A Place for All Seasons from Plants That Attract Zillions of Butterflies to the Echoes of a Manmade Cave, Each of the Seven Trails at Rockwoods Reservation Offers Something to Make You Gasp with Surprise

By Story and Photos Susan C. Hegger Of the Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), October 22, 1995 | Go to article overview

A Place for All Seasons from Plants That Attract Zillions of Butterflies to the Echoes of a Manmade Cave, Each of the Seven Trails at Rockwoods Reservation Offers Something to Make You Gasp with Surprise


Story and Photos Susan C. Hegger Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


THE LEAVES were on the cusp of change the day we headed to Rockwoods Reservation, off Manchester Road and Highway 109 in Glencoe. Yellows and reds punctuated the greens and browns. Autumn was on its way, but summer was lingering. It was warm enough to go without a jacket, warm enough even for T-shirts, all in all a perfect day to enjoy nature and the outside.

No matter what the season, Rockwoods has always been one of my favorite places. Of course it is delightful in the spring, summer and fall, when the trees are in their glory. But I have also enjoyed it in the winter, when the air is cold and invigorating while the muted colors of the bare trees and steel-gray sky are somewhat somber and melancholic.

Rockwoods also is a place that virtually anyone can enjoy. There are picnic tables galore; none of the trails is particularly long or strenuous; and the Missouri Department of Conservation, which manages the 1,898-acre forest and wildlife refuge, offers a variety of programs. On our most recent visit, for example, we came upon a group just finishing a nature photography session. Upcoming programs include an owl prowl from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 10 and a program on fall lichens, mosses and mushrooms from 1 to 3 p.m. on Nov. 11.

The first place to stop is the stone visitors' center. It has plenty of brochures and pamphlets on the different activities and trails, as well as a wall-size map, which makes it easy to plan the routes you want to take. Of the seven trails, the shortest, the Wildlife Habitat Trail, is a mere 300 yards; the longest, the Lime Kiln Loop Trail, is 3 1/4 miles.

***** On The Trail

The Wildlife Habitat Trail is paved and handicapped-accessible. At the trailhead is a small guidebook that introduces the visitor to the plant life in this young forest. Painted yellow footsteps, some of which are sadly faded, have numbers that correspond to numbers in the information booklet. So stand in the footprints for the best vantage point to see the sassafras, box elder, wild raspberry or whatever else the guide is pointing to.

The second shortest is the 500-yard Prairie Trail, a maze-like route. In autumn, the tall grasses and flowers are getting past their prime. Still, the walk was special because the trail is full of plants that attract butterflies. I can't remember seeing so many fluttering about in such a long time. It was simply magical.

I suppose that's why I like Rockwoods so much. Each trail or walk offers something that makes me gasp with surprise or pleasure, like the butterflies or Cobb Cavern Trail, an easy half-mile stroll, part of which snakes through the cavern itself.

Cobb Cavern was not carved by nature but was blasted out as part of a limestone quarry. Nevertheless, it is fun to walk through. …

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