Hitchhikers Guide To Trails & Day Hikes- NSS 2015 Convention

Whether you are staying at Campground during National Speleological Society Convention 2015, or a nearby hotel, the area offers lots of opportunities to get up close and personal with Missouri’s rugged Ozark Mountains.

WAYNESVILLE WALKING TRAIL

The City of Waynesville’s Walking Trail could also be called a River Walk. This easy trail begins in Laughlin Park at Roubidoux Spring and follows the banks of the Roubidoux under the historic Route 66 Roubidoux Bridge into Waynesville City Park.

6.8 miles north from campground

BUSSMANN LODGE

A favorite with locals, geocachers, and hikers, Bussmann Lodge is located in the Mark Twain National Forest in Pulaski County near the village of Devils Elbow, off of Temporal Road. Constructed as a family getaway on the Big Piney River for the Bussmann family of Saint Louis, the ruins of the property are publicly accessible by floating, four wheel drive, or hiking down the neglected access road. Historic details of the lodge have been lost to time- but local legends of mobsters and moonshine are colorful and plentiful- making Bussmann Lodge Pulaski County’s hidden Ha Ha Tonka.

Google Map Coordinates-
Parking/Access Road- N 37 49.216 W 092 03.346
Lodge- N 37° 49.513 W 092° 04.408

16 miles east from campground

Conor Watkins at Bussmann Lodge Footbridge in Pulaski County, MO.

Conor Watkins at Bussmann Lodge Footbridge in Pulaski County, MO.

COLE CREEK TRAIL

Cole Creek Trail is primarily known as an equestrian trail although it is also open to hikers. The trail is comprised of two loops that equal 11 miles. The west loop is 4.9 miles long and the east loop is 5.3 miles. The connector is approximately one mile. The terrain is typical Ozark hill country and the trail is rated as moderate.

18 miles southwest from campground

COLEMAN MEMORIAL CONSERVATION AREA

Coleman Memorial Conservation Area, in Laclede County, is home to Small Sink and Canyon Sink, which is a large, natural sinkhole. Canyon Sink is being restored. The area is also home to an easy, interpretive 1.80 mile trail.

26 miles southwest from campground

KAINTUCK HOLLOW TRAIL

Kaintuck Hollow Trail, located in neighboring Phelps County, has 9 sections and 16 miles of looping trails that you can customize with lengths from one to fifteen miles. One of the systems most known features is Kaintuck Hollow Natural Tunnel, a 175 feet long tunnel, created when a cave system collapsed leaving part of the cave roof intact. Unfortunately, it is closed to public entry due to White Nosed Syndrome. Other natural features include Wilkins Spring Pond, Dewitt Pond, and the artesian well at Mill Creek Recreation Area.

27 miles east from campground

Wilkins Spring on Kaintuck Hollow Trail. Image by Conor Watkins.

Wilkins Spring on Kaintuck Hollow Trail. Image by Conor Watkins.

BIG PINEY TRAIL

Big Piney Trail is a 17 to 18 mile moderate to difficult trail through the Paddy Creek Wilderness. Signs and trail markings are sparse, there are no bridges across the creeks, and the trail may be rough. Terrain is sometimes steep. Due to wilderness and primitive conditions this hike requires preparation. Multiple trailheads.

30 miles southeast from campground

A scene along Big Piney Trail. Photo by Charlie Wilcox.

A scene along Big Piney Trail. Photo by Charlie Wilcox.

PADDY CREEK TRAIL

Paddy Creek Trail is a one mile loop trail beginning and ending at Paddy Creek Recreation Area which is nestled in a hollow along Paddy Creek.

31 miles southeast from campground

MARGUERITE BRAY CONSERVATION AREA

Marguerite Bray Conservation Area is located in neighboring Phelps County. Mrs. Bray donated 132 acres in 1995 in memory of her husband and their two sons. A scenic 2.5 mile loop hiking trail leads from the trail head west along the ridge top and returns along a wet weather creek bed. Although the trail is easy in most sections there are some areas of moderate difficulty, including a steep hill at the trail head. Along sections of the trail there are educational opportunities to learn about the plants and animals that inhabit the Bray Conservation Area. Marguerite Bray Conservation Area is home to an earthcache and Ingress portals/mission.

32 miles northeast from campground

PETER A. ECK CONSERVATION AREA

Peter A. Eck Conservation Area, 12 miles northwest of Licking, in neighboring Texas County can be reached by canoeing or kayaking the Big Piney River, or via dirt road with a high clearance vehicle. This area includes an exemplary old-growth pine stand. This area has also been designated as an “Important Bird Area” by Audubon Missouri. The Eck Trail is a moderate one mile trail and hiking is also permissible on old logging roads in the conservation area.

32 miles southeast from campground

BRAYS ACCESS

Located in neighboring Miller County, Brays Access is owned by Missouri Department of Conservation and offers 2+ miles of looping trails of forest and woodland habitats. Rock formations and a wet weather creek add variety to your hiking experience. These trails are moderately rugged and interpretive signs are posted. Brays Access is home to a geocache.

