Category Archives: Outdoor/Nature

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Kirkwood’s St. Hellbender: Hellbender Fans Recall Karen Goellner’s Care Of Critters

Karen Goellner holding a wriggling endangered Hellbender. Photos by Jeffrey Briggler.

By Don Corrigan

Fans of Missouri hellbenders recently gathered at the Saint Louis Zoo to honor the life and work of Kirkwood’s Karen Goellner. If working with hellbenders can get you into heaven, she is in a good place.

“She put in the hard work to help save the endangered Ozark hellbenders,” said Charlie Hoessle, a renowned herpetologist and director emeritus of the Saint Louis Zoo. “She traveled down to the Ozark streams with many of us who were interested in this species.

“Her late husband, Ron, also was keenly interested in amphibians and fish and snakes,” added Hoessle. “Before I went to the Zoo, he used to come in to my pet shop in Affton and look at all the creatures. Ron and Karen were great for each other and for the hellbenders.”

Hellbenders, sometimes known as “snot otters,” are large, aquatic amphibians. The hellbender has a flat head, wrinkly body and paddle-shaped tail. Its body is dark gray or brown with irregular dark spots along its back.

Like so many animal species whose survival is under threat, hellbenders have problems because of habitat degradation. This includes declines in water quality, erosion issues, silt covering their rocky living places and difficulties producing young in a damaged environment.

Even before humans defiled their favorite living spots, fishermen proved hostile to hellbenders. They viewed them as small monsters hurting trout and bass fishing, so they captured hellbenders and drove stakes through them.

Saint Louis Zoo experts and volunteers have intervened on behalf of hellbenders. They built a nurturing, artificial environment at the Zoo. These tank “streams” allowed them to thrive and reproduce.

The first successful breeding of hellbenders at the Zoo only took place after tender, loving care. They were destined to be reintroduced to their native habitat in waterways like the Current, Jacks Fork and Eleven Point rivers.

Group photo of the Saint Louis Zoo staff, USFWS, and Karen Goellner assisting with augmenting wild collected Ozark Hellbenders in the outdoor streams for captive-breeding. This was completed in the summer of 2011 and the first successful captive breeding occurred in the fall of 2011.

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Rock Bridge Memorial State Park hosts spring wildflower walk April 23

Photo by Holly Shanks

Enjoy the beauty of spring wildflowers on a guided walking tour with the park naturalist at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park from 9:30-11 a.m. Saturday, April 23.

Learn how to identify wildflowers, discover what makes each one unique, and find out about their edible, medicinal and poisonous qualities. Space is limited, please register for the walk by calling 573-449-7400.

Participants should meet the naturalist at the Devil’s Icebox parking lot for a 1 mile hike on Spring Brook Trail. The walk covers both flat and hilly terrain. Participants are encouraged to dress for the weather, bring water, and wear sturdy shoes and insect repellent.

Prior to the hike you may participate in an open house at 9 a.m for Jewell Cemetery Historic Site, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park and the Midwest Section of the Katy Trail State Park.

Rock Bridge Memorial State Park is located 7 miles south of Columbia on Highway 163.

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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St. Louis Planting Calendar From Seed St. Louis!

Want to know when is the best time to plant your veggies and fruits in St. Louis?

Seed St. Louis has a local planting calendar to help!

Check it out here: 542c0a3c-46e3-432b-9bc4-0379f7d1453e.pdf (ctctusercontent.com)

 

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March Promises Us Some Weird “Wizard of Oz” Weather

North of Hannibal, Mo, 2003. Photo: STL NWS.

By Don Corrigan

March brings us Mardi Gras, Irish revelry, International Fanny Pack Day and wild-ass weather. Tornadoes are just around the corner, which is why it is an American family tradition to watch “The Wizard of Oz” on TV in March.

