Rural Missouri Magazine

A city's park in the country
Shaw Nature Reserve

by Jim McCarty

Many city residents moved to the country to escape the traffic, noise and smog of the city. In 1925, the Shaw Nature Reserve got its start when the bad air in St. Louis at the time threatened the live plant collections housed at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Five adjoining farms were purchased by the garden to form the nature reserve. Since that time the reserve has been home to a unique laboratory for plant preservation and environmental education.

The nature reserve is 2,500 acres of natural Ozark landscape located just off historic Route 66 in Gray Summit, 35 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Here visitors can enjoy a random sampling of just about every landscape the state has to offer. There are glades, tall-grass prairies, marsh wetlands, oak-hickory forest, savannas and a 55-acre pinetum, or meadow studded with a variety of conifers. One trail leads to a huge gravel bar on the Meramec River while another turns into a boardwalk (photo at right) that circles a wetland area with a diverse selection of marsh plants.

Throughout summer, the reserve is ablaze with wildflowers like Indian paintbrush. They can be found growing naturally along the 13 miles of hiking trails or in neat gardens around the historic Bascom House, an elegant brick mansion built in 1879 by Confederate Col. Thomas Crews.

The reserve is open year round. Admission is $3 per person or $2 for seniors. For more information, call (636) 451-3512 or visit

Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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