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Cool As A Beatles’ Song: Kirkwood Sojourners Rally At Unique Artesian Spring

Karl Kruse, Don Corrigan, Ila Irl, Bill Spradley and Kyle Moylan celebrate the cold, clear waters of the Sycamore Valley Artesian Well in the Missouri Ozarks. All photos by Bill Ruppert.

by Don Corrigan

Just as four Beatles looked for “Norwegian Wood” in a cooler clime in 1965, some area residents looked for an artesian well recently in sizzling 2022 heat. Ozark wells offer cool, flowing water, even when its 100+ degrees.

“I love taking people to see the artesian well at Sycamore Valley,” said Bill Spradley, a Kirkwood  businessman who owns a farm near the well in the Ozark country. “The water is cold, pure, refreshing and it flows constantly.

“It gets a lot of visitors from the locals, but also from all over the country,” added Spradley. “It even gets travel reviews on Google.”

Indeed, the artesian well east of Fredericktown and south of Highway 72 has a gaggle of Google reviews. One advises visitors to take “all kinds of jugs” because the waters are “just a thing you’ll have to experience.”

Spradley, who works during the week in Kirkwood at his Trees, Forests and Landscapes, Inc., will retreat to his Ozark hideaway on weekends. At an intersection of roads just south of his homestead is an amazing water flow that never, ever goes quiet.

It started in the late 1940s, when a shaft was sunk more than 1,200 feet below ground. However, it was not black gold that erupted from the depths. It was clear, cold water under natural pressure and gushing at 50 gallons per minute.

An artesian well releases spring water and requires no pumps. The most famous artesian wells are located in Artois, France. Artois was known as the “Roman City of Wells” in the Middle Ages.

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Discover Nature at The Missouri State Fair

Photo: MDC/Dickerson Park Zoo

Discover nature with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia Aug. 11-21.

Visit MDC’s Conservation building from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. and the kid’s Xplor Zone from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. to see MDC’s mobile snake exhibit, a new macroinvertebrate exhibit, and more. Ask MDC staff conservation-related questions, get educational materials, and have fun!

Fairgoers can once again take part in MDC’s Agents of Discovery mission at the fair. Agents of Discovery is a mobile gaming app that uses augmented reality to help connect people to nature. Download the State Fair mission and earn a special badge for exploring nature in and around the MDC building. Agents of Discovery is available for download through the App Store for Apple products or Google Play for Android devices.

Don’t forget to visit MDC’s Community and Private Lands staff in the Agriculture Building to learn how to manage your property to increase wildlife habitat and attract pollinators.

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Bean Queen Gavels Plant Group To Order Every Wednesday

Photo: Castor Bean Plant

By Don Corrigan

Lulu Dunsford, the “Bean Queen” of Webster Groves Castor Bean Society, (WGCBS), gavels her unruly plant group to order every Wednesday morning at The Annex on 8122 Big Bend Blvd.

“I try to gavel them to order, but I don’t get much respect,” admitted Dunsford. “Castor beaners are rowdy. They don’t take me seriously and they are a little wound up right now.”

WGCBS members are wound up because they’re in the heat of competition for growing the tallest castor bean plant. The stakes are high, the plants are tall – and the winner takes all. The owner of the tallest plant wins bigly.

“Tom Bush of Glendale is my ‘Chart Meister,’ and records the height of contest plants on a weekly basis,” explained Dunsford. “Members call in their heights to him and he records them.

“I don’t trust their reports,” added Dunsford. “I ride my bike all over Webster-Kirkwood with a tape measure and stop at their homes to check their castor bean plants. I do my own measurements. It’s called ‘keeping them honest.’”

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Kayak the Meramec River on Aug. 11

Join park naturalists for a guided interpretive kayak trip on the Meramec River from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11. Participants will learn about the diversity of life found in and along the Meramec River.

The trip begins and ends at Robertsville State Park. Participants must be at least 18 years of age and have previous experience paddling a kayak on moving water. Preregistration is required and there is a fee of $20 per person. To reserve your spot, call Erik Otto at 636-257-3788. Participants with reservations will receive trip logistics.

Robertsville State Park is located eight miles east of I-44 on Route O, near Roberstville. For more information, call 636-257-3788.

For more information on state parks and historic sites, visit mostateparks.com. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

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Discover Nature Schools Nature Unhooked Teacher Training Workshop Aug. 20

Photo: MDC

Teachers will learn about this free program that provides grant funding for middle school science units.

The Missouri Department of Conservation invites teachers to attend a Discover Nature Schools (DNS) teacher training workshop for Nature Unhooked, the DNS aquatic instructional unit designed for grades 6-8.  This program provides grant funding for middle school life science units to help cover equipment costs and field trips.

The workshop will be held Saturday, Aug. 20 from 8:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. at Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center in Kirkwood.  The workshop is free of charge for educators.  Registration is required. (see link and more information at end of this post.) The nature center is located at 11715 Cragwold Road, near the intersection of I-270 and I-44.

