Amazing WG Outdoors Discussions Slated Before Fall

EE journalist and author of Amazing Webster Groves will speak about his new book and outdoor champions at three locations before Fall arrives.

Author and Webster University professor emeritus Don Corrigan will speak at the Webster Groves Historical Society, also the Dine & Discuss program at Cyrano’s Café, and before Kirkwood’s Rotarians.

 

— “Is Kirkwood as Amazing as Webster Groves?” That’s the luncheon topic for the Kirkwood Rotarians set for Friday, Sept. 1, at the Performing Arts Center at 210 E. Monroe in Kirkwood. Corrigan will solicit nominees for amazing Kirkwood history figures in areas as nature, the outdoors, politics, sports, entertainment, science and more. This Event Is Now Closed And Not Taking Reservations.

Cyrano’s Café in Webster Groves will host a special Dine & Discuss panel on environment & outdoors at noon on Friday, Sept. 16. The panel will be moderated by Don Corrigan, author of Amazing Webster Groves. The book covers topics to be discussed by panelists, who will include:

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The 10,000th Hellbender Released by Missouri Department of Conservation and Saint Louis Zoo

Hellbender released in the MO Ozarks. Photo: MDC

The Saint Louis Zoo, Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are celebrating a historic milestone in hellbender conservation in Missouri. As of August 2022, the total Saint Louis Zoo-raised endangered Ozark and eastern hellbenders released into the wild since 2008 now numbers over 10,000 individuals.

“This is the largest number of animals the Saint Louis Zoo has ever raised in human care and released to the wild and is one of the largest amphibian reintroduction programs in the world,” said Justin Elden, Curator of Herpetology, Saint Louis Zoo, and Director of the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Ron and Karen Goellner Center for Hellbender Conservation. “To date, this is the most successful hellbender release program in the country and it would not be possible without collaborative efforts between the Zoo, MDC and other partners over the last 15 years.”

“When we began the hellbender conservation program over 20 years ago the idea of returning this many hellbenders into native rivers was a dream goal and almost impossible to imagine at the time,” said Jeff Briggler, Ph.D., MDC State Herpetologist. “It has been a lot of hard work and dedication from many people and partner conservation organizations, and while we recognize the significance of this milestone, the work is far from over. We will continue to help protect this species from extinction.”

The 10,000th hellbender, which was one of 235 hellbenders released into a Missouri Ozark river on August 10, 2022, by MDC and Zoo team members, was a nearly 4-year-old Ozark hellbender. This hellbender was returned to the same river where it was collected as an egg in 2018 by MDC to be hatched and raised at the Zoo.

MDC and Zoo staff release Ozark hellbender. Photo: MDC

“This particular river means a lot to those of us involved in the conservation of this species, as it’s the same river where the first release occurred in 2008,” said Briggler. River locations are not identified for animal safety reasons.

By the end of summer 2022, 811 Ozark and eastern hellbenders raised from eggs at the Zoo will have been released into their native Missouri Ozark rivers by MDC this year, in cooperation with the Zoo and other federal partners.

Since 2008, 10,206 Saint Louis Zoo-raised endangered hellbenders (9,034 Ozark hellbenders and 1,172 eastern hellbenders), including first- and second-generation Zoo-bred animals, have been reintroduced to the wild in Missouri.

“Our Zoo animal care professionals are dedicated to caring for this endangered salamander and doing everything we can to help preserve this species,” said Elden.

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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.