32 miles northeast from campground

CLIFTY CREEK CONSERVATION AREA

Located in neighboring Maries County, Clifty Creek is Missouri’s first designated natural area- deemed so in 1971. The area was described by G.C. Broadhead for Missouri Geological Survey in 1857. A very scenic 2.5 mile loop hiking trail leads from the conservation area parking lot to the natural bridge and back. Clifty Creek Natural Arch is an outstanding example of stream piracy. The arch spans approximately 40 feet and is 13 feet high in a picturesque setting.

33 miles northeast from campground

Under the arch at Clifty Creek. Photo by Greg Wacker.

Under the arch at Clifty Creek. Photo by Greg Wacker.

LAKE OF THE OZARKS STATE PARK

Nine hiking trails for you to explore. The shortest trail, Bluestem Knoll, is less than a mile long. The 12.75 mile Honey Run Trail is a favorite of endurance fans and mountain bikers. A portion (.60 mile one way) of Fawn’s Ridge Trail is wheelchair accessible. Hidden Springs Trail makes its way past a small family cemetery of yesteryear and Shady Ridge Trail offers stunning views of the lake.

33 miles northwest from campground

BENNETT SPRING STATE PARK

Bennett Spring State Park, located in neighboring Laclede County, is most famous for its premiere trout fishing. The park features six trails with Natural Tunnel Trail being a favorite for day hikers. Natural Tunnel Trail is a 7.5 mile, moderate hike that leads to Bennett Spring Natural Tunnel. The trails namesake and signature feature is 296 feet long and forms an S curve through the hill. For the tapohiles, or tombstone enthusiasts, this trail passes near a small, family cemetery that dates to the 1800’s. The other trails in Bennett Spring State Park range from .30 to 2.5 miles with difficulty ratings from easy to moderate. Some of the trails have roots in prehistoric times while many date to the 1840’s.

36 miles west from campground

Bennett Spring Natural Tunnel. Image courtesy of Missouri State Parks.

Bennett Spring Natural Tunnel. Image courtesy of Missouri State Parks.

CAMDENTON CONSERVATION SERVICE CENTER

Camdenton Conservation Service Center, in neighboring Camden County, features a mile long Forest and Savanna Trail that includes a paved, disabled accessible section. This location also houses a 100 foot tall fire tower with a publically accessible viewing platform at 80 feet.

40 miles northwest from campground

HA HA TONKA STATE PARK

Imposing architecture and breathtaking scenery combine to make Ha Ha Tonka State Park one of Missouri’s most treasured spots. Located on the Lake of the Ozarks, the park features the stone ruins of a turn-of-the-20th-century castle built by a prominent Kansas City businessman high atop a bluff. More than 15 miles of trails traverse the park, leading visitors to sinkholes, natural bridges, caves and down to the lake.

42 miles northwest from campground

Ha Ha Tonka Natural Bridge.

Ha Ha Tonka Natural Bridge.

ALICE AHART MANSFIELD CONSERVATION AREA

Alice Ahart Mansfield Conservation Area is located in neighboring Camden County and features a .75 mile loop trail through forest area.

44 miles northwest from campground

LARRY R. GALE ACCESS

Larry R. Gale Access is located in neighboring Camden County and is on the Niangua Arm of the Lake Of The Ozarks. This area includes a Forest Glade Trail, less than a mile in length, and rated as difficult.

45 miles northwest from campground

BLOSSOM ROCK TRAIL

Blossom Rock Trail is located in Lane Spring Recreation Area in neighboring Phelps County. This trail is a mile loop and near the top of the ridge is Blossom Rock. Blossom Rock is a sandstone formation that appears to blossom forth from the surrounding limestone. According to Geologic Wonders and Curiosities of Missouri this spot is “attractive for climbing and simulating Wild West ambushes.” While at Lane Spring Recreation Area you can also hike Cedar Bluff Trail.

45 miles east of campground

Blossom Rock in Phelps County. Photo by Laura Huffman.

Blossom Rock in Phelps County. Photo by Laura Huffman.

CEDAR BLUFF TRAIL

Cedar Bluff Trail is also located in Lane Spring Recreation Area in Phelps County. This trail is a mile and a half loop and is steep in some places. At the top is a rocky meadow, surrounded by cedar trees. At its highest point the trail offers scenic views of Little Piney Creek. Visibility may be limited by vegetation during the summer months.

45 miles east of campground

For more ideas on things to see and do in Pulaski County please visit http://www.PulaskiCountyUSA.com

For more ideas on things to see and do in Missouri check out The Hitchhikers Guide To Missouri and visit http://www.VisitMO.com

Register for National Speleological Society Convention 2015 at http://nss2015.caves.org/.

