If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind tranquil destination to unwind, look no further than Funk Memorial State Forest and Wildlife Area in Iron County.
Known as Riverside by some, the 180-acre parcel is one of four compartments in adjoining counties stretching into the Ozarks, managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).
“The area has changed hands over the years, and now the MDC is able to ensure that wildlife habitat is maintained,” said MDC Forester Becky Fletcher. “The main objective of this area is the management of wildlife; It is not the wood, nor the fishing”.
Green is all you see this time of year at Funk Memorial, and that’s more than tolerable. One of the many plants you will find is Dittany, commonly known as wild oregano, from the mint family. It smells as fresh as the spices in the kitchen pantry. But Fletcher kindly advised against collecting plants from conservation areas for the dinner table.
Fletcher said that didtamus is a unique plant that you’ll also find in the surrounding woods. During the winter, he said, the plant exhibits one of its most unusual qualities.
“It’s one of the plants that will create frosty blooms in the winter,” Fletcher said. “The water on their stems will sprout and create little ribbons of ice.”
As you stroll through the green, you’ll find numerous glade grasses and plants such as Echinacea, Brown-eyed Susans, Apple Ferns, Daisies, Aromatic Sumac, Hog Peanuts, and Persimmons. You will also see walnut, oak, and cedar trees and their offshoots. Some of the plants you’ll see are more specific to the Ozark region, Fletcher said, but some exist there today solely because the area’s dry soil is necessary for their growth.
For bird watching, Funk Memorial State Forest and Wildlife Area is a good place to visit, according to Fletcher.
“You have the field and the forest, which makes it easier to spot the various species that inhabit the area,” he said. “And you might see some chipmunks.”
The area also offers seasonal game such as deer, turkey, rabbit, squirrel, pigeon, and quail. You’ll also see turkeys, Fletcher said, “because they like clearings, just like the deer and the birds that live in the Riverside.”
If you’re into hiking, there are several service roads that lead to the creek bottom and fields, he said, making it perfect for a “fun and easy” trip. But if you don’t have much time to enjoy nature during the daily grind, Fletcher said it’s also a great spot for lunch, if all you have is a few minutes to spare.
More information about Funk Memorial State Forest and MDC Wildlife Area can be found by downloading the free MO Outdoors mobile app, or by visiting Places to go online at https://short.mdc.mo.gov/4SJ.
Directions to Funk Memorial State Forest and MDC Wildlife Area: From Vulcan on Hwy 49, take Route BB west approx 4 miles, then unnamed gravel road north, see map for area location.