The Missouri Bootheel was once predominantly swamp and almost completely forested. The once vast swamps along the Black River, which flows through Coon Island Conservation Area, were reportedly favorite hunting grounds for Native Americans.
Extensive land conversion from seasonally flooded bottomland hardwood forest to agricultural land has greatly diminished wetland habitat in this region and with it the numbers of resident and migratory wildlife species that depend on this valuable lowland habitat.
The 3,222.8-acre Coon Island Conservation Area was purchased in 1979 to protect existing wetlands, recreate seasonally flooded bottomland hardwoods and restore the hydrology of the area to simulate natural water processes.
A system of levees, spillways, water control structures, and submersible pumps maintain wetland habitat. However, the area continues to be subject to frequent Black River floodings, which affect annual management practices.
The area lies in a major waterfowl flyway and provides important habitat for waterfowl. Management of this wetland is designed to increase waterfowl use. The open marsh and flooded timber provide acorns, wild millets, smartweeds, pigweed, sedges, tubers and invertebrates for waterfowl. Corn and other row crops are grown to provide high energy foods when water levels allow. Natural foods, such as smartweed, millet, pigweed and sedges, provide nutrients to waterfowl. Flooding fields during fall, winter, and spring makes these foods available to waterfowl, herons, shorebirds, aquatic furbearers and many other wildlife species.
During your visit to Coon Island Conservation Area, you may notice various forest improvement practices designed to improve tree growth, quality, and species composition and to maintain wildlife habitat. Any physical disturbance is only temporary, and the area will soon return to its normal and natural condition. Sound management practices such as these will ensure long range productivity of the diverse habitats present on the area.