Hitchhiker's Guide To Missouri Caving

This Week Around Pulaski County USA!

Pulaski County USA LogoEvents for the week of February 23, 2015-March 1, 2015

February 27- CXMMA International MMA Fights
What: Mixed martial arts amateur fights in a professional red carpet setting.
Where: Area 151 Nightclub, 819 Highway Z, Saint Robert
When: Doors open at 6 pm, Fights start after 7 pm
Cost: Starting at $25
Contact: Combate Xtreme MMA Academy- 573.451.2116

Mixed Martial Arts in Saint Robert, MO February 28- Pulaski County Farmer’s Market
What: Year- round Farmer’s Market
Where: South Lynn Street, Waynesville
When: 8 am until Noon
Cost: FREE admission
Contact: Bruce Main- 573.842.9079

Pulaski County Farmers Market Logo February 28- Miss Mid-Missouri Pageant
What: Miss Missouri preliminary pageant
Where: Waynesville High School
When: 6:30 pm
Cost: $5 admission
Contact: Ruby Riley- 573.528.9651

Miss Missouri preliminary pageantLooking Ahead:
March 7- Paranormal Investigations of the Historic Talbot House
March 14 & 15- JROTC Invitational Drill Meet
March 21- Route 66 St. Patty’s Fest

Home to the 2015 National Speleological Society Convention
#NSS2015
July 13-17, 2015
Waynesville, MO
nss2015.caves.org

Hitchhiker's Guide To Missouri CavingA Featured Destination in FIREBALL RUN: America’s Frontier
Premiering Summer 2015

FIREBALL RUN: America's Frontier premiers in its entirety Summer 2015.

FIREBALL RUN: America’s Frontier premiers in its entirety Summer 2015.

Keepin’ It In The Ozarks with Justin Sapp

“Keepin’ It In The Ozarks” is an independent reality series produced by Pulaski County Missouri native, and avid outdoorsman, Justin Sapp. The show, filmed in Pulaski County and surrounding areas, documents the Sapp family’s hunting and outdoor experiences in the Ozark Mountains. The episodes are designed to be both entertaining and informative and cover a wide variety of outdoor related topics- including hunting, fishing, trapping, and enjoying God’s creation and the outdoors. New episodes of “Keepin It In The Ozarks” are released in high definition on their YouTube channel the 1st and 15th each month and can also be viewed on their website. You can follow Justin’s outdoor adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and their blog.


Pulaski County Tourism Bureau was able to meet with the show’s Executive Producer & Host, Justin Sapp, to get his thoughts on beards, frog gigging, antler point restrictions in Pulaski County, Missouri- and more!

Pulaski County Tourism Bureau: Just to get this question out of the way, I have to ask this- Will you be growing a beard like the Duck Dynasty guys?
Justin Sapp: If I could grow a beard like that I would!

PCTB: Bow or firearm?
JS: I use both but if i had to choose one it would be a bow!

PCTB: Canoe or kayak?
JS: Canoe, I’m afraid of getting stuck upside down in a kayak!

PCTB: Has hunting/fishing/outdoors always been a part of your life?
JS: I can’t remember a time I wasn’t in the woods or on the water. My wife would agree too!

PCTB: What is your earliest memory of hunting in Pulaski County?
JS: My Dad started taking me with him on his hunting trips to the Mark Twain National Forest when I was 8.

PCTB: What is your favorite public fishing spot in Pulaski County?
JS: I really like fishing at the Boiling Spring Campground near Dixon!

Justin Sapp, Executive Producer of "Keepin' It In The Ozarks".

PCTB: If a visitor from Arkansas, or anywhere else, asked you for a publicly accessible place to go frog gigging, where would you send them to?
JS: Frogging is good in a canoe by Steckels Bridge in front of the Cave Restaurant near Richland! Actually, anywhere on the Gasconade is fun to frog on!

PCTB: Why should someone travel to Pulaski County to deer hunt?
JS: Deer herd and public access. Between Ft Leonard Wood and the Mark Twain National Forest, Pulaski county is not lacking in either category there! After the hunt, there is plenty of great Breakfast cafes around. We like to warm up and eat breakfast at the Oasis truck stop on 133 exit!

PCTB: Are there special considerations that one should take before hunting on Fort Leonard Wood or in the Mark Twain National Forest?
JS: Fort Leonard Wood does have special regulations for hunting. Since I cannot film my hunts out there I do not venture out to Ft Wood that much although I’m probably missing out on the best hunting in Pulaski County! Mark Twain National forest is public walk -in land and you just need to be up to date with your hunting licenses and regulations for the game you are after!

PCTB: In layman’s terms please tell us how you think the 4 point antler restriction could improve hunting in Pulaski County.
JS: The Antler point Restrictions have already helped! I have noticed more mature bucks each year in Pulaski County.. We are surrounded by non APR (antler Point restriction) counties , so if you want a better chance at a mature deer then Pulaski County is the county to be hunting in! Putting deer herd and mature deer aside, I like the APR because it makes hunters slow down and look over the animal before pulling the trigger. I’m sure it has saved someone from injury or worse, death, from an unfortunate hunting accident! Safety First.

