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Author Topic: The Tyson Valley Area, Peace and War, St Louis, MO: Part One  (Read 1516 times)
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« on: March 31, 2012, 09:35:51 PM »

The Tyson Valley Area, just southwest of St. Louis near Eureka on I-44, is home to a variety of outdoor and nature related areas.  Lone Elk County Park, West Tyson County Park, The Tyson Research Center, The World Bird Sanctuary, The Wild Canid Survival And Research Center (better known as the Wolf Sanctuary), parts of Castlewood State Park, parts of the Meramec Greenway, and the Chubb Trail are located in the area and Route 66 State Park is located nearby.  The land now composing these areas experienced an interesting past, which has shaped the face of these areas to this day.

Lone Elk County Park is a located in the easternmost section of the Tyson Valley Area.  The park, home to elk, buffalo (North American Bison), and deer, is administered by the St. Louis County Dept. of Parks And Recreation.  Roads through the park consist of multiple one-way loops, which take the visitor through different sections of the park.  While driving through the park, expect to see elk, deer, and buffalo along the roads.  At certain times of the year, the elk will be rutting and their loud mating calls may be heard.  Since the buffalo are considered to be more aggressive than the elk and deer in the rest of the park, they are confined to a separate section of the park by cattle guards and fences.  No hiking trails or picnic areas were placed in the buffalo section in order to minimize human contact.  Visitors are advised not to get out of their cars when near buffalo.

Lone Elk Park features reservable shelters and picnic areas along with picnic areas available on a first come, first serve basis.  A lake in the middle of the park provides opportunities for fishing.  One can also feed the ducks and geese that tend to live around the lake.  The 2.6-mile White Bison Trail takes the hiker in a large loop around the lake and center of the park.  This trail winds through typical wooded Ozark foothills.  Parts of the 7-mile long Chubb Trail pass through the park and the eastern trailhead is located within Lone Elk.  More on the Chubb Trail and the history of Lone Elk Park are discussed later.

The World Bird Sanctuary (WBS), which used to be within the park, is now located just off to the right on the road approaching the entrance to Lone Elk.  This center, located in part of Castlewood State Park, specializes in the rehabilitation of threatened and endangered bird species.  The WBS focuses on the rehabilitation of raptors (birds of prey) and parrots while providing extensive education and research nationwide to prevent the decline of bird species.  The center also runs a breeding program to breed birds in captivity and was mostly responsible for the re-introduction of the peregrine falcon in Missouri.

The WBS visitor center is surrounded by an amphitheater where educational programs are held.  Visitors can observe birds in the process of being rehabilitated and those being bred in captivity.  Several parrots and birds of prey from various parts the world are held at the visitor center.  A small road near the visitor center serves as a trail to an area where more birds are held outdoors.  These birds include American bald eagles, owls, pigeons, and other birds.  The visitor center holds a gift shop with proceeds going to support WBS programs.  One can also sign up for educational classes, give money to become a sponsor, or adopt an individual bird at the center or online at www.worldbirdsanctuary.org.  The WBS has been in operation since 1977.

To get to Lone Elk Park and the World Bird Sanctuary, take I-44 to exit 272 (labeled Route 141 – Fenton/Valley Park).  Take the North Service Road of I-44 two to three miles west.  The service road eventually runs into the entrance to Lone Elk and the World Bird Sanctuary.

Washington University’s 2,000-acre Tyson Research Center is located directly west of Lone Elk Park.  This center is a university-wide resource focusing on the research of various plants, animals, and fungi.  In order to stimulate a more natural environment, forests have been allowed to regrow and prescribed/controlled burns have been used to simulate the times before humans introduced fire control.  Animal related research ranges from the study of insects and parasitic worms to snakes and deer.  Other research at Tyson includes studies on earthquakes and tectonics, history of the Mincke mining town, geology, and hydrology.  Tyson is now a part of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), and a station for monitoring acid rain and precipitation is located at the center.  The center will accept proposals for any legitimate research as long as there is available space and the proposed activity doesn’t disturb other research.  Visitors to Tyson may notice 52 igloo style concrete bunkers.  The origins of these are described later.

