This conservation area is in Adair County, four miles southwest of Kirksville. The Conservation Department acquired the original 72 acres of this area as a forest lookout tower site, but the tower was never built. Known then as “Kirksville Woods,” this small area was combined with a 2,536 acre tract, purchased in 1974, to create Sugar Creek Conservation Area.
This area is primarily forested, with a few open fields on ridges and along Sugar Creek. Both Sugar Creek and Elm Creek run through the area. Around 1900, thousands of acres of the region’s forest, including this area, were cleared to meet the great demand for mine props and timbers for the coal mining industry in northeast Missouri. Subsequent tree sprouting here was once contained by grazing goats, and part of the area was known as the “goat ranch.”
Most of the area was then allowed to revert back to trees, which accounts for the large continuous stand of similar aged trees. Wildlife management practices include crop fields to serve as food sources for animals and harvesting timber, which provides wildlife forage and cover. White-tail deer and the eastern wild turkey are abundant on the area, as are numerous songbirds and a variety of mammals. Ruffed grouse, native to Missouri, have been reintroduced on the area and a huntable population of these birds can be found here.