There is no better movie tornado scene than Dorothy and her little dog Toto trying to find shelter as a Kansas cyclone bears down on them. The tornado in “Oz” is every bit as scary as anything in the more recent movie, “Twister.”

If “The Wizard of Oz” classic were filmed today, the setting would have to be moved from Kansas to Missouri. That’s because changing weather patterns have meteorologists telling us that Tornado Alley is moving eastward.

Missouri and states to the southeast are seeing more and more tornadoes. On a recent drive to the Florida Panhandle, this scribe witnessed plenty of tornado damage in Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama.

Meteorologists are predicting twice as many tornadoes this spring because of what used to be called “global warming.” That terminology has changed to “climate change,” because a warming atmosphere gives us weather extremes of hot and cold.

February 2022 has exhibited this phenomenon. It has been a roller coaster. Sunny, balmy days followed by ice, sleet and snow and an occasional polar vortex. It has been roller coaster weather.

The weather roller coaster of extremes in February has put us on a track for violent tornadoes in March. So grab Toto and be ready to take shelter as dark and ominous roll clouds wind their way up I-44 in Missouri, a super highway which has become Missouri’s very own Tornado Alley.

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Hey, Valentine, Ready For A Local Lovers’ Leap?

Starved Rock

By Don Corrigan

Lovers’ leaps, bluff areas where romance and intrigue once intertwined, are to be found all over the Midwest. However, it’s not necessary to drive 100 miles to capture the spirit of these places on Valentine’s Day.

In Webster-Kirkwood, happy couples can catch the spirit by visiting high points overlooking Deer Creek and Shady Creek in Webster Groves. A bluff trail at Emmenegger Park in Kirkwood can also offer romantic inspiration.

“Emmenegger Park is a good Valentine’s Day destination because it rises on its western side to a bluff overlooking the Meramec River,” said Bob Rubright. “There are some nice vistas and rocky outcroppings for sitting.

“People once referred to the area below as Chrysler Valley because of the car factory. That’s gone,” said Rubright. “In any case, it must have been a lovelier site before the factories and Interstate 44.”

Kirkwood resident Rubright has been to many of the more distant lovers’ leap sites in the region to research his books on hiking trails. His 2002 book is “Weekend Walks in St. Louis and Beyond.” A new one is in the works, titled, “Two Feet in St. Louis and Nearby.”

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Public Land v. Private Use: Kirkwood Wrestles With Thorny Issue

Proposed; multi-use (cycling, running, walking (1+ mile), and cycling only (~1-mile) recreational trails in Kirkwood Park Forest.

By Don Corrigan

America has seen some major battles over special-interest use of public lands. Those fights have usually involve mining, timber, oil and gas interests. The fight came to Kirkwood recently when a mountain bike concern sought use of Kirkwood City Park.

Dave Schulz of the Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (GORC) sought use of a forested area of the city park for cycling trails for his organization. Public reaction was swift and by the end of January, Schulz appeared to be backing off.

This GORC trail has imported rock/gravel to construct a ramp, and the width has been greatly expanded. Bluff View/Rock Hollow Park, Wildwood, MO.

GORC  will no longer support the addition of cycling within the west forest at Kirkwood Park. Following discussion with Kirkwood’s Parks Director Kyle Henke, the Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (GORC) will no longer support the addition of cycling within the forest at Kirkwood Park, according to Schulz.

A bicycle playground and family-oriented bike area outside of the forest are still being considered. Dave Schulz of GORC told the Webster-Kirkwood Times that Henke spoke with him on Thursday, Jan. 20, regarding the proposed updates to Kirkwood Park’s trail system, which would include mixed-use areas permitting cyclists.

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Eagle Days Event Moves to Powder Valley Nature Center for 2022 (new format event date, Jan. 15 )

Photo: MDC

Due to a renovation work on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, Eagle Days programming is moving to Powder Valley Nature Center in Kirkwood this year. The event will take place from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 15.

