Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge

A rail clapper in the weeds
A rail clapper

Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge is a 3,750-acre property located in the floodplain of the Mississippi River. The levee that separates the refuge from the main river channel keeps the refuge relatively dry except in those years of heavy flooding in the Mississippi River corridor. Once water is over the levee, the refuge acts as a storage area for that water. In most years, staff at the refuge regulate water levels to mimic minor flood events and maintain the wet meadows.

The landscape is low and flat. Rain, snowmelt and flood-waters flow very slowly across the landscape, if at all. The soil tends to be saturated and supports such water-tolerant plants as sedges, rushes and some grasses. Trees that grow in the floodplain are classed as bottomland hardwoods. Among those bottomland forests are pin oak, cottonwood, swamp white oak, willows, green ash,silver maple, river birch, pecan and others.

The refuge was established to provide resting, nesting and breeding habitat for resident and migratory waterfowl. More than 300 species of birds have been observed on the property. There are also snapping turtles, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and coyotes. In the fall migrations more than 200,000 ducks and more than 10,000 geese stop at Clarence Cannon NWR to rest and refuel.

Human visitors to Clarence Cannon can access the property from three trailheads: one at the north boundary, one at the south boundary and one right behind the headquarters. Most trails are along the tops of levees within the refuge, acccessible only when dry. Hunting and fishing are allowed in accordance with Missouri Department of Conservation Rules and Regs.

To get there: Clarence Cannon NWR is located between St. Louis and Hannibal, Missouri. Take State Highway 79 to the town of Annada. From there go one mile east on Pike County Road 206 to the refuge headquarters. The Clarence Cannon Visitor Center is open weekdays, from 7:30 am to 4 pm, year-round except for Federal holidays. The property is day-use only and there are no fees involved. Staff at Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge also manage Great River National Wildlife Refuge.

Map of Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge

Photos and map courtesy of the US Fish & Wildlife Service