers extending into some parts of the Ozarks around Springfield and down to West Plains.Prairie State Park just west of Lamar, Mo. preserves one of the larger remmnants of this grassland. Visitors can observe a herd of 100 Bison that have free roam of 300 acres of the park. A nice system of trails winds through the area which wildflower and bird enthusiasts will appreciate. A nice visitor center with family friendly educational exhibits is open Monday through Saturday and offers ranger guided hikes. Make a visit, and step back in time to get a little glimpse of the vistas our pioneer ancestors saw.

Here at the Ozark Mountain Man we tend to focus on the southern part of the Missouri Ozarks, and somewhat on the Arkansas Ozarks, but don’t talk much about what happens north of Interstate 44. A notable exception to that statement would be an article we did on the crown jewel of The Lake Of The Ozarks region, Ha Ha Tonka State Park. In the next couple of articles we will focus on the northern part of the Ozarks beginning with Lead Mine Conservation Area. Lead Mine C.A. is located in Dallas County north of Hwy 64, and  east of Lebanon Mo. The C.A. covers approximately 7,000 acres and offers hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, horseback riding and great birdwatching opportunities. Two accesses on the Niangua River offer canoeing, boating and wade fishing opportunities. The river flows under some nice bluff lines here adding to the scenery, and canoeists wanting to access the Niangua`s trout water, which lies just upstream, could use Lead Mine as a takeout point. Hikers will find 20 plus miles of trail on tap, and deer hunters are not left out as the C.A. reputedly holds some trophy Whitetails. Bird watchers will find a healthy population of Woodpeckers such as the sadly dwindling in numbers, Red Headed Woodpecker. A wild thunderstorm lashed night was passed a few Decembers ago in the primitive camping area, which is just one of many memories i have of recreating in the area. Give Lead Mine C.A. a try, you wont be dissapointed.