A great place to discover nature awaits explorers just 15 minutes from one of Missouri’s busiest interstate highways.
The Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Reifsnider State Forest lies just east of Warrenton in Warren County.
At 1,388 acres, it is immersive enough to completely make one forget about the bustle of I-70 only 15 minutes north. The area is more than 95 percent forested through which two miles of the North Fork of Charrette Creek follows a meandering path.
The rolling topography has a touch of ruggedness. It offers St. Louisans a natural getaway barely an hour’s drive west of the city.
The land was donated to MDC in 1956 by the late Bertha Reifsnider in memory of family members Frank, Emma Elizabeth and Edna Reifsnider. The area had been used for fireclay mining during its days of private ownership.
Two remnant clay pits form manmade ponds, which today are stocked by MDC and offer visitors fishing opportunities. Bank fishing is a bit limited, but these ponds give the chance for owners of fishing kayaks or small boats to set out on the water to pursue bass, sunfish and catfish.
For an easy-going day of enjoying the outdoors, Reifsnider has picnic facilities perfect for family and friends to gather for lunch or dinner. Visitors seeking more activity can hike the 1.3-mile Lizard Rock Trail which journeys along the intermittent creek and up through the ridge alongside.
The natural-surface trail is rated at moderate difficulty, and requires some climbing and a couple easy stream crossings. To experience a less-structured trek, hikers can choose to follow one of several area access trails or go “off-trail” hiking anywhere on the area.
During the appropriate seasons, hunters can find deer, turkey, or squirrels. As Reifsnider’s current management focuses on improving its forest health and wildlife habitat, populations of these popular game and non-game species are plentiful.
For those who prefer shooting with cameras, Reifsnider offers an excellent venue for nature photography, wildlife and bird watching.
Reifsnider State Forest also has an unstaffed shooting range. Use of the range is free and available every day from a half-hour before sunrise until a half-hour after sunset, except for Monday mornings before noon when it is closed for routine maintenance.
MDC encourages hunters to use the range to sight in hunting firearms and shooting enthusiasts to hone their marksmanship skills.
Reifsnider is open from 4 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily and features a privy. The parking lots throughout are accessed exclusively via a gravel road.
Access to the majority of the area requires a shallow stream crossing just before the Lizard Rock Trailhead. Most times the water is shallow and easy to traverse. However, it may not be passible immediately after heavy rains.
If unsure, motorists are encouraged to stop and check the depth before attempting to cross, and turn around if necessary.
To reach Reifsnider State Forest, take Route M east from Warrenton two-and-a-half miles, and then proceed south on Schuetzenground Road another three miles.
Find more great outdoor places to go by visiting www.nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places.
By Dan Zarlenga