PCTB: Why should someone travel to Pulaski County to coyote hunt?
JS: Coyotes have been increasing in population for a while now. Our ground nesting birds and rabbits are struggling in population because of them. Most farmers around here are happy to allow you to call some Coyotes in for a dirt nap! Pulaski County has the Gasconade and the Piney rivers- river bottom land is great for calling in those Yotes !

PCTB: Why should someone travel to Pulaski County to hunt for other game?
JS: Our turkey population is doing great this year! After a few bad hatches from floods and predator problems our population was dwindling. We have now had some great hatches and it seems as if everyone is into removing predators now, so the Turkey population is looking great for this year!

Justin & Robin Sapp of "Keepin' It In The Ozarks"

PCTB: Please share your favorite Spring Turkey hunt story with us…
JS: My favorite Spring turkey hunt was last year. After harvesting my largest Gobbler to date , I took my wife the first weekend and she harvested her first Gobbler! We had four big Gobblers run into the decoys and she shot the one that I didn’t have on camera but it was an exciting hunt!

PCTB: What about the feral hogs?
JS: Feral hogs are mostly on the Fort. I have personally never seen one while hunting. There are only a handful of people who know where they normally make their home and they are tight lipped about the hogs location. Eventually, I believe the population will get out of control and begin venturing farther off Ft Wood. If you get lucky you may run into some off the South Gate of the Fort.

PCTB: Do you have any black powder experience?
JS: Oh Yeah, I love hunting with my Muzzleloader! Sometimes I pack it with me during Rifle season! Again, Slowing down and enjoying Gods creation in the outdoors is what this is all about! Slow down, make your one shot count!

PCTB: Have you ever trout fished the Roubidoux in downtown Waynesville?
I love fishing the Roubidoux and I am usually successful. They have a concrete ramp for people that are disabled! My wife can walk to the Waynesville park while I fish so that is a plus! The spring is also stocked with rainbow trout on a regular basis so it makes for an exciting trip every time!

PCTB: Was Robin a huntress/outdoorswoman before you met?
JS: My wife, Robin, is the biggest city girl I have ever met. I’m slowly converting her to a huntress but I never make her to hunt or fish if she does not want to. This year she shot her first turkey and Buck!! I’m a proud husband, and truth be told , I would not be doing what I am today without her. She is the biggest technology freak I have met, and she is the one that got me interested into video production!

JS: What is the most interesting find that you have stumbled across in the woods?
The most interesting and “rewarding” find that I have found is a ridge full of Spring Morels (edible mushrooms). I found 103 on one ridge! No, I won’t share the location! 🙂

Justin Sapp, of Keepin' It In The Ozarks, and son.

PCTB: What other projects have you worked on before deciding to launch “Keepin’ It In The Ozarks”?
JS: I’ve been with Ozark Traditions TV and Bowdacious Outdoors TV. Both shows got me where I am today and now it’s time to take the path God is leading me!

PCTB: What is your inspiration behind “Keepin It In The Ozarks?”
JS: I have a strong desire to get people into the REAL Outdoors. We want to not only be entertaining but informative! Killing a mature buck is exciting but I would rather film a kid shooting their first deer and their excitement! It is not about killing an animal. In the end it is about the journey of the Hunt, family, friends, and God. The Outdoors “saved” me! God has a plan, and I’m going to follow!

PCTB: How often will new episodes of “Keepin’ It In The Ozarks” be released?
We release an episode on the First and Fifteenth of every month.. The episode on the Fifteenth will be about what we are doing to manage our hunting property for that past month. It should be very informative to local people planting food plots and managing their deer herd. We are excited for 2015!

PCTB: Will you be at any outdoors shows so people can meet and visit with you?
JS: We will be at the Outdoor Sportsmans Show On February 20th and 21st at the St. Robert Community Center! This August we will be at a few Hunting expos again! Come on out, We love to hear your hunting stories!

*Editors Note- The Outdoor Sportsman Show scheduled for February 20th & 21st in Saint Robert, MO has been cancelled due to weather.

Keepin' It In The Ozarks Logo

Hitchhikers Guide To Carroll Cave- NSS 2015 Convention

by Jeff Page (45699RL)
Carroll Cave Conservancy (CCC) Membership & Access Chair

On behalf the Carroll Cave Conservancy, I’d like to encourage one and all to come to this year’s convention in beautiful Pulaski County, Missouri. We look forward to making new friends and reconnecting with some old ones. In the February issue of NSS News, it was announced that Carroll Cave is the “crown jewel” of the convention. We couldn’t agree more and are eager to share this jewel with as many convention attendees as possible. In the guidebook, we’ll delve deeper into the rich history of the cave and current exploration efforts. For now, we’d like to make a brief introduction to CCC and the role we’ll play at convention.

