The Rocky Fork Lakes Conservation Area is located in Boone County approximately six miles north of Columbia on Highway 63 and one-half mile east on Peabody road.
Because the area is located near a population center of 100,000+ people, its 2,200 acres are heavily used by many persons for every type of outdoor activity which is suitable to the area.
The terrain is extremely rugged due to strip mining, which occurred prior to acquisition by the Department. The mined area has broad ridge tops and generally steep slopes. Approximately 1,150 acres were strip mined with the balance of the acreage being oak-hickory forest cover and upland fields. One field of 25 acres is mainly bluestem prairie. Approximately 70 percent of the strip mined area has been planted with a mixture of trees and shrubs. The remaining areas were seeded with fescue which developed into excellent ground cover on the seeded area, but is not very favorable for wildlife.
There are over 60 lakes or ponds of significant size, which have a total surface area of 116 acres. The largest lake is over 50 acres. In addition, there are over 30 smaller (less than one acre) pools, some of which hold water the entire year.
Rocky Fork Lakes Conservation Area was purchased by the Department in March, 1979 for a purchase price of $379,000. Prior to acquisition, the land was owned and mined by Peabody Coal Company, from 1963 until 1972. According to a 1917 edition of a topographical map (Sturgeon Quadrangle) there were 15 residences on the tract at that time.
Two very old cemeteries exist on the property and the names on the headstones reflect past local history. There are Browns' buried in one of the cemeteries that were connected with Brown's Station a few miles away. Some of the stones date back to the middle 1830s.
The area had been row cropped where possible, and where not possible, livestock were grazed. No evidence exists to show that the landowners excluded their timber from grazing. There is evidence that fires of moderate intensity occurred periodically throughout the timbered stands. What is more evident are stumps which remain as examples of the landowner's desire to salvage his timber in front of the steady onslaught of the great earth moving coal machine. A few pockets of larger trees escaped this fate.
A ramp has been installed for boating access to the large lake, and a fishing dock designed for wheelchair access is located on the big lakes north shore.
The areas firearms shooting range receives year-round use.