Sunday, September 21, 2014

Discover nature with elk driving tours

This year’s offerings include routes on Current River and Peck Ranch conservation areas.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – An additional route will make it easier than ever to see Missouri’s wild elk this year, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The Conservation Department began encouraging Missourians to view elk along designated internal roads at Peck Ranch Conservation Area (CA) shortly after bringing the first wild elk to Missouri in 2011.  The self-guided driving tour has become a popular tourist attraction, especially in October, when bull elk are bugling as part of their mating ritual.
Elk are also establishing themselves on the nearby Current River CA, which is in the 346-square-mile Elk Restoration Zone in and around Peck Ranch CA. Habitat improvements have created excellent elk viewing opportunities along internal roads at Current River CA. To help visitors find elk, the Conservation Department has designated a driving tour route that follows portions of Roads No. 1, 9, and 10. Designated roads on Current River and Peck Ranch CAs are shown on maps available through the Conservation Atlas atmdc.mo.gov/atlas. Simply enter the area name and follow the links to the area map.
“Signs mark the driving routes at both Current River and Peck Ranch,” says Elk Program Manager David Hasenbeck. “Seeing elk in the wild is an awe-inspiring experience, and we are very excited about offering this additional place where people can enjoy elk in October, when bulls are bugling and trees are blazing with fall color.”
Hasenbeck says the Conservation Department worked with local communities, landowners, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and other conservationists to relocate more than 100 wild elk from Kentucky to the restoration zone in Reynolds, Carter, and Shannon counties. The best times to see elk and other wildlife are right after sunrise and right before sunset. The tour route at Peck Ranch begins at the CA office and is marked with signs along the way. The tour route is open from sunrise to sunset daily, unless closed because of inclement weather or a managed deer hunt.
“We encourage people to take photographs from their vehicles,” says Hasenbeck, “but please do not disturb elk or other wildlife in any way. It’s also important for visitors to know that gravel roads on Peck Ranch may not be accessible to vehicles without adequate ground clearance, and some roads may be impassible at times due to high water at stream crossings.”
The elk driving tour routs at Peck Ranch CA will be closed for managed hunts Oct. 11 and 12Oct. 31 through Nov. 2Nov. 15 through 25, and Dec. 6 and 7. For more information about elk driving tours at Peck Ranch CA, call the 855-MDC-ELK (855-263-2355).  For information about the tour at Current River CA, call 573-663-7130.
Hasenbeck also suggests that visitors stop at the Twin Pines Conservation Education Center, which is 1 mile east of Winona on Route 60. Twin Pines is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. For more information on Twin Pines, call 573-325-1381, or go online to mdc.mo.gov/node/293.
“The nearby communities of Eminence, Ellington, Winona, and Van Buren also offer fall events and other outdoor activities,” says Hasenbeck. “They are great places to stop for a bite to eat, a bit of shopping, an overnight stay, and other nature-related outdoor adventures.”