Wednesday, November 4, 2015

MDC's Granny's Acres offers scenic hiking trails

Trails in Benton County timbered hills are well marked and maintained

Warsaw, Mo. – The trails at Granny’s Acres Conservation Area wind through woodlands, up and down steep hills, and across shady valleys cut by small streams. But trail hikers need not fear getting lost. Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) foresters have marked trails with signs and placed signboards with maps at intersections where trail loops meet. This oak and hickory-dominated woodland is a pretty place for a late autumn or winter walk.
   A visitor need not stay on the trails at Granny’s Acres, which is a bit over seven miles south of Warsaw, off Day Road, a short jaunt from U.S. 65 in Benton County. Deer hunting, turkey hunting, birding and cross-country trekking are allowed throughout the 351-acre area. But the trails offer convenient routes over rugged terrain.
   “It’s kind of a unique area,” said Jake Willard, MDC resource forester and area manager. “The trails go way back in and it’s fairly remote.”
   A parking lot off Day Road provides public access. First a short service road cuts down through a wooded hillside and around a hay meadow in a creek bottom that is being restored to native grasses and wildflowers. Then a trail crosses the intermittently-dry Whig Creek and leads up a hillside through timber, connecting with a series of trail loops. The signed hiking loops range from 2.6 to 4.1 miles in length.
   Hikers should be aware that the terrain is challenging, in places it is rugged. They will encounter steep hills. Often loose rock is underfoot on the trails. The rewards are pretty scenery and relative solitude in the woods. Wildlife can be spotted such as deer are even armadillos, a recent mammal migrant into Missouri. A wide variety of birds can be spotted on the area.
   “We focus our management on glade and woodland restoration,” Willard said.
   About 46 acres of glades, open areas with unique plant communities associated with limestone rock, have been restored. A woodland ecosystem is one with open areas between trees with native plants and shrubs. Granny’s Acres is in a general area of Missouri where historically America’s eastern woodlands met the prairies and intermingled.
   Willard is unsure the origin of the Granny’s Acres name. The area had a history of frequent wildfires before MDC acquired it in the 1960s. But the area retains a diverse tree and plant community that supports a wide variety of wildlife.
  For information on the Granny’s Acres Conservation Area and maps, visithttp://on.mo.gov/1M6plkX
  MDC connects people with nature. To find public conservation lands near you, visithttp://mdc.mo.gov.