Carroll Cave. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

Carroll Cave. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

Who we are: CCC is the brain child of Rick Hines (37511RE) who has several contributions to NSS News under his belt. Rick first explored Carroll in 1970, assisting pioneering cave photographer Andy Kramer and others on trips in the cave. It was not until the early 1990s that Rick was able to pursue his dream of exploring and photographing this incredible cave. But by that time, relations between the owners of the natural entrance and the caving community had gone sour and the entrance was off limits. Not to be deterred, Rick studied maps and introduced himself to area landowners, eventually securing a sinkhole on grazing land that looked to be a promising place to dig into the cave. Upon recruiting others who had a passion for Carroll, digging began in 1995 with the expectation of a new entrance in short order. But, as Rick puts it, “it was not to be. Due to safety concerns, the sinkhole dig was reluctantly abandoned after five years and over 1000 man-days of digging. A new approach was needed. In the interim, the conservancy was chartered. A vertical shaft through the solid rock was blasted during a nine month period beginning November 2000. Carroll had a new entrance. Carroll cavers had new life!

Over the ensuing years, CCC maintains an active membership roster of about 80 people, making us one of the larger caving groups in the state. We are not a Grotto, but draw members from Grottoes in Missouri and surrounding states. CCC does not own any land above the cave, but leases a one acre plot where we’ve dug our entrance. Membership is required to access Carroll through this entrance. During convention, we’ll waive membership requirements, but will ask all who enter to sign the landowner waiver (and we certainly won’t discourage anyone from joining). Our main mission is to manage and maintain this entrance, stay in the good graces of our landowner and secure the orderly exploration of this cave which has proven to be so elusive. In addition to the ongoing survey work, CCC conducts regular biology inventories, hydrology monitoring, restoration projects, photography trips and trips for landowners’ families and friends to enhance their appreciation of their natural resources. We’ve also conducted joint cave rescue training with local fire district personnel.

Research at Carroll Cave in central Missouri. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

Research at Carroll Cave in central Missouri. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

Carroll is home to a sizable maternal gray bat colony, along with solitary bats (Big Brown, Little Brown, Tri-color and more). The man-made entrance allows us to bypass their habitat at critical times when they would be disturbed by cavers coming through the natural entrance. Trips during Convention will be planned with the non-disturbance of bats in mind. We will, of course, observe WNS decontamination protocol for all cavers.

Carroll Cave is home to several types of bats. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

Carroll Cave is home to several types of bats. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

Carroll Cave is located about 25 miles from the convention site in neighboring Camden County. The cave is the second longest cave in Missouri and is a National Natural Landmark. We pledge to get as many as possible in the cave, without overburdening the highly sensitive environment. Some vertical gear will be needed- For the descent, standard rappel gear. For the ascent, we’ll climb a 120 foot ladder using a chest ascender for belay. No frog or rope walking necessary. Note: The ladder also has a steel cable running its length and we have some climbing devices for it. Some groups may use this system.

At the hatch of Carroll Cave. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

At the hatch of Carroll Cave. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

At the bottom of the ladder, climbing gear is stashed and it’s horizontal caving from then on. All groups should plan on getting wet, but with the possible exception of certain advanced trips, wet suits should not be necessary. Trips of varying levels of difficulty will be offered, all led by CCC members familiar with navigating the cave. The cave has three major trunk passages (Carroll River, Upper-Thunder and Lower Thunder River). The Back Door entrance comes into the cave near the intersection of these passages. Each day, trips will take different directions, lessening the impact on the cave. Every group should have the opportunity to visit Thunder Falls- Carroll Cave’s crown jewel. Other highlights that will be covered include Convention Hall, Conference Room, Flat Rock Falls, Carroll Passage, Angel Pool Passage, and the Rimstone Room.

Carroll Cave's Convention Hall. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

Carroll Cave’s Convention Hall. Photo courtesy of Carroll Cave Conservancy.

If you’ve been on the fence about attending convention this year, we hope this brief intro will help bring you around. Carroll Cave trips will be announced May 1st, along with the other cave trips being offered for pre-registration during 2015 convention. Hope to see you in July!

*For more details on the creation of Carroll Cave’s “Back Door” please visit www.cavediggers.com Issue 1.

You can reach Jeff Page at pagejk@yahoo.com

To register for NSS 2015 please visit http://nss2015.caves.org/.

NSS Convention 2015 Logo

This Week Around Pulaski County USA!

