Otter Slough

Otter Slough.jpg

Photo of dense swamp tupelo trees and plant growth along river
Otter Slough CA, in Stoddard County, preserves some of Missouri's last remaining native Bootheel swamps.
Photo by MDC Staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.
Designated as a natural area since
Missouri Department of Conservation – Southeast Regional Office
Contact Phone

Points of Interest:

  • See a stand of water tupelo, a tree of the Deep South.
  • See a variety of wetland birds.
  • At dusk in the spring listen for the honking sounds of the green treefrog.

Natural Features Description:

Otter Slough is a small remnant of the former oxbow lakes and associated swamps that once were extensive throughout the Mississippi Lowlands prior to widespread artificial drainage efforts beginning in the late 19th century. Here you can catch a glimpse of what was once an amazing watery wilderness in Missouri’s southeast corner. Water tupelo and bald cypress dominate the trees in the swamp. Both are adapted to living with waterlogged soils. However, periodic drawdowns of Otter Lake creating mudflats are needed for a few years in a row to allow the seedlings of the tupelo and cypress to germinate and grow large enough to survive another round of flooding. The seeds of both water tupelo and cypress float and are readily carried by floodwaters.

This wetland environment is good habitat for a variety of reptiles and amphibians including green treefrog, common snapping turtle, southern painted turtle and the broad-banded watersnake. The waters of the slough support a number of fish species at the northern edge of their range, including the flier, slough darter and the banded pygmy sunfish. Other animals using the swamp include wood duck, great blue heron, green heron, muskrat, and swamp rabbit.

Access Info

In Stoddard County, travel west of Dexter on Highway 60, then turn left (south) and travel about 8 miles south on Highway ZZ to County Road 675. Turn right (west) on 675 and travel a mile to the area entrance. Continue heading west on the gravel road along the north end of Cypress Lake. To your right (north) you will see a lane to the area headquarters and a boat ramp on Otter Slough Lake. Access to the natural area is best by boat when the water level is up. The natural area is in the vicinity of Duck Blind 2. Hunting and fishing are permitted. A map and compass are recommended to explore this area.


Swamp Tupelo (Nyssa aquatica) at Otter Slough Natural Area
Swamp Tupelo (Nyssa aquatica) at Otter Slough Natural Area


Swamp Tupelo (Nyssa aquatica) at Otter Slough Natural Area
Swamp Tupelo (Nyssa aquatica) at Otter Slough Natural Area