Mark Twain National Forest


The Mark Twain National Forest is located in southern Missouri. The Forest lies mostly within the Ozark Plateau, dotted with remnant hills from this country's oldest mountains, the Ozarks. It is the only National Forest in the State, encompassing 1,487,009 acres.

Settling in the Missouri Ozarks began in the early 1800s. Fortunes boomed with early lead and silver mining. The harvesting of oak and pine followed. Hillsides of bare land resulted, and loggers moved on. Farming was next, but the soil failed rapidly under the plow and eroded. Gravel washed from the hillsides and choked the once clear streams. These were lands that few people wanted just 50 years ago.

Noted for its beautiful scenic qualities, the Forest contains a variety of land forms, from gently rolling plains to heavily dissected areas with deep sinuous valleys containing clear, cool spring-fed rivers and streams. Peaks, hills, and knobs of varying heights are scattered throughout. Exposed rock and open glades add visual interest in many areas.

The Forest lies within an interesting vegetative transition zone that includes tall grass prairie, central hardwoods and pine, northern hardwoods, and southern coastal species. This provides a wealth of plant varieties during all seasons. Spring flowering and fall coloration are particularly vivid, though many plants bloom throughout the growing season.

The Forest offers over 63,000 acres of congressionally designated wildernesses. The seven wildernesses are Bell Mountain, Devil's Backbone, Hercules Glades, Irish, Paddy Creek, Piney Creek, and Rock Pile Mountain.

Throughout the Forest, many trails provide hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking opportunities, including 300 completed miles of the 500-mile Ozark Trail.

The Mark Twain National Forest is popular with hunters, trappers, fishers, and people who enjoy observing, studying, and photographing wildflowers and wildlife. The Forest has about 175 species of birds, 50 species of mammals, and 70 species of amphibians and reptiles. Game species include whitetail deer, turkey, quail, woodcocks, doves, ducks, geese, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, opossums, woodchucks, bobcats, and coyotes.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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