Pulaski County USA LogoEvents for the week of February 17, 2015-February 22, 2015

February 20 & 21- Outdoor Sportsman Show
Where: St. Robert Community Center, Saint Robert
When: Friday 5-8 pm, Saturday 10 am-5 pm
Cost: FREE admission
Contact: City of Saint Robert Parks & Recreation- 573.451.2625

February 20_21 Outdoor Sportsman ShowFebruary 21- Pulaski County Farmer’s Market
What: Year- round Farmer’s Market
Where: South Lynn Street, Waynesville
When: 8 am until Noon
Cost: FREE admission
Contact: Bruce Main- 573.842.9079

Pulaski County Farmers Market Logo Looking Ahead:
February 27- CXMMA International MMA Fights
February 28- Miss Mid Missouri Pageant
March 14 & 15- JROTC Invitational Drill Meet
March 21- Route 66 St. Patty’s Fest

Home to the 2015 National Speleological Society Convention
#NSS2015
July 13-17, 2015
Waynesville, MO
nss2015.caves.org

Hitchhiker's Guide To Missouri CavingA Featured Destination in FIREBALL RUN: America’s Frontier
Premiering Summer 2015

FIREBALL RUN: America's Frontier premiers in its entirety Summer 2015.

FIREBALL RUN: America’s Frontier premiers in its entirety Summer 2015.

NSS 2015 Convention- Caving Overview

by Kirsten Alvey-Mudd
NSS 2015 Convention Cave Chair

Missouri is currently home to over 7,000 known caves. Nearly 800 of these caves sit within an hour drive in the six counties surrounding NSS 2015 Convention in Waynesville, Missouri. NSS Convention 2015 will offer approximately 200 caves for various levels of experience- from the young or exhausted, family-bad back-old knees friendly, to the down and dirty muddy-wet belly crawlways for the nitty gritty hardcore caver- to the expertise of the certified cave diver. Caves of Missouri author Dr. J. Harlan Bretz used such terms as “unctuous” red clay, meanders and sinuous passage when describing Pulaski County’s varied caving environments.

A tight squeeze in a Missouri cave.

A tight squeeze in a Missouri cave.

Missouri is known for many types of caving, but unlike the TAG region, we offer only a few pit caves which will be available only at post convention camp in Southeast Missouri at Perryville. Our primary convention region is the home of MUD! Most Missouri cavers lovingly refer to the Pulaski region as “Poo” County because of the pasty clay combo which you will encounter in some form or another in almost every convention cave. Depending on Mother Nature’s attitude it will be dry, pasty, or sloppy!! Come prepared!! Not all caves need a wetsuit, but you know yourself better than we do! If you tend to get cold bring one, just in case. Most local cavers use good polypro and decent mid-weight coveralls for all but the long, hard core trips.

Pulaski County area caves are muddy!

Pulaski County area caves are muddy!

In addition to some of the most beautiful combinations of spelothems large and small, Missouri also offers a large variety of bio-diverse cave life. A Guide To Missouri Cave Life (http://goo.gl/bHVPB6) offers previews of most of Missouri’s abundant underground wildlife. Grotto Salamanders (a Species of Conservation Concern in Missouri) are a regular sight in many of the area caves. Gray Bats, listed as Endangered by both the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are also frequently found in area caves. Several Gray Bat night flight experiences will be offered at locations just minutes from the campground. Bring your cameras!

Photo by Rick Hines

Photo by Rick Hines

* ALL CAVES are on a FIRST COME basis! A limited group of caves will be open throughout Convention for caving at any time you choose. Another selection of caves will have advance on-line registration for PAID convention attendees and will be made available no later than May 1st to help cavers who wish to know in advance of their cave plans. However, at least half of all cave trips for each cave will only be made open the NIGHT BEFORE at the campground to ensure that everyone attending convention have an opportunity to cave if they choose to.

Another quintessential Missouri caving experience is the cave and float combo! Whether canoeing or kayaking, some of the convention’s caves can best be reached and viewed by way of one of the areas seven larger creeks and rivers. A limited number of free canoes and kayaks (including roundtrip portage from the campground) will be available during convention. Registration for these will be available nightly at the campground. Open caves will be flagged with cave number at the waterline to correspond with the guide book along featured routes for easy cave/float access. Personal kayaks and canoes are welcome but MUST follow all portage and public access rules to avoid potential towing and/or ticketing. Discounted leisure floats and kayaking experiences will be made available through Pulaski County’s local outfitters. For more on leisure floating in Pulaski County, and a listing of area outfitters, please see The Hitchhikers Guide To Floating In Pulaski County, available online at http://wp.me/p2Gvbm-sX.

Caving and floating go hand in hand for some of the caves offered during #NSS2015.

Caving and floating go hand in hand for some of the caves offered during #NSS2015.

Fort Leonard Wood, at 65,000 acres, is the heart of Pulaski County. A selection of caves on the installation will be offered during Convention as well. In addition to caving opportunities, Fort Leonard is also the only place in the country where you can see three U.S. Army Branch (Engineer, Chemical Corps, & Military Police) museums in a single location. The museums are housed in the John B. Mahaffey Complex, which is also home to the World War II Complex and Memorial Parks walking tour. The museums are free admission and are open to the public. Fort Leonard Wood is an active federal military training installation and ALL FEDERAL RULES APPLY. To access the installation you will need to present current, valid U.S. photo identification, such as drivers license, for all passengers over the age of 18. You will also want to have your vehicle registration and proof of insurance readily accessible. Your vehicle is also subject to search – so please leave weapons, fireworks, or other incendiary devices at home. International Convention attendees MUST receive advance clearance directly from the U.S. Army Provost Marshall. Convention staff WILL NOT facilitate international access.

