Fens are a unique type of wetland habitat created by groundwater seeping from beneath the surface of the earth. You know your on a fen when the springy, saturated soil has a bounce to it, and ripples as you jump up and down. It’s almost like jumping on a waterbed. Most of the fens in Missouri are found in the Ozarks. Fens are usually small and patchy, and support a wide-range of plant and animals. There are no birds that you could say are characteristic of fens, but you will see birds associated with the surrounding forest and woodland. Forest-edge species and species that might target the abundant insects swirling over the fen will be common.
Places on the Trail with Fens include:
1. Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. The fen is found in the natural area along the Black River Hiking Trail.
2. Big Buffalo Creek Conservation Area. There is a nice natural area within Big Buffalo Creek Conservation Area. From Stover, take Highway 52 west and turn left (south) onto Highway FF. Follow Highway FF south for nearly 8 miles. At the “T” intersection go right (west) on Big Buffalo Road and follow this for about ¾ of a mile. Park along the side of the road here and head north up the old road towards the fen. A map and compass are recommended to explore the area.
3. Little Black Conservation Area. Head east on Highway 160 from Doniphan and then turn left (north) on to Highway 21. Follow Highway 21 north for about 6.5 miles and turn right (east) onto the gravel entrance road. Follow the gravel road, staying to the left at the “Y” intersection, and proceed for almost a mile. The road goes down the ridge into the floodplain of the South Prong of the Little Black River. Park along the road and consult a map for accessing the natural area which is nearby. Hunting and fishing are permitted. A map and compass are recommended to explore this area.