Cole Camp, Mo. – Peer into Big Buffalo Creek and you will see small fishes swimming inOzark highlands. But what will surprise an onlooker is the species diversity found when fishery biologists sample the stream’s fish population with seines and nets.
“This stream has good fish diversity,” said Blake Stephens, a Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) fisheries management biologist. “We’re finding darters, madtoms and sculpins that stay on the bottom. And we’re seeing the fish that group together like shiners and the Ozark minnow. We’re also finding the predator fish like the hornyhead chub.”
Stephens spoke as he led an MDC fisheries crew sampling fish populations at a site near MDC’s Big Buffalo Creek Conservation Area. The 2,000-acres of timbered hills offer the Ozarks rough beauty within easy driving distance of larger cities such as Kansas City, Warrensburg and Sedalia. Hiking trails are marked on the area. Big Buffalo Creek Fen Natural Area holds plants unique to cool, moist niches.
But the namesake Big Buffalo Creek is a special attraction for visitors. An MDC parking lot offers access for visitors who wish to wade in the mostly shallow stream, turn over rocks looking for crayfish or net some minnows, darters or sculpins to admire their varied colors and shapes. About 25 different fish species have been found in the stream, which is shallow with intermittent riffles and deep pools.
MDC has long worked with private landowners within the Big Buffalo Creek watershed to implement land and stream bank management practices that benefit farms, fish and wildlife. But the watershed will be given additional attention in the coming years. MDC staffers such as foresters and private lands conservationists can provide advice to any property manager wishing to improve timber stands, wildlife habitat or native plants. Good management practices can also protect stream banks or reduce sediment and gravel erosion into the creek, which boosts water quality and fish.
Financial assistance for habitat improvements and stream protections will be available to land managers in the watershed. Those interested can contact MDC’s Sedalia office at 660-530-5500, or call a private lands conservationist at 660-826-3354, ext. 118.
“We want to keep this stream’s water quality high so people can come and enjoy the outdoors here,” Stephens said. This is a really pretty stream. We have good tree growth along the stream corridor that provides some shade and keeps the water cooler. We’re trying to keep places like this in good shape so people can enjoy them.”