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Rural Missouri Magazine

Peck Ranch Conservation Area
Shannon and Carter counties, Mo.

by Jason Jenkins

Few destinations in the Missouri Ozarks offer the diversity of natural habitats that can be found at Peck Ranch Conservation Area in eastern Shannon and northwestern Carter counties. Although oak-hickory forest dominates the area’s 23,000 acres, the property’s attractions also include glades, savannas, caves, sinkholes, old fields, springs and wetlands.

In the early 20th century, a group of investors led by Chicago businessman George Peck established the Mid-Continent Iron Company in the area, and the ranch was clear-cut to supply cordwood to fire the smelter’s blast furnaces. The area prospered during Word War I, but the low-grade iron ore mill folded after the war and Peck returned to Chicago. Following a brief timber boom at the end of Prohibition, the Missouri Department of Conservation purchased Peck Ranch for wild turkey management in 1945.

Today, visitors to the area may catch a glimpse of wild turkeys, as well as white-tailed deer, bobcats, beavers and even the occasional black bear. Hike to the top of Stegall Mountain, and you’ll find a scenic vista. Remnant stands of Missouri’s only native pine, the shortleaf pine, regenerate here, as evident by the seedlings featured on the cover. Thanks to management techniques such as prescribed burns, you may also encounter the collared lizard basking on rocks in the hot summer sun in restored glade habitats.
Peck Ranch also contains a segment of the Ozark Trail and a self-guided nature trail offers the chance to glimpse aquatic wildlife. Primitive camping is permitted in designated areas.

To reach Peck Ranch from Eminence, take Highway 106 east 7 miles to Highway H. Follow Highway H for 7 miles until you reach the Peck Ranch Conservation Area sign, then turn east onto a gravel road for 6 miles. For more information, call (573) 323-4249 or visit www.mdc.mo.gov to download maps and brochures.

 

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