Clifty Creek Natural Area

Clifty and Little Clifty Creeks rise on the west wall of the Gasconade River Valley in south-central Missouri.  Flowing eastward, the creeks merge in the Clifty Creek Natural Area of the northern Ozarks where the streams have carved a natural bridge in the Ordovician dolomite.  Owned by the L-A-D Foundation and leased to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the area lies north of Missouri Route W and east of Route 28, about 6 miles northeast of Dixon.

On this glorious October weekend, my wife and I headed south to explore the preserve, which is accessed by a 2.5 mile trail loop.  From the parking lot, a short entry trail leads to the loop which can be hiked in either direction; the southern section of the loop undulates along the south wall of the Clifty Creek gorge while the northern section winds atop a ridge that separates the Clifty and Little Clifty Creek watersheds.  Those seeking a the shortest route to the natural bridge should turn east (right) on the loop; the 40-foot bridge spans the mouth of Little Clifty Creek where it merges with Clifty Creek, about 1 mile from the parking lot.

While we encountered deer, wild turkeys, eastern bluebirds and a pileated woodpecker along Route W, the oak-hickory-pine forest of the 230 acre Natural Area (and its adjacent Conservation Area) was rather silent today.  Nevertheless, the scenic creeks, spectacular cliffs and forest vistas, adorned with autumn color, were well worth the visit and the undulating trail provided plenty of exercise in the cool, clear October air.