Statue of a Sapper- part of the Memorial Parks Walking Tour on Fort Leonard Wood.

Statue of a Sapper- part of the Memorial Parks Walking Tour on Fort Leonard Wood.

During NSS 2015 Convention your NSS number will be your passport to a unique decontamination service. You only have to drop your dirty gear off at the decon area and pick it up the next day, and you are ready for caving again! Your number will accompany your gear as it is power washed, scrubbed, and hot water deconned courtesy of U.S. Army & local Boy Scout volunteers. Your gear will be dried and packed back into a clean trash bag. Re-use the trash bag the following day when you turn in your gear again! This concierge service will follow current USFWS Decontamination protocol. Concierge service is not available for sensitive gear such as cameras and non-submersibles. Brushes, 409, and Lysol wipes will be provided at the decon station.

Stay up to date on the latest news and announcements from NSS 2015 Convention at http://nss2015.caves.org/index.shtml. Discounted registration continues until June 1st- register today!

Hitchhiker's Guide To Missouri Caving

Watch the Convention Promo video on YouTube! http://youtu.be/l__kcttvdtU

*Photos courtesy of Missouri Bat Census & Pulaski County Tourism Bureau, DJ Hall, Rick Hines, and Kansas City Area Grotto.

Eagle Watching In Pulaski County USA

by Katie Dreadfulwater
Pulaski County Tourism Bureau & Visitors Center
Visitor Services Representative

I have always loved bird watching and enjoy nature whenever I can, so I guess I could be called a nature nerd. Our family had recently heard about Eagle Watching Days at several locations throughout Missouri, and since I love to bird watch, we loaded up the car and took a drive in search of our nation’s official mascot, the bald eagle. It was about an hour away and we saw live captive birds and educational demonstrations, but were only able to see the eagles from very far away. After driving all that way and only viewing them from inside a building, it made me want to see bald eagles up close and in their natural environment. After watching these majestic birds soaring in the sky, it really made me want to see them again, and right here where I live. Why should I have to drive an hour away from home? After doing a little bit of research, I learned that bald eagles visit Missouri during the winter months. They migrate south in search of food when waterways and lakes north of us freeze, making their main food source difficult to access. There are some eagles that reside in Missouri all year round, but most bald eagles seen in the winter months are only temporary residents until they begin moving back north in February. I was thinking why would these birds just stick to visiting the places where the Eagle Days festivities were being held? Fish composes a majority of their diet, so why wouldn’t they be here in Pulaski County, where there is excellent fishing from two major rivers, natural springs, and streams. I put on my thinking cap and decided search out these majestic birds right here where I live.

Bald eagle near the Big Piney River in southern Pulaski County, Missouri. Photo by Terry Primas.

Bald eagle near the Big Piney River in southern Pulaski County, Missouri. Photo by Terry Primas.

I got up early on a cold Saturday morning, made some coffee and ventured out. Since my youngest daughter was awake as I was planning to leave, I invited her along and boy was I glad I did. I decided to search out an open, larger section of water where there is good fishing for my first attempt. We only ventured out to one place that morning, a local boating access point on the Gasconade River. When we arrived at the Missouri Department of Conservation Riddle Bridge Access area, we immediately spotted a large falcon very close to the parking lot and stopped to watch it as it was resting on the branches of a nearby tree. I knew if there was another predatory bird nearby, it was sure to be a good spot for eagles too. After the first bird flew away, I looked all around me to notice that the foliage closer to the bluff and along the river was completely covered with ice crystals. It was an absolute winter wonderland! I had not experienced this since moving to Missouri more than 7 years ago and I was in awe. I stopped to take some pictures wishing my camera would capture the real beauty all around me the same way I was seeing it. I then looked up and all around in the trees, and there it was, a beautiful mature bald eagle perched right across the river from us. We stayed in our vehicle and just watched it for a few minutes enjoying the moment before trying to get a closer view. We crossed the bridge and were able to get a bit closer, but still stayed in the car to watch under cover. My daughter just viewed her first bald eagle up close with both her own eyes and with the assistance of binoculars. It was amazing! We both looked at the bird up close with my scope and admired the details of its yellow hooked beak, white head and tail feathers, and the details of its sharp talons. After a few minutes and as more cars started to travel around in the area, the eagle decided there was too much company and flew away. It was truly a special moment, watching bald eagles right here where we live in Pulaski County. No more driving far away for me, I was now enthralled in this new expanded bird watching hobby.

