Missouri - Nature and Scientific Wonders

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smithsonian.com

Caves
More than 6,200 caves tunnel under Missouri, aptly called the Cave State. Several caves offer guided tours for visitors venturing to step below the surface and explore these natural wonders. Some are famous in history or legend, including the cave from Tom Sawyer, the hideout for outlaw Jesse James and the cave with the record for the most underground weddings. Others are noteworthy by nature. Onondaga Cave, for example, is a National Natural Landmark and recognized as one of the most spectacular caves in the country because of the quality of its formations.

Big Spring
More than 286 million gallons of water gush from Big Spring daily, making it one of the world's largest springs.

Ozarks National Scenic Riverway
Ozarks National Scenic Riverway is Missouri's largest national park and the nation's first national park area to protect a wild river system. The Riverway comprises 134 miles of the Current River and the Jacks Fork Rivers and offers picturesque places for canoeing, hiking, fishing and camping. Missouri has a total of over 50,000 miles of rivers and streams.

Lewis & Clark Missouri River Water Trail
The lower Missouri River offers the opportunity to paddle through history—following the trail of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The mapped water trail runs more than 500 miles through state conservation areas, state parks, federal lands and city parks. Katy Trail State Park, the longest rails-to-trails conversion project in the country, runs parallel to the river for over 150 miles. Access points to bed and breakfasts, shops and restaurants are close to the river's edge. There are many commercial campgrounds, boat clubs, marinas and bait-shops located along the river, providing supplies and a place to camp for the night.

Elephant Rocks State Park
The southeast region of Missouri boasts impressive granite rocks that date over a billion years. Elephant Rocks State Park is named for a particularly awesome rock formation where huge boulders stand end-to-end like a train of circus elephants—the largest a whopping 680 tons. A self-guiding trail (with Braille signage) winds among these geologic wonders.

Taum Sauk Mountain State Park
Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, located in the St. Francois Mountains, contains 7,448 scenic acres of remote wilderness. It also is home to 1,772-feet Taum Sauk Mountain, the highest point in Missouri, and Mina Sauk Falls, the state's tallest wet-weather waterfall, which drops 132 feet over a series of rocky ledges. Primitive camping, hiking and backpacking trails, an accessible overlook and picnicking are available to visitors.

Wintering Bald Eagles
Missouri is one of the leading states for wintering bald eagles. In the month of January, they can be spotted primarily along the Mississippi and Osage Rivers and near Missouri lakes. Eagle-watching hot spots include Lake of the Ozarks, Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, Clarksville, Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Table Rock Lake and Truman Reservoir.

Audubon Great River Birding Trail
The Great River Road—winding 408 miles through Missouri along the Mississippi River from Iowa to Arkansas—is the spine of the Audubon Great River Birding Trail. This waterway is one of the nation's great flyways for waterfowl, shorebirds and neotropic migrants.

Mingo National Wildlife Refuge
Mingo National Wildlife Refuge's is the largest remaining tract of bottomland hardwood forest in southeast Missouri. The Mingo Swamp and adjacent hills are nestled in a linear basin formed in an ancient abandoned channel of the Mississippi River. The refuge includes 7,730 acres of federally designated wilderness and an abundance of native plants and wildlife. Mingo offers wildlife observation on a seasonal 20-mile auto tour route, hiking, canoeing, fishing, hunting and environmental educational programs.

Missouri Botanical Garden
Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis has earned global recognition for its gardens, research and unparalleled efforts to catalog plants from the world's rain forests. Founded in 1859, it is the country's oldest botanical garden in continuous operation; a National Historic Landmark with 79 acres of beautiful gardens and historic structures. Outdoor and indoor displays include the Climatron tropical rain forest; Kemper Center for Home Gardening; Japanese Garden; George Washington Carver Garden; historic Tower Grove House; and the seasonal Doris I. Schnuck Children's Garden.