“The Discover Nature Schools program is an excellent way to connect students of all ages with the benefits of outdoor learning and provides a place-based, experiential, approach to science education focusing on Missouri plants, animals and natural systems,” said MDC Conservation Educator David Bruns.

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$1.1 Million Awarded to Improve Outdoor Recreation

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has selected five Missouri cities to receive a total of $1.1 million in Land and Water Conservation Fund grants to improve public outdoor recreation areas.

“As an agency, we are continually focused on improving the quality of life for Missourians,” said Missouri Department of Natural Resources Director Dru Buntin. “Communities can accomplish this with the financial assistance of these grants. We also hope to build long-lasting partnerships with these communities.”

“These grants provide much-needed park improvements to cities that might not be able to afford them otherwise,” said Missouri State Parks Director David Kelly. “From upgrading and improving swimming facilities to installing new playground equipment, the towns and cities will be improving their outdoor recreation opportunities for their citizens and visitors.”

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Crayfish Critters: Memories Past, Present-Day Concerns

All photos courtesy The Missouri Department of Conservation.

By Don Corrigan

Crayfish, the “poor man’s lobsters,” were once in abundance in streams of Webster-Kirkwood in suburban St. Louis. Watersheds at Gravois Creek, Sugar Creek, Deer Creek and Shady Creek hosted many of the six-legged fellows.

When freed slaves settled areas near the creeks in North Webster Groves after the Civil War, the streams provided drinking water, recreation and food sources for the liberated residents.

A crayfish boil with melted butter could offer a kingly meal. Vegetable gardens in family plots provided plenty of side dishes to go along with the “crawdaddies” harvested by young boys.

Crayfish boils – and local streams full of the tiny “lobsters,” – seem to be a thing of the past. Experts with the Webster Groves Nature Study Society and Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) have an explanation for the disappearance.

“Crayfish suffer in suburban areas because of the runoff from herbicides and the pesticides used on lawns,” said Rich Thoma of the local nature society. “Some species are very sensitive to degradations in their habitat.

“When the crayfish suffer, sometimes other species of dragonflies and frogs take a hit also,” explained Thoma. “That’s because the crayfish burrow into the mud to make their homes, and other creatures then use the burrows for their homes.”

When crayfish disappear, the burrow homes for the dragonflies and frogs disappear. It’s a classic case of ecological breakdown.

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Go Stargazing Ha Ha Tonka State Park on July 29

Have you ever gazed at the night skies and wondered what exactly you were seeing? Are those glistening objects stars, planets, satellites or something else? Join team members for an evening of stargazing at Ha Ha Tonka State Park at 9:30 p.m. Friday, July 29, weather permitting.

Participants will be able to view the night skies through at telescope. There will be a new moon, allowing the best opportunity to view more distant and faint objects. With any luck, the Delta Aquarids meteor shower may be seen as well.

The program will be held at the Post Office Shelter. To get to there from Highway 54, turn onto State Road D and continue approximately 2.3 miles. The Post Office Shelter is on the left. Ha Ha Tonka State Park is located at 1491 State Road D in Camdenton. For more information about the program, contact 573-346-2986..

For more information on state parks and historic sites, visit mostateparks.com. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Did You Know? Spotlight on the St. Louis Audubon Society

Explore your St. Louis environmentally and nature friendly organizations! 

The St. Louis Audubon Society offers a program to help homeowners support native plant and animal landscapes across the St. Louis region, including even the smallest urban yard.

“The Bring Conservation Home Program provides on-site advice to private landowners in the greater St. Louis area for the restoration of native plant and animal habitat on their grounds.”

The program website describes the following program examples.
The Bring Conservation Home Program will offer advice in:

  • Landscaping with environmentally healthy and sustainable native plant species
  • Removal of invasive plant species, such as bush honeysuckle
  • Water conservation for urban landscapes
  • Other stewardship practices to promote healthy habitat for birds, native wildlife, and people

To learn more about the “Bring Conservation Home Program” and how to become involved – CLICK HERE.

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Trail Blazers – A Book About the Making of the Katy Trail and the Free-Spirited, Extraordinary Lives of Ted and Pat Jones

Courtesy of Magnificent Missouri

by Don Corrigan
Trail Blazers: The Free-Spirited and Extraordinary Lives of Ted and Pat Jones tells the story of the philanthropy and business savvy of an incredible couple. They also left an incredible natural legacy for Missourians.

I recommend reading this book from finish to start. That’s because once you realize the extent of what they have given us in Missouri (which is cataloged at the end of the book), then you will be more motivated to read how it all happened earlier in the book.

So, what did Ted and Pat Jones give us:

• A 240-mile long Katy Trail that attracts 400,000 hikers and cyclists annually. The beauty of this trail – whether in wine country, or the forests near Boonville, or the river cliffs of Rocheport – is simply astounding.

• Prairie Fork, the fabulous Jones Farm north of the Missouri River. The acreage has prairie, wetlands, slightly forested woodlands edged with beautiful wildflowers. Three different ecosystems can be enjoyed.

• The Ted and Pat Jones Confluence Point State Park, where visitors can witness where the Mississippi and Missouri rivers meet, and where westward expansion in the United States began.

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