Saturday, May 02, 2015

Into the Elk River Hills

The longer daylengths have allowed for so much more exploration during the day, providing the ability to pull into a parking lot at 6 p.m. and explore the landscape well until 8:30 when the light shuts down and the robins start their calling at sunset. But this rugged landscape, all dissected and cut up with cherty slopes and that strange shale layer (not a glade producer) allows for great hiking and curious plants, uncommon in Missouri. And don't forget all the birds that inhabit the woods in the Elk River Hills, the chats, the prairie warblers, the blue-winged warblers, all of these birds that depend on a fire mediated system for sustenance. They were all there this week, in spades.

Down in that deep McDonald County country one encounters a limestone layer that supports a suite of rare-in-Missouri plants like Draba aprica and other spring forbs including green trillium, which expressed itself as though it was on steroids, a massive plant blooming all along the bottomlands.

There's an uncommon spiderwort there, too, which was blooming its ever-loving head off while I was there in late April.

But it's the landscape, the large, contiguous landscape uninterrupted by campgrounds, roads, towns and highways that makes this area so fantastic from a natural history perspective; this 3,000+ acres of contiguous burned woodlands, areas managed with prescribed fire since 1994, possess some of the richest resources of this area which is a scary stone's throw from sprawling metropolitan areas. What to do? Natural areas exist near the sprawling metroplexes of Arkansas and Southwest Missouri, how do you protect them? How do you keep the deer from moving in, how do you continue the fire regime that made it so exemplary to begin with? Bentonville is encroaching rapidly. Enjoy these wild places while they're still wild with bears and songbird populations no longer found in the area. Communities must embrace a wildness to protect it, and I'm not too certain this one will.


HiggsBoson said...

You need to get with the program, Allison. Every square inch of the Ozarks must be developed. It grows the economy, or something. Besides, immigrants pouring across the border have to live somewhere. I just read that the State Department plans to resettle another wave of Somali refugees in the U.S. Elk River Hills would be perfect.

Bye-bye, blue-winged warbler; hello diversity.

M. L. Coleman said...

About the Benge Route: Dear Allison, I and my long time friend, David, have been doing some research about the Benge wagon train through Madison and Limestone Counties in north Alabama. Part of the route is fairly well known and part of the route is questionable. He and I are attempting to sort it out. I live in Harvest, AL just north of Huntsville. David lives in Elkmont. So. the Benge route passed within just a few miles of where we live. The National Park Service thinks part of the route is to the east of us. We think it was closer to us.
If you have any narratives about the passage through Madison and Limestone Counties and the passage into Tennessee, and would be interested in sharing them with us, we would be most grateful.
Thanks and I've enjoyed your other posts,

Allison Vaughn said...

Thanks for reading, Michael. Unfortunately most of the information I have is from family journals from the Mixons (I look just like my ancestor Allie Mixon who was on the Benge Route). I really don't know the Alabama route, but the SEMO to Heavener is pretty well documented in local newspapers. I know there was an effort a while ago to mark all the routes including the Benge route with markers on campsites, etc. My ancestors settled in Heavener, Ok. and passed through Arkansas. We have their journals and a lot of Vaughn history from the papers. I recommend searching microfiche for those dates--most local papers covered the story when the Trail of Tears passed through. You might also want to contact Trail of Tears SP in Cape Girardeau. Some of the staff there are incredibly knowledgeable about all of the routes.

Allison Vaughn said...

M.L. Coleman, I have a treasure trove of pertinent information for you. Submit a comment with your contact information which I will not publish and I'll be able to share with you what I learned from my local scholar on the Trail of Tears....