The EarthWays Home
A three-story Victorian residence built in 1885 has been renovated to showcase practical demonstrations of energy efficient systems, recycled products and waste reduction practices. Visitors to this St. Louis property experience hands-on applications of sustainable lifestyle choices. Many existing features in the EarthWays Home are readily available for general construction and renovation.

The Saint Louis Zoo
The Saint Louis Zoo is a renowned leader in animal conservation projects and innovative captive breeding strategy to ensure the survival world's most endangered species. Named "America's #1 Zoo" by Zagat Survey's family travel guide, the 90-acre zoo is home to 17,900 exotic animals, many of them rare and endangered. The Penguin and Puffin Coast offers a spectacular underwater view of those oceanic birds. There's also an underwater view of hippos. Asian elephants, Children's Zoo, Insectarium, Conservation Carousel and the Cypress Swamp are highlights.

Butterfly House & Education Center
This Chesterfield attraction builds awareness of natural world through the observation of butterflies, their habitats, life cycles and role in the world's ecosystem. More than a thousand live tropical butterflies fly freely in the glass conservatory. Butterfly House visitors can watch a butterfly emerge from a chrysalis, visit the Native Habitat Garden and view a variety of insect exhibits.

Shaw Nature Reserve
Shaw Nature Reserve, a 2,400-acre experimental ecological reserve, lies 35 miles west of St. Louis. Its restored plant and animal habitats feature tall-grass prairies, glades, wetlands, savannas, and woodlands. Fourteen miles of trails take visitors through the reserve and to the Meramec River.

World Bird Sanctuary
Missouri's World Bird Sanctuary preserves the earth's biological diversity and secures the future of threatened bird species in their natural environments through education, captive breeding, field studies and rehabilitation. With self-guided displays of live eagles, owls, hawks, vultures, parrots, falcons, reptiles and other mammals on 305 peaceful acres, it's a true wildlife encounter.

Wild Canid Survival and Research Center
Funded by Marlin Perkins in 1971, the Wild Canid Survival and Research Center occupies 63 isolated wooded acres about 20 miles southwest of St. Louis. This premier wolf conservation, education, reproduction and research center contains red and Mexican gray wolves, African wild dogs and swift foxes living in packs within natural enclosures. Visitors are welcomed for year-round day and evening programs by advanced reservation.

Powell Gardens
Set on 915 acres of lush, rolling hills and windswept meadows in Kingsville, Powell Gardens offers breathtaking display gardens, interesting architecture, a nature trail and a year-round calendar of special events and classes for the entire family. Garden features include the Island Garden, the Perennial Garden, the Rock and Waterfall Garden, the Wildflower Meadow, a chapel, an indoor conservatory, the ever-changing Terrace Gardens and native plantings.

Forest Park
Rich in cultural heritage, St. Louis's Forest Park is equally significant from a naturalistic perspective. In a city where 80 percent of the land has been developed for business, industry or residential uses, the park serves as a natural oasis for the city, an important source of green space, a respite for migrating birds, and an integrated ecosystem where humans and nature interact.

Katy Trail State Park
The longest rails-to-trails conversion project in the country, Katy Trail State Park caters to the active traveler. The 225-mile trail, built along the former corridor of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, begins in St. Charles and ends in Clinton. The trail takes visitors through some of the most scenic areas of the state, offering views of towering bluffs, rolling hills and glistening rivers. Following the ambling trail across Missouri, nature lovers can enjoy a wide assortment of wildlife in its natural habitat. History buffs can delight in exploring the small towns that once thrived along the railroad corridor and step back in time as they travel between St. Charles and Boonville, an official segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Communities along the trail offer a range of services to visitors.

Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area
Located six miles southwest of Columbia, near McBaine, Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area contains 4,269 acres of wetland and 10 miles of stream frontage. The marshes supply year-round habitat for migrating and wintering birds, as well as a permanent home for a large variety of wildlife.

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