Driving along the rural highways in southeast Missouri, travelers may notice an abundance of farmland. Amid this farmland though, near East Prairie, 1,029 acres of the area's original landscape has been preserved and stands out above the rest. This island of trees in a sea of agriculture is known as Big Oak Tree State Park. Flood plains covered with giant trees that once greeted early explorers to the "Bootheel" region of the state have been preserved in Big Oak Tree State Park. Trees within the park are unsurpassed in the state for size, with five qualifying as state champions of their species and two registered as national champions. Beneath the trees lies a luxurious undergrowth of woody vines that flourish in the swampy land. Large baldcypress trees with their unique "knees" make their home in the park's cypress swamp, the only one of its kind in the state park system. A boardwalk traverses through the park, providing access to the park's unique landscape. An interpretive center near the boardwalk provides educational displays explaining the natural history of the park. With more than 150 species of birds, several considered rare in the state, the park is a favorite with bird watchers. After a nature hike through the forest, visitors can enjoy a picnic lunch under the open shelter or at one of many picnic tables nestled beneath the lofty trees.

The park lives up to it's name, as the trees are magnificent. There are ample opportunities for birding and observing wildlife. The metal "boardwalk" is unique and keeps your feet dry while traversing the swamp. Do not expect to see a lake even though it is shown on the map, as this has become overgrown.

Saturday, August 05, 2017