Few words can describe the thrill of seeing America’s national symbol soaring through the air in the wild, or close enough to touch.  During the winter, the Mississippi River hosts one of North America’s largest concentrations of bald eagles; they are drawn to areas of open water in search of fish, their preferred food.

Due to COVID-19 considerations and to ensure the safety of visitors and staff, Eagle Days will also take on a new format for 2022.  The event is free and open to all ages, but attendance will be by online pre-registration only, with six available timeslots each hour throughout the day.  Attendance numbers for each timeslot will be limited for the safety of visitors and staff.

To register, use the following links for the preferred timeslot:

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In Memorium: Thanks, Karen, For A Helping Of Ozark Hospitality

Karen Hood Simpson

 

By Don Corrigan

Sometimes a new friend crosses your path – the kind of friend who helps you out. You look forward to a lasting friendship. Then something tragic happens, and you realize you did not say “thank you” enough before they exited this life.

Such is the case for me with Karen Hood Simpson. She helped me explore Missouri caves, trails and waterways on a Missouri Outdoor Communicators’ (MOC) trip in June to the Pulaski County area and the Gasconade River watershed.

Karen, who worked with the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau for more than a dozen years, helped this city boy enjoy some Ozark nooks in the forest and on the river – and to breathe in a little fresh mountain air.

The MOC get-together was at Gasconade Hills Resort, located on a magnificent stretch of river showcasing amazing scenery, caverns and local wildlife including eagles, otters and deer.

She helped with arrangements for a canoe float not far from the cold spring waters that flow into the Gasconade and Big Piney rivers. It was a scenic on-the-water trip in the vicinity of Devil’s Elbow, a bluff area full of lore from a time when lumber men floated timber down the river.

In the evenings, there was time to relax at the Piney River Taproom. One eating and imbibing excursion involved time at the newly-opened Heritage Cultural Art Center on Route 66 in Waynesville.

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American Roadkill Book Event In St. Louis Benefits Missouri Animal Protection Group On Dec. 11

Novel Neighbor of Webster Groves is hosting a book signing from 7-8 p.m., Dec. 6, at its store.

A book event at Webster Groves Public Library at 2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 11, will feature “American Roadkill,” with sales to benefit Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation (MAAL).

 

 

For More information:
Contact Author Don Corrigan at  314-968-2699; 314-827-9989
Corrigan@timesnewspapers.com

Local motorists have had plenty of road encounters with animals ranging from
tiny squirrels to large deer that can weigh up to 250 pounds. The results are not
pretty for man or beast.

Armadillos are the latest species to take it on the chin in a big way in roadkill
accidents in Missouri. The hard-shelled tourists, originally from Texas, litter rural highways and interstates.

In his new book, “American Roadkill,” author Don Corrigan documents the million animals killed daily on American roadways. Among the casualties are man’s best friends, canines and felines, amounting to 5.4 million of the annual roadkill tally.

Is there anybody looking out for the critters that have taken such a beating in the
automobile age which began a century ago?

Corrigan documents many positive developments, among them: (read more about American Roadkill and the upcoming events below.)

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“Notch” The California Celebrity Squirrel

In the land of fruit and nuts, California, squirrels are front page news. Dan Burkhardt of Magnificent Missouri found this out when visiting his children recently. He was in the state that “The Arnold” from Total Recall affectionately refers to as “Caleeefornya.”
 
The squirrel in the California newspaper, known as The Acorn, is named Notch. He gets his name from a peculiar ear that he sports. The little varmint enjoys peanuts hand-fed to him by sympathetic humans.
Notch will get some ink in the second edition of “Nuts About Squirrels,” which is the definitive book on the species by St. Louis author Don Corrigan.

Patrons who buy the “Nuts About Squirrels” book at Novel Neighbor or the Webster Groves Bookshop will get a free squirrel button, squirrel book marker, and squirrel journal in a kit thanks to the printing press work of Mark Sableman, Attorney at Law.