If you’re in search of a one-of-a-kind undisturbed destination to unwind, look no further than Funk Memorial State Forest and Wildlife Area in Iron County.
Known as Riverside by some, the 180-acre plot of land is one of four compartments in adjoining counties stretching to the Ozarks, managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).
“The area has changed hands through the years, with MDC now managing to ensure wildlife habitat is sustained,” said MDC Forester Becky Fletcher. “The primary goal of this area is wildlife management; it’s not timber, or fishing.”
Green is all you see this time of year at Funk Memorial, and that’s more than tolerable. One of many plants you’ll find is dittany – commonly known as wild oregano, from the mint family. It smells as fresh as spices from the kitchen pantry. But Fletcher kindly advised against picking any plants from conservation areas for the dinner table.
Fletcher said dittany is a unique plant you’ll also find in the surrounding woodlands. During the wintertime, she said the plant exhibits one of its most unusual qualities.
“It’s one of the plants that will create frost flowers in the winter,” Fletcher said. “The water in its stems will burst forth, and create little ribbons of ice.”
As you wander through the green, you’ll find numerous glade grasses, and plants such as coneflower, brown-eyed Susans, apple ferns, daisies, aromatic sumac, hog peanut, and persimmons. You’ll also see hickory, oaks, and cedar trees and their saplings. Some of the plants you’ll see are more Ozark-region specific, Fletcher said, but some exist there today solely because the area’s dry soil is needed for their growth.
For bird watching, Funk Memorial State Forest and Wildlife Area is a good place to visit, according to Fletcher.
“You’ve got the field and the forest, which makes it easier to spot the various species that inhabit the area,” she said. “And you just might see some chipmunks.”
The area offers seasonal hunting as well, such as deer, turkey, rabbit, squirrel, dove, and quail. You’ll see turkeys, too, Fletcher said, “because they like the glades, and so do the deer and birds that call Riverside home.”
If you’re into hiking, there are several service roads leading into the creek bottoms and fields, she said, making it perfect for a “fun, easy” journey. But if you don’t have much time to enjoy nature during the daily grind, Fletcher said it also makes for a great lunch spot, if all you have are a few spare minutes.
More information about Funk Memorial State Forest and MDC Wildlife Area can be found by downloading the free MO Outdoors mobile app, or by visiting Places to Go online at https://short.mdc.mo.gov/4SJ.
Directions to Funk Memorial State Forest and MDC Wildlife Area: From Vulcan on Highway 49, take Route BB west approximately 4 miles, then an unnamed gravel road north, see map for area location.