VisitMO editor’s note: Jim Low is the Missouri Department of Conservation's print news coordinator and the staff writer for Missouri Conservationist magazine.
Watching – and hearing – wild elk is an awe-inspiring experience you can enjoy right here in Missouri. The Conservation Department worked with local communities, landowners, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other conservationists to relocate more than 100 wild elk from Kentucky to the restoration zone in Reynolds, Carter and Shannon counties in 2011.
For great opportunities to view Missouri’s wild elk in their natural environment, take the self-guided driving tours at Peck Ranch Conservation Area (CA), 12 miles east of Winona, and Current River CA, eight miles southwest of Ellington. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages visitors to view elk along designated internal roads at these conservation areas. The self-guided driving tours have become a popular tourist attraction year-round – especially in October, when bull elks are bugling as part of their mating ritual.
The best times to see elk and other wildlife are right after sunrise and right before sunset. To help visitors find elk, MDC has designated driving-tour routes, shown on online maps of the Conservation Atlas: maps of Peck Ranch CA and Current River CA. Signage at the sites directs you to the driving routes.
The tour routes are open sunrise to sunset daily, unless closed because of inclement weather or a managed deer hunt. The driving tour routes at Peck Ranch are closed for managed hunts select dates, October thru December. For information about elk driving tours at Peck Ranch CA, call 855-263-2355; for information at the at Current River CA, dial 573-663-7130.
Maps and other information are available at the Twin Pines Conservation Education Center, one mile east of Winona on Route 60. Twin Pines is open Tuesdays thru Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
People are encouraged to take photographs from their vehicles, but please do not disturb elk or other wildlife in any way. It’s important for visitors to know, gravel roads on Peck Ranch may not be accessible to vehicles with a low ground clearance and some roads may be impassible at times, because of high water at stream crossings.
The communities of Eminence, Ellington, Winona and Van Buren schedule many fall events and other outdoor activities, as well as great places to stop for a bite to eat, a bit of shopping, an overnight stay and other nature-related adventures. To find these and other activities, keep searching on VisitMO.com.