Riddle Bridge Public Fishing Access on the Gasconade River near Fort Leonard Wood in Pulaski County, MO. Photo by Laura Huffman

Riddle Bridge Public Fishing Access on the Gasconade River near Fort Leonard Wood in Pulaski County, MO. Photo by Laura Huffman

A few days later, I decided to take a chance and go on another adventure. I was eager to see more eagles and I wanted to share it with another one of my kids. I love to fish and was near a trout stream, so I figured if it is a good fishing spot for me, it should be for eagles too. We arrived in the late afternoon at Stone Mill Spring. As we exited the car to walk the trail to the spring, I knew it was a great place to seek out viewing eagles because we immediately heard one calling and it sounded really close. We did see two eagles flying along the Big Piney River as we walked closer to the spring, but when we arrived three herons immediately flew away right out of the spring. We stopped walking before continuing any further into the fishing area, and saw a large mature bald eagle perched up in a tree very close by. We got out our binoculars and scope for a closer view, but made little movement for fear of scaring it away. We were out in the open, under no cover, and were very fortunate to watch and hear it call for about 30 minutes. When the eagle flew away, it was followed by another immature eagle we hadn’t even seen that was perched behind us.

The trout at Stone Mill Spring on Fort Leonard Wood are popular with anglers of all ages, as well as bald eagles. U.S. Forest Service photo.

The trout at Stone Mill Spring on Fort Leonard Wood are popular with anglers of all ages, as well as bald eagles. U.S. Forest Service photo.

The next weekend, it was time to go seek out more eagles. I am so excited to be watching these awesome birds here where I live that I just can’t get enough. My husband joined me this time and we headed back to the Big Piney River where I had seen some before. This time we stopped in a different area and were very successful in finding plenty to view. As we stopped along the river, we spotted one just across the river from us back in the trees a bit. As we were enjoying the view, we saw a couple more bald eagles were flying up river. These birds are just wonderful to watch fly, their wingspan is larger than any I have ever seen. We then headed to the spring in search of more sightings, but saw none at Stone Mill, but did see more perched along the river. We finished up our eagle viewing with a hike up to the bluff above the spring. The view from above the spring was wonderful, and it was the perfect way to end a great morning.

Eagle watching above Stone Mill Spring on the Big Piney River on Fort Leonard Wood in Pulaski County, Missouri. Photo by Katie Dreadfulwater.

Eagle watching above Stone Mill Spring on the Big Piney River on Fort Leonard Wood in Pulaski County, Missouri. Photo by Katie Dreadfulwater.

The next day I was itching to go out and watch again! I had one more person to show the eagles to, my oldest daughter. I convinced her to come along even though she is not much of an outdoors person. We first headed out towards the Big Piney River in search of great views of bald eagles and did not see any along the river this time, so we headed toward the spring. On the way there, we stopped by another good fishing area on the river and spotted an immature bald eagle perched in a tree above a larger pool of water. It was a beautiful bird, large and stout. My daughter was the one who spotted it and had the best view. We continued searching all the way there, not really seeing any more eagles as we drove. We parked and walked back to the spring, and upon our arrival we immediately saw a large mature bald eagle perching in the trees along the stream. We enjoyed watching it only for a few minutes before it flew away. We walked around the fishing area and did not see any more eagles that morning, but did see a pair of pileated wood peckers and a great assortment of smaller birds. It was a rather chilly morning, but we decided to hike the trail behind the spring for a better view. As we were reached the top of the trail, I saw a bald eagle fly directly overhead and it was the best view ever! We both appreciated the sunshine and enjoyed our morning watching for eagles and being outdoors in the magnificent Ozarks.

There is so much to do away from all the hustle and bustle of activities, especially outdoors right here at home in Pulaski County. I was quite content spending a few hours outside with my family away from all the noise: the video games, the television and all the electronic gadgets we seem to think are essential to everyday life. I still am excited at how my one of my kids reacted after seeing the eagles. I heard her say, “I am amazed that we saw that eagle up so close!” and to continue to hear her say all day long, “Mom, I am still amazed.” It just made my heart sing. I am going to do this more often, take my kids outdoors to feel, see, smell and just be with nature. I have seen those bumper stickers that say, “Take a Kid Fishing.” I think I am going to make one that says, “Take a Kid Outdoors and Enjoy Nature.”

Pulaski County is a short drive for most of Central Missouri- and is the perfect place to eagle watch, without the crowds. To plan your eagle watching and birding outings order your FREE Visitors Guide at http://visitpulaskicounty.org/contact_us.htm.

Tweet your Pulaski County bald eagle and wild bird photos to us at @PulCoUSA! #PulaskiCountyUSA

Tweet your wild bird pictures that were taken in #PulaskiCountyUSA to us! @PulCoUSA #BirdPulaski

Tweet your wild bird pictures that were taken in #PulaskiCountyUSA to us! @PulCoUSA #BirdPulaski