The Tyson Research Center is also home to the Wild Canid Survival And Research Center (WCSRC), which is better known as The Wolf Sanctuary.  Marlin Perkins and his wife, Carol, started the center in 1971.  Perkins is better known for hosting Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom”, a nature show highlighting animals all over the world.  He was also the second director of the St. Louis Zoo and helped make that facility what it is today.  The WCSRC’s main purpose is the preservation and re-introduction of endangered wolves in the wild by breeding them in captivity.  The WCSRC holds and breeds multiple species of highly endangered wolves and one species of fox.  These include the Red Wolf, Mexican wolf, Maned Wolf (technically not a wolf), and Swift Foxes.  The center also educates the public by offering tours of their facility and by explaining the true behavior of wolves, which is different from their Hollywood portrayal.  The WCSRC is closed for tours during the month of May to encourage reproduction and other times when veterinary care is being performed.  Reservations must be made before visiting by calling 636-938-5900.

The Tyson Research Center is not a public park and access is limited.  Admittance is controlled by a gate at the entrance.  The area is a biological research center and research, some of which is sensitive to disturbance, is conducted within Tyson.  Excessive and/or uncontrolled visitation of the center would be harmful.  Animals and habitat must not be disturbed and material cannot be added to or removed from the area.  The area is open to educational groups of all ages and to those interested in conservation and the environment.  The center offers the Tyson Field Science Program (TFSP), which consists of many K-12, cub/girl scout, and other educational programs.  For more information on the TFSP, see http://www.biology.wustl.edu/tyson/educ.html.  Small groups of visitors are generally encouraged to reduce environmental impact.  For more information, call 636-935-8430 or see the Tyson website at http://www.biology.wustl.edu/tyson.  The Tyson Research Center entrance is just north of I-44 east of Eureka and may be reached via the Beaumont/Antire exit (I-44 exit 269).

After Washington University aquired the Tyson Research Center, the site was used to dispose of two historic lion sculptures from University City, MO.  These lions, now located just outside the old Mincke Quarry, were sculpted in 1909 by George Julian Zolnay, the art director for the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.  Christine Kiehl, a female art student of the time, helped to create the mold.  These lions, known as the Delmar Lion Gates, were constructed in 1909 under the direction of, E.G. Lewis, the city's founder to watch over the residential development to the west.  By the 1980's, the original lions had been repaired several times and were beyond further restoration.  The lions were recast from the original molds and replaced.  How the old lions ended up at Tyson is not exactly known but it is suspected that Washington University offered to dispose of them on their rural research site rather than have them dumped in a landfill or other location where they would never again be accessible.

West Tyson County Park consists of 240 acres of land located just to the west of the Tyson Research Center in the Tyson Valley Area.  West Tyson is home to four hiking trails including the seven-mile Chubb Trail, which passes through 2 other parks.  The other trails in West Tyson are the .2-mile long Ridge Trail, the .5-mile long Chinkapin Trail, and the 1.5-mile long Flint Quarry Trail.  The Crescent Hills, which are present throughout the area, have a high chert content, which was quarried by the Indians for use in weapons and other tools.  The Flint Quarry Trail takes the visitor past pits and trenches, which were once quarried for flint, a form of chert.  The Crescent Hills area contains one of the highest concentrations of prehistoric flint/chert quarries in North America.  West Tyson is also home to three shelters, a lodge, and a campground, all of which are reservable for groups.  Other uncovered picnic sites are available on a first come, first serve basis.

The Chubb Trail starts at a main trailhead in West Tyson Park, passes through the southern part of Castlewood State Park, and ends at a trailhead within Lone Elk Park.  The seven-mile distance is one-way, which means that users either have to turn around at the far end and retrace their path (14 miles) or have someone there to pick them up at the end.  Although the basic trail is seven miles long, there are side loops within West Tyson and Castlewood Parks, which can be taken to increase the length of the trail.  It is open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders.  The Chubb Trail is considered to be one of the more difficult trails in the St. Louis Area due to its rocky, hilly nature.  Parts of the trail make elevation changes of 350 feet as it crosses the ridges and valleys of the Ozark border.  If riding a mountain bike, a helmet is highly suggested.  Make sure that both your body and your bike can handle this trail.

