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Missouri State Parks

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USA Parks
Southeast Region
Castor River State Forest
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The Castor River State Forest is a captivating natural sanctuary that boasts a diverse array of flora and fauna. Nestled within the beautiful Ozark Mountains, this enchanting forest spans across nearly 17,000 acres, offering visitors a serene and tranquil setting. From towering hardwood trees to crystal-clear streams, the forest is a haven for nature enthusiasts, who can explore its numerous hiking trails, enjoy picnicking by the riverbank, or simply immerse themselves in the wilderness. With its breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife, the Castor River State Forest is a true gem for those seeking solace in the heart of nature.
History of the Area
In the early 1900s, the land that now constitutes the state forest was primarily used for agricultural purposes, with various farms and homesteads dotting the area. However, due to soil erosion and the economic challenges of farming in the region, many of these farms were abandoned or left unused.

In the 1930s, as part of the Great Depression-era relief efforts initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, the federal Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was established. The CCC aimed to provide employment opportunities for unemployed young men while simultaneously carrying out environmental conservation projects across the United States.

One of the major projects undertaken by the CCC in the area was the reforestation and restoration of the lands that now form Castor River State Forest. Through the hard work and efforts of CCC workers, the degraded and eroded farmland was transformed into a healthy and sustainable forest ecosystem.

The CCC planted numerous tree species, including hardwoods like oak and hickory, as well as conifers like pine. They also constructed various structures, such as fire breaks, forest roads, and recreational facilities like picnic areas and campgrounds. Additionally, they built several small lakes and ponds, which today provide habitat for diverse wildlife and offer recreational opportunities such as fishing and boating.

The state forest was officially established in 1966 and has been managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation since then. Over the years, ongoing conservation efforts have continued, including native habitat restoration, wildlife management, and public access improvements.

Castor River State Forest spans approximately 11,590 acres and is known for its diverse plant and animal life. It offers opportunities for hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, and wildlife viewing. The forest stands as a testament to the successful restoration and conservation efforts undertaken by the CCC and serves as a valuable recreational and natural resource for Missourians.
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1. Castor River Shut-ins Trail: This is a 2-mile loop trail that offers scenic views of the unique pink granite shut-ins and surrounding forest areas. It's moderately difficult with some steep sections, but it rewards hikers with stunning waterfall sights.

2. Crane Lake Loop: A moderate difficulty level hike spanning about 4 miles around the beautiful Crane lake within this state forest area; perfect for bird watching and fishing opportunities along its course.

3. Marble Creek Section - Ozark Trail: An approximately 8 mile stretch which connects to other parts of Missouri's extensive Ozark trail system offering diverse landscapes from hardwood forests to glades filled with wildflowers in springtime.

4. The Sutton Bluff section - Trace Creek/Ozark Trails: About an eleven-mile trek through dense woods, rocky terrains leading up to panoramic bluff-top vistas overlooking Black river valley below.

5. Pink Granite Birding Trail: As name suggests, this short one mile interpretive path winds through mixed pine-oak woodlands providing ample opportunity for spotting various species like pileated woodpeckers or red-tailed hawks.

6. Taum Sauk Mountain State Park Connector: Part of larger Taum Sauk section on famous OT (Ozarks trails), this challenging yet rewarding segment spans over fourteen miles featuring highest point in MO, Mina Sauk falls & iconic Devil's Tollgate rock formation.

7. Johnson's Shut-In Hiking Pathway: Approximately two-miles long pathway winding across Johnsons' creek showcasing impressive volcanic rocks formations known as 'shut ins'.

8. Barton Fen Boardwalk Nature Walk: A half-a-mile easy stroll suitable even for families/children where you can learn more about rare fen wetland ecosystem via informative signboards placed throughout route.

9. Castor River Conservation Area Paths: Multiple small paths crisscrossing conservation zone near banks giving glimpses into local flora/fauna including beavers, otters or minks.

10. Goggins Mountain Equestrian Trail: A 10-mile loop primarily designed for horseback riding but also open to hikers; it winds through a variety of landscapes including hardwood forests and glades.

11. Bell mountain wilderness trail: A rugged twenty-four mile long backcountry path offering solitude & primitive camping options amidst unspoiled nature.

12. Council Bluff Lake Recreation Area Trails: A network of trails around the lake suitable for all skill levels with picnic spots, swimming beaches along its course.

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1. Start by heading south on Highway 67 from Fredericktown.
2. Continue driving for approximately 10 miles until you reach Route AA.
3. Turn left onto Route AA and continue for about 5 miles.
4. Look out for signs indicating the entrance to Castor River State Forest on your right:hand side.

1. If you are coming from Farmington, head east on Highway 32 towards Bismarck.
2. Drive through Bismarck and continue straight onto County Road C:208/Castor River Ranch Road after passing Clearwater Lake Recreation Area.
3. Continue along this road for around 8 miles until you see signs directing you to turn left into Castor River State Park.

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Missouri State Parks