Natural Gems along the Big Muddy: Missouri’s Natural Areas along the River’s Valley

Presentation by Mike Leahy, Missouri Natural Areas Coordinator, Mo. Dept. of Conservation

Missouri Natural Areas Coordinator Mike Leahy will take us on a tour of a variety of designated Natural Areas connected to the Missouri River that range from floodplain wetlands to river bluff prairies and forests.

Published: November 10, 2020

Online Presentation by Natural Areas Coordinator Mike Leahy, Mo. Dept. of Conservation. 

Missouri Natural Areas Coordinator Mike Leahy took us on a tour of a variety of designated Natural Areas connected to the Missouri River that range from floodplain wetlands to river bluff prairies and forests.

Published: Nov. 10, 2020

Grand Bluffs Natural Area
Fall foliage at Grand Bluffs Natural Area. photo courtesy MDC.

Online Presentation by Natural Areas Coordinator Mike Leahy, Mo. Dept. of Conservation. 

Hosted by Missouri River Relief on Zoom and live-streamed on YouTube.
Streaming sponsored by Rivermiles, the folks that bring you the MR340

Original Presentation was Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Watch this Presentation on YouTube

Missouri Natural Areas represent some of the best — and last — examples of our state’s original landscape. Some are located within state parks or conservation areas, preserving and highlighting a special, rare or textbook example of an ecological niche or geological wonder. Examples of Natural Areas across the state include prairies, old-growth forests and woodlands, rare wetlands, caves, and many other kinds of native habitat.

In this presentation, Missouri Natural Areas Coordinator Mike Leahy will take us on a tour of a variety of designated Natural Areas connected to the Missouri River that range from floodplain wetlands to river bluff prairies and forests. We will learn about the fascinating natural heritage that occurs along this long swath of Missouri from the Iowa state line to the river’s confluence with the Mississippi. This natural history of the river corridor will highlight the connections between native plant and animal species, soils, geology and human history in this region.

Least Bittern
Least Bittern male on nest at Little Bean Marsh Natural Area. Photo courtesy of MDC>

Mike has worked for over 25 years with state agencies in Indiana, Virginia, and Missouri on the conservation of natural resources. Most of this work has been with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), serving in the roles of regional natural history biologist, Heritage community ecologist and natural areas coordinator. Over the past 10+ years he has worked with MDC field staff to inventory and designate more than 13 new Missouri Natural Areas and seven additions, totaling more than 8,000 acres.  He has published technical and popular articles on natural history topics, including the 2011 publication of the field guide, Discover Missouri Natural Areas – A Guide to 50 Great Places. Leahy has a B.S. in Forestry from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a MS in Forest Ecology from Michigan State University. Leahy’s love of natural areas began as a kid with family trips to the Morton Arboretum in the Chicago area. He enjoys exploring the outdoors with his wife and son.

Mike Leahy is the Natural Areas Coordinator for the Mo Dept. of Conservation.
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Streaming is sponsored by Rivermiles, the folks who bring you the MR340.

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Special thanks to Les Bourgeois Vineyards for giving us the opportunity to use their beautiful space overlooking the Missouri River. All speakers are presenting for free! Thank you all for sharing your knowledge with us!

The Big Muddy Speaker Series also takes place in Kansas City and St. Charles.


The views and opinions expressed by our presenters do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of Missouri River Relief, the Big Muddy Speaker Series or any of the partners that support this public forum. The Big Muddy Speaker Series believes that hearing diverse perspectives is a crucial building block for an informed public


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