HAWN STATE PARK
Paul Bauer and Edge Wade, fall 2014
4,955.66 acres Ste. Genevieve Co. DeLorme 49, H-8
DNR owned; contact (573) 883-3603 during office hours
Directions: From I-55 exit #154, take Rt. O toward Ste. Genevieve
for 6 miles, then right onto MO 32 west for 5.2 miles to a left onto Miller
Switch Rd. for about 1/3 mile to a left (east) onto MO 144, continuing straight
onto Bauer Rd. At the park office on the right, there is paved parking
and a pathway to a kiosk for information if the office is closed.
Western Ste. Genevieve County, on the eastern side of the St. Francois
mountains, has some of the most beautiful and rugged landscapes in the state.
LaMotte sandstone features of canyons bluffs, native shortleaf pine,
stands of white oak, hickory and maple, the springtime blossoms of dogwood and
azalea, and the clear sand bottomed creeks combine to create a wondrous
collage. We can thank Helen Coffer Hawn for her bequest of the original
1,459 acres for this park in 1952. This acreage was purchased parcel by
parcel with her savings from a schoolteacher’s salary.
At the bottom of the hill in the park are the camping and picnic areas where
several trails begin. Across the creek from the camping area is a trail
that leads to the picnic area. Beyond the creek from the picnic area is
another trail that leads high along the bluff (overlooking azaleas in the
spring) and recrosses the creek to meet another trail coming from the picnic
area. Where these two trails meet, a “figure eight” trail of 10 miles
[Bauer: Whispering Pine Trail with north and south loops meanders through a
mixed hardwood and pine forest, past exposures of sandstone and granite ridges,
glades, and the River Aux Vases, which runs through the south part of the
park. The scenic mile-long Pickle Creek Trail traverses sandstone bluffs,
granite shut-ins, and Pickle Creek, which will remind visitors of a cascading
mountain stream. It continues up the creek and ends at the camping area. See
below for additional trail information.
When to Visit/Species to Expect: A trip to Hawn SP any time of
year will be rewarding to attentive birders. Approaching the park after
leaving the interstate, watch the wires and fences for Eastern Bluebird,
Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Dickcissel, and Lark and
The 114-species SPARKS checklist (with Wood Duck, Canada and Snow Geese the
only waterfowl represented) includes 21 warbler species (and that does not show
a Swainson’s Warbler found in 1990 or Ceruleans which are surely present).
Pine Warblers are most easily found in the conifers around the headquarters,
especially March to mid-October. Chipping Sparrows also occur in the
pines. Broad-winged Hawk, Wild Turkey and Wood Thrush nest in the
park. In late April, watch for nesting Summer Tanager, and for Scarlet
Tanager beginning in late April/early May. Worm-eating Warbler can be
found on the hillsides, and Prairie Warbler can be found in the park glades and
by driving the roads, such as Hawn Park Road, to the west of the park.
Ozark streamside birds such as Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Northern
Parula, Cerulean Warbler, and Louisiana Waterthrush are to be expected.
Whip-poor-will can be heard in late spring and early summer.
Henslow’s Sparrows may be found in summer along Hwy. 144 in grasslands on the
right. This is a good area for winter
sparrow species as well. There are
usually some mowed paths through the tall grass.
Wintering species take advantage of the protection of the pines. Yellow-bellied
Sapsuckers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creepers, Winter Wrens and Hermit
Thrushes are winter residents. Watch and listen for both species of
American Tree, White-throated, Song, Fox and Swamp Sparrows and Dark-eyed
Juncos winter here in appropriate habitats.
Features of interest to birders: The geologic features combine to
sustain cool climate niches favorable to plants more common to climates farther
north. Undoubtedly, birds familiar with more northern habitats find these
areas in the park attractive as they migrate northward or come here to winter.
The park boasts three natural areas: Botkins Pine Woods (30 acres);
Lamotte Sandstone Barrens (81 acres); and the 120-acre Orchid Valley Natural
Area closed to the public. The barrens area might be well worth a look
for glade-loving birds. Check with park staff for additional information.
There are two-tracks and non-trail-designated footpaths such as the one that
leads from the campground into pines that offer access to habitat niches.
Much of the park is in the Whispering Pines Wild Area (see the Whispering Pines
Trail description below.) Several miles of official trails invite
Overlook Trail is a 300-ft. linear paved trail blazed in orange running
from the picnic area between the park office and campground to a small overlook
of Pickle Creek valley. It has interpretive signs describing the pine woodlands
and the Lamotte Sandstone formations.
Pickle Creek Trail is a .70-mile linear trail blazed in green running
along the shut-in creek. The trailhead is in the picnic area between the
park office and campground. Users may retrace the route or follow the
Whispering Pines Trail from the junction.
Whispering Pines Trail is a 9.75-mile figure eight trail looping through
the 2,880 acre Whispering Pine Wild Area (north loop 6 miles blazed in red;
south loop 3.75 miles blazed in blue). The trailhead is at the wooden
bridge beyond the parking area near the picnic area parking area. It is a
favorite hikers and backpackers as it traverses bluffs and follows the banks of
Pickle Creek and the River Aux Vases. It is signed counterclockwise (widdershins),
and has spur trails to primitive campsites (no open fires allowed).
White Oaks Trail is a 3.75-mile loop signed in yellow with the trailhead
on the right near the park entrance at the end of Hwy. 144. It runs through
mixed hardwood and shortleaf pine forest, crossing several wet-weather creeks
and offering viewpoints atop exposed sandstone rock outcrops.
Toilets: Restrooms in the campgrounds (water turned off in winter)
and vault toilets in picnic areas.
Camping: The campground has electric and basic sites (and can be
very full in summer and on warm weekends). Pickle Creek runs along the
edge. There are many picnic tables shaded by pines, a large open shelter
and a paved pathway connecting the facilities.
Hazards/Limitations: Much of the area is rugged, rocky and steep;
watch your footing. The natural beauty of this park attracts large
numbers of visitors, so try to time your visit for birding to avoid high
density visitor days.
Nearby Birding Sites: Pickle Springs NA, Horton Farm CA, St. Joe
SP, Hickory Canyons NA, Johnson’s Shut-Ins SP, Washington SP.