Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Missouri's Magnificent Mingo NWR

My early April travels along Highway 60 from Enid, OK to southeastern Missouri were fairly uneventful.  The gentle, rolling prairies and oil/gas fields of northeast Oklahoma gave way to southern Missouri's Ozark mountains-- tree-covered hills of blooming dogwood and rosebuds.

I arrived to Lake Wappapello State Park north of Poplar Bluff, MO the day before a spring storm was to pass through.  Nestled in the forest with a distant view of the lake, my rolling home had found safe shelter, and at only $12/night for an electric site, quite a bargain to extend my stay a week and explore the area.  Number One on the list would be a visit to Mingo National Wildlife Refuge.

When I researched potential NWRs to visit along my route eastward, Mingo jumped to the top of the list as soon as I read that paddling through its cypress-tupelo swamp was a popular visitor activity (something I'd been eager to do for many years).

On my first visit to Mingo NWR, I stopped at their beautiful new Visitor Center to gather information and chat with the ranger,

took a quick hike along their swamp boardwalk, and drove their nature auto route.  By late afternoon, I arrived to the Mingo river and instantly fell in love with the stillness and serenity of this place.  No other humans or man-made noises to be found!

The next morning, I eagerly returned, pulled my inflatable Sea Eagle FastTrack kayak from its cartop storage box,  and within a few minutes, it was inflated and ready to launch.

To my amazement on this sunny spring day, I was still the only human on this section of the river through the Mingo Wilderness Area.  There was plenty of wildlife to be found, though.  Lots of birds and even a few wood ducks, but most were not as cooperative for my camera as these turtles...

But one male Northern Cardinal did stay put long enough for a photo-- showing a bit of his southern St. Louis hospitality I guess!

The Bald Cypress and Swamp Tupelo trees on the river were just as mesmerizing as I'd hope they'd be.

Bald Cypress trees have a root system called "knees" (the nobby little stumps next to the main tree itself).  The more knees and wider the tree, the older it is.

A few maples dotted the river banks as well.  They were easy to spot this time of year from their pink and yellow "hellicopters" (leaf and seed pods just beginning to sprout).

The wind was non-existent on this spring day, making for lovely reflections in the water.

But the stillness also encouraged a few hungry mosquitoes to seek shade beneath my hat.  Thankfully, I came prepared with a head net!

The few bouts of bugs were totally worth it, though.  To paddle such a gorgeous river, all alone, was complete bliss.

If you ever find yourself traveling down the Mississippi river near the Missouri bootheel, take a slight detour over to Mingo NWR, you won't regret it! 


  1. Looks like a marvelous place to paddle - when you don't have to eat the bugs! LOL I wouldn't have guessed there would be a swamp like area there.

  2. Amazing pictures as usual! What a pretty place.

  3. Love your photos, so peaceful looking.

  4. wow ... very nice. It was too long ago but I remember spending a few days in the Poplar Bluff area in my x-cntry bicycle trip one summer as I waited for some mail to arrive general delivery. I am curious, did you see anyone else there during the remainder of your stay?

  5. That's the first thing I thought about - the mosquitoes! Ugh. But, you were prepared. What a lovely experience on that still and lovely body of water. Thank you for sharing.
    Pamelab in Missouri City TX for now.

  6. I had no idea there are cypress trees that far north! Ahh and you also had the visual pleasure of dogwood and redbud trees. Lucky you. Beautiful photos as always.......


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