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ARROW ROCK STATE HISTORIC SITE

Dana Ripper, Ethan Duke, Edge Wade, 2017
167.39 acres Saline Co.  DeLorme 29, 10-I
GPS: 39.0753101,-92.9262262
DNR owned; for more information see: https://mostateparks.com/park/arrow-rock-state-historic-site, or call the park office at (660) 837-3330.

The historic site grounds are open 7a.m. to 10 p.m., daily. Visitor Center hours are 10-4 daily, March 1 through May 31; 10-5 daily, June 1 through August 31; 10-4 daily, September 1 through November 30 (closed Thanksgiving Day); and 1-4, Friday through Sunday and holiday Mondays December 1 through February 28 (closed Monday through Thursday and Christmas and New Year’s days). 

In addition to the state-owned historic site, this guide includes the town of Arrow Rock and a small portion of the Jameson Island Unit of the Big Muddy Fish and Wildlife Refuge. Also included is the Lawless House on the west side of MO 41, leased to the Friends of Arrow Rock, serving as base of operations for the Missouri River Bird Observatory (MRBO). 

Directions: From I-70 Exit 98, go north on MO 41 approximately 13 miles. The entrance to Big Soldier Lake, the campgrounds and picnic area are at a right (east) turn indicated by a large sign; the visitor center is further north on MO 41, with a large sign indicating a right (east) turn. To go directly into town, continue north on MO 41 to Main Street.

From Marshall, go east on MO 41 approximately 15 miles. Continue south past Main St. to get to the Lawless Homestead on the right (west), the visitor center on the left (east), and Big Soldier Lake Rd. further south on the left (east).

ADA Information: Much of the area can be birded by car, or by walking short distances from a parked car. The trails are not recommended for people with difficulty walking.

When to Visit/Species to Expect: eBird records for January and July visits are few, as are April and May, in the eBird data of 151 trips producing 131 species available at this writing. Warblers, surely present, are not well represented. Twelve species have been reported, among them, Cerulean and Blackpoll. Summer residents likely include Prothonotary, Kentucky, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Common Yellowthroat. Adventurous birders can add much to our knowledge of this site that has some very good, fairly easily accessible bottomland and much easily accessed upland habitat of grass and woodland.

A Common Nighthawk has been seen sleeping on a limb over a town street; Cedar Waxwings are common; woodpeckers are easily found. A good variety of raptors can be seen well from the open areas. . Notably, Mississippi Kites breed in Arrow Rock and are a common sight during the summer. More flycatchers are present than accounted for in the reports. It is likely that several sparrow species are present in season that have not been detected or reported to eBird.

Features of interest to birders: The streets of Arrow Rock provide easy slow cruising through town with little or no traffic most of the time (avoid Lyceum performance days or festival events). Several residences have feeders, usually well stocked. Make sure you go to the east end of High St., past the George Caleb Bingham house, where a yard on the north side has many feeders and large trees, and the open area near the gazebo allows good views of the bluff top. This is a good place to see Turkey Vultures (which roost along the bluffs) and other soaring raptors

The small loop at the east end of Main St. at Godsey’s Diggings with another good view of the bluff top with a grassy area and trees favored by several species as they move along the ecotone. The trailhead for the Arrow Rock Landing Trail is here. It intersects with the trail described below, providing a shorter walk, but includes the potentially very muddy portion near the river edge.

Take River Road (the extension of 2nd St.) down slope through woodlands to the parking area for the 1821 Santa Fe Trail ferry site (a.k.a. Jameson Island Parking Lot) and the trailhead for the Lewis and Clark Trail of Discovery with several interpretive signs along bottomland to the old Arrow Rock landing site. The last section may be very muddy after high water events. Prothonotary Warblers are common along the trail in summer. This is not a loop trail.

Santa Fe Spring Drive loops off Van Buren St. to at the north end and off Park Dr. at the east end. It leads to Big Spring, a small, pleasant area to bird in any season. Watch for Louisiana Waterthrush in summer or Winter Wren in cool months among the year-round residents.

The Pierre a’ Fleche Trail is a 1.5 mile loop through mostly upland woods with several access points allowing varying segments to be walked. This is a really good trail during migration/early breeding season. Warblers, both tanagers, Acadian and Least flycatchers, Eastern Wood-Pewee may be found. Most of this trail is rough, eroded with exposed tree roots, rocks, creek crossings, and uneven terrain. The trailhead is at the visitor center parking lot. One section passes along the hillside just above Big Spring and crosses Park Road. Spurs to various sections are at the picnic shelter, the Lewis & Clark marker, the East Loop in the campground, the Special Use area of the campground and along the east side of Big Soldier Lake. The widest, least difficult section runs from Big Soldier Road down to Big Spring, with the only difficult part the last 20 feet to the spring.

Big Soldier Lake is a small impoundment enjoyed by anglers. Check it when waterfowl may be present, especially in cold months. Snow Geese, Richardson’s Cackling Goose, Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup and Ruddy Duck have been present. Great Blue Heron and Double-crested Cormorant may often be seen here, too.

The campgrounds and picnic area may have good birding on days when many visitors are not present. The loops give easy access to open and wooded areas. The primitive camp area, on the west side of Park Dr., roughly opposite the picnic area, is often very good for woodpeckers and small passerines.

The grounds of the Lawless House are good to walk around when the Missouri River Bird Observatory (MRBO) is not holding an event. There are several well-tended feeders, farmstead and ecotone habitats, with many large trees that may be full of small birds. South of the farmstead, a large area of prairie restoration is underway. Prairie and open country species such as Eastern Meadowlark, Dickcissel, and Eastern Kingbird are commonly seen and heard in this area.

From April to November, MRBO staffers may be available for a guided tour of Arrow Rock. If you are planning a visit, a call ahead to 660-837-3888 may lead to a special birding experience.

Toilets: Modern toilets inside the visitor center are not available when the center is closed. Vault toilets and restrooms are in the picnic area near the shelter, and at the campgrounds.

Camping: Modern and primitive campsites are available, and can be very busy on weekends.

Hazards/Limitations: Pay attention to the stone street gutters in town; low vehicles may sustain damage crossing them. Some sections of the trails are narrow, steep, and/or eroded, and poison ivy is rank in many places. Many visitors will be present on weekends, especially on Lyceum Theatre performance days.

Nearby Birding Sites: De Bourgmont Access, Sappington Cemetery, Blackwater Access, Van Meter SP, Grand Pass CA, Marshall’s Indian Foothills Park.

Arrow Rock map