Saturday, May 22, 2010

Use online Conservation atlas to plan Missouri "staycation"

By Joe Jerek
Missouri Department of Conservation

Looking for ways to save time and money on outdoor-adventure vacations this summer? Let the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) help you discover nature through a “staycation” in Missouri. Birdwatcher, geocacher, hunter, angler, camper, paddler, backpacker, day hiker, cyclist, horseback rider, or nature photographer -- MDC has something for just about every outdoor enthusiast.

With more than 900 conservation areas (CAs), lake and river accesses and natural areas throughout Missouri, plus 18 nature and visitor centers and more than 80 shooting ranges, the trick is finding the right place.

To help you navigate this dizzying array of opportunities, MDC provides a searchable online Conservation Atlas database at www.Missouri Conservation.org. Just click on “Conservation Areas” under “Quick Links” on the homepage. You can even do a “Detailed Search” for conservation areas by available activities from horseback riding to canoeing or goggle-eye fishing.

You can also filter search results by disabled-accessible offerings, designated trails or shooting ranges.

A search for “boat-in camping along the Missouri River” turns up 17 alternatives, from Atchison County to St. Louis County. Searching for areas where you can bicycle reveals 49 options, from Bollinger County to Buchanan County.

To minimize travel time and expenses, you can narrow such searches to a particular region or county. Regional searches enable “staycationers” to put together vacation itineraries that let them sleep in their own beds every night.

You also can choose to focus your search on available facilities and services, including visitor centers, picnic areas, pavilions, wildlife viewing blinds, boat rentals or primitive campsites. You might choose to spend your vacation visiting all 18 MDC nature and visitor centers around the state.

Or you might want to focus your search on natural features, such as lakes, ponds, glades, forests, springs or streams. An imaginary itinerary might focus on “walk-in camping” on areas with “springs” in the “Ozark Region.” This search combination turns up five areas: Carter Creek CA in Carter County, Fourche Creek CA in Ripley County, Indian Trail CA in Dent County, and Rocky Creek and Sunklands CAs in Shannon County.

Replace “springs” with “designated natural areas,” and the Conservation Atlas directs you to Angeline or Rocky Creek CA in Shannon County, Little Black, Mudpuppy or Sand Pond CA in Ripley County or – once again – to Indian Trail or Sunklands CAs.

Change the search combination to “hiking,” “springs” and “designated trails” gets you 25 choices scattered throughout the St. Louis, Kansas City, Southwest, Ozark and Central Missouri regions.

Boaters and anglers can choose from hundreds of fishing accesses on major lakes and rivers, plus small community lakes. A search for fishing lakes and ponds in the 12-county Kansas City region finds 72 such areas.

With the online Conservation Atlas, you can plan an exciting summer “staycation” tailor-made for your interests and budget. You might even find yourself taking mini-staycations throughout the year.

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