About the Southwest Trail
Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 Missouri begin to see an influx of settlers from across Europe. As the railroads moved into the Springfield area after the Civil War the Southwestern area of Missouri began to grow at an accelerated rate. That same topography and geology of the Ozarks that attracted those early settlers is the same reason it is so popular with birders from across the state and indeed the nation. Like the settlers before us, birders are attracted to the wide open prairies, beautiful rivers, large springs, Ozarks Mountains, glades and savannas that dominate this section of the trail. Only today we also have large man-made lakes, including Table Rock, Stockton and Pomme de Terre which are a haven for all waterfowl as well as Eagles and Osprey. The Prairies and grasslands of this area of the trail are legendary for sightings of the Scissor tail Flycatcher. These grasslands are also big Hawk Country so keep your eye on the sky. The Missouri Department of Conservation has done an excellent job of developing and saving native grasslands for the Bob White Quail, Wild Turkey and other game birds. In the process they have saved prime habitat for all grassland birds.The beautiful Ozark hills and mountains make up the Southern half of this section of the trail. Cool spring fed Ozark streams, deciduous forest, long valleys and high knobs add diversity to this section of the trail. This is the home to the beautiful Painted Bunting as well as many species of warbler, vireo, flycatcher, woodpecker, Owls and other forest birds.
Joplin and Springfield are the two largest cities in the southwest corner of the state, each with good options for food and lodging. Springfield has a great nature center along the Galloway Creek, with hiking trails in the woodlands behind the visitor center offering excellent birding opportunities. Catch a Springfield Cardinals game, or visit the Dickerson Park Zoo. Bring the kids to the Discovery Center of Springfield or the Fantastic Caverns. You might also try birding Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park-home of the Springfield Botanical Gardens and the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden. This city is also home to one of Missouri’s largest tourist attractions-the first Bass Pro Shop. In Joplin, the Wildcat Glades Nature Center is a great place to bring the family for wildlife viewing and for hiking the scenic trails through Missouri’s rarest glade habitat. While in the area, you will want to visit Grand Falls, the largest waterfall in the entire state. For the Arts and Humanities, try the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts or the Joplin Museum Complex.