You know about the Budweiser Clydesdales — but what about Missouri’s exotic cats and rocks that look like elephants!
PRAIRIE STATE PARK
Here’s a unique opportunity to experience bison in their natural habitat. Prairie State Park in southwest Missouri has a herd of about 50. On the first Saturday of the month, visitors can take a guided bison hike at 10 a.m., with July 13 the only exception. There are plenty of trails to hike, too; just call or stop by the Regal Tallgrass Prairie Nature Center to find out the herd’s location before taking off. The park features the tallgrass prairies that once covered more than a third of Missouri, and lots of wildflowers.
Information: Mindenmines, Missouri, 417-843-6711, mostateparks.com/park/prairie-state-park
NATIONAL TIGER SANCTUARY
The non-profit rescue facility cares for a variety of big cats, including tigers, lions, leopards and mountain lions. You can visit them several times a day Wednesday through Sunday or go on one of the special tours that takes you behind the scenes. Photography and questions encouraged. The educational campus is dedicated to bringing awareness to environmental conditions and their effects on the Earth’s ecosystems.
Information: Saddlebrooke, Missouri, 417-587-3633, nationaltigersanctuary.org
ELEPHANT ROCKS STATE PARK
The elephant-shaped boulders may not be the stars of a circus, but they’re the standouts of this unusual park. Formed from 1.5 billion-year-old granite, the giant boulders stand end to end like a train of circus elephants. It was once a volcanic area, and the rocks are one of the oldest features in North America. Geologists estimate they began to form 3.1 billion years ago.
Information: Belleview, Missouri, 573-546-3454, mostateparks.com/park/elephant-rocks-state-park
LOESS BLUFFS NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
As many as 300 bald eagles can be found at the peak of migration in early December at the refuge once known as Squaw Creek. It’s a feeding and breeding ground for all types of migratory birds and other wildlife. It includes 7,440 acres of wetlands, grasslands and forests along the eastern edge of the Missouri River floodplain. Overlooking the refuge from the east, the loess bluffs habitat is a geological formation of fine glacier silt. The refuge was officially named one of America’s Top 500 Globally Important Bird Areas by the National Audubon Society in 2001. The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network designated the refuge a Site of Regional Importance in 2007.
Information: Forest City, Missouri, 660-442-3187, fws.gov/refuge/loess_bluffs
WARM SPRINGS RANCH
This is the breeding farm for the famous Clydesdales, located on 300 acres in the heart of Missouri. Operating hours for 2019 have begun and run until Nov. 3. There’s a mare/stallion and foaling barn, a veterinary lab and 10 pastures. Tours are available, ranging from $15 to $500 per person. Clydesdales were first bred in Scotland in the early 19th century. The breed at the ranch originates from the Valley of Clyde. Their horseshoes measure more than 20 inches and weigh about 5 pounds.
Information: Boonville, Missouri, 888-972-5933, warmspringsranch.com