The Chubb Trail was developed in 1984 in a coordinated effort of between the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and St. Louis County in memory of R. Walston Chubb.  Chubb was a pioneer and preserving open space within the St. Louis Metro area and started the St. Louis Area Open Space Council, a group who has worked to restore the Meramec River.

Castlewood State Park is located on both sides of the Meramec River with its land area almost equally divided by the river.  The more developed areas of the park are located to the north of the river.  The Chubb Trail and World Bird Sanctuary are the two main attractions located on the south side.

Route 66 State Park is one of Missouri’s newest State Parks.  Although it is not part of the Tyson Valley area, it deserves mention.  It sits on the site of the former community of Times Beach.  The town was once contaminated with dioxin, a toxic industrial byproduct and ingredient in old electrical transformers.  The dioxin was mixed with oil and sprayed by Russell Bliss, a waste hauler, to reduce dust on the gravel roads in Times Beach in the early 1970's.  Dioxin was spread throughout homes in the town by a large flood on the Meramec River in 1982, resulting in a federal buyout and condemnation of the entire town.  The area has now been cleaned up and turned into Route 66 Park. Part of old U.S. Route 66 and its Meramec River bridge are located in the park.  The park currently has around 8 miles of trails that connect directly to a trail system in nearby Eureka.  More trails are planned for the future.  The building holding the visitor center and park offices is itself a Route 66 landmark.  It was once Steiny’s Inn, a popular roadside restaurant on Route 66.  The visitor center also holds exhibits and a gift shop celebrating the famous highway.

Both West Tyson and Route 66 Park may be accessed via I-44 exit 266.  Both parks are located on the north of the highway.  West Tyson County Park is located on the right, within a mile are so before the road (old Route 66) runs into runs into Route 66 State Park.

The Tyson Research Center, Lone Elk, West Tyson, Castlewood, and Route 66 Parks are all part of the Meramec Greenway, an area established to help restore the lower 108 miles of the Meramec River to a more natural state better suited to outdoor recreation.  The Meramec River Recreation Association established this area along with other public and private agencies to link various parks along the Meramec together.  When the greenway was established in 1975, the quality of the river’s water and scenery was highly degraded due to poorly planned recreational development, in-stream gravel quarrying, nearby land clearing, and other misuses.  Today, the natural quality of the river is greatly improved and positive changes are still taking place.  This area is also included in the Henry Shaw Ozark Corridor Foundation’s (HSOC) focus area.  The HSOC focuses on working with government, developers, and private individuals in an attempt to make sure land is used in a sustainable manner and that the region’s cultural and natural history is preserved.  The HSOC focus area stretches 40 miles from the Powder Valley Conservation area to The Missouri Botanical Garden’s Shaw Nature Reserve

The Tyson Valley area is located near the Meramec River and on the Burlington Escarpment.  This escarpment is the boundary between the Ozark Plateau and the Central Lowlands physiographic provinces (geologic and geographically unique land areas) of North America.  The bedrock of the area ranges from Middle Ordovician to Middle Mississippian in age (age variation from approximately 470 to 340 million years ago).  Most of this rock is cherty limestone but there is some sandstone, dolomite, and shale in Tyson.  Ancient sea life is preserved as fossils in the rock.  As with most of Missouri south of the Missouri River, Tyson is underlain by karst terrain.  Slightly acidic groundwater has dissolved the carbonate limestone bedrock to form the caves, springs, and sinkholes throughout the area.  The area is also home to Mincke Cave, a man-made cavern created by quarrying.  Several species of bats now use the cave as their home.  Soils vary from glacial wind blown loess (silty soil) left over from the last ice age to cherty residual soils, a byproduct of weathered limestone.  The Meramec River forms part of the northern boundary of the center.  The origin of Mincke Cave is described later.

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