Pelican Island


Pelican Island
Designated as a natural area since
Saint Louis
Missouri Department of Conservation – St. Louis Regional Office
Contact Phone

Points of Interest:

  • Explore one of the best remaining islands of the Missouri River in Missouri.
  • Look for a number of migratory songbirds in the spring.

Natural Features Description:

This site is considered to be the best remaining example of a mature floodplain forest in the Missouri River floodplain of Missouri. An 1878 map showed two islands in the Missouri River that included what is part of Pelican Island today. In 1945 Congress passed an amendment to the 1912 Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Act which made provisions for a nine-foot deep, three hundred foot wide channel. Man-made changes to the river since 1945 have indirectly produced the one large island, Pelican Island, of today.

Today the island is comprised of a mix of riverfront forest, slough, shrub swamp and old-field habitat. The floods of 1993 and 1995 killed a number of trees but riverfront forest is a dynamic community type and new trees have grown back in. Cottonwood, black willow, sycamore, hackberry, sugarberry, silver maple, box elder and red mulberry form forests ranging from thickets of young trees to more mature stands. Vines are common including raccoon grape, other grape species and poison ivy. Unfortunately due to the dynamic nature of this ecosystem a number of invasive, exotic species occur in the understory including the exotic vine species, Japanese hops.

In the spring, just as the forest is greening up, look for migrant warblers including the American redstart, Nashville warbler, magnolia warbler, black-throated green warbler and the bay-breasted warbler. In the Car of Commerce Chute and other riverine habitats around the island are important areas for big river fishes such as sturgeon chub, sicklefin chub, channel catfish, and flathead catfish. The island’s forested wetlands provide habitat for large numbers of gray treefrogs.

Access Info

Access is by boat only. Pelican Island Access is located on the eastern edge of Sioux Passage Park (St. Louis County). In north St. Louis County, from the intersection of Highway 67 and Highway AC, head north on AC continuing on this road to where it turns into Old Jamestown Road. Old Jamestown Road heads east past the entrance to Sioux Passage Park. Go left (north) into the county park and follow the signs to the Pelican Island boat access. Deer hunting is permitted via managed hunts. Check with the St. Louis Regional Conservation Department for information. Fishing is permitted. A map and compass are recommended to explore this area.