Shaw Nature Reserve, on the Meramec River and about six miles south of the Missouri River is in the region known as the Ozark Border. This region encompasses some 13 percent of the state of Missouri and divides the rolling prairie lands of northern Missouri, that were formed by glaciers, from the Ozark Plateau, that was formed by uplift and erosion. The Reserve is near the junction of Highway 100 and Interstate 44 in northeastern Franklin County.
Missouri is known for its rich and beautiful collection of natural habitats as well as for its complex and diverse geology. Since Shaw Nature Reserve sits at the juncture of several of these major Midwestern habitats, the diversity of both plant and animal life is great. This natural diversity provides an exceptional outdoor classroom for scholars and students as well as casual observers.
At the Reserve, the replicated prairie evokes images of buffalo and Native Americans as breezes ripple the sea of native grasses and forbs. Each spring, abundant woodlands burst forth with a multitude of native wildflowers while, later in the year, the same woodlands offer lush green shade, oases from the summer sun.
Wetlands, known for their splendid array of species, offer a close-up look at aquatic plant and animal life. Visitors to this special environment include great blue and little green herons, dragonflies and other fascinating creatures. The slopes, which are the watershed of the wetlands, are cloaked in flowery reconstructed prairie.
The many trails offer easy strolls and hikes that bring visitors in close contact with these habitats. One can explore for an hour or a day—the variety of trails offer many choices. Benches along the way provide resting spots for quiet meditation and observation of birds, butterflies and other wildlife as well as the seasonal parade of both flowering and non-flowering plants.
St. Louis is one of very few metropolitan regions that can boast of a 2,441-acre natural asset such as Shaw Nature Reserve so near its city-based parent organization, the world-famous Missouri Botanical Garden. This proximity allows easy access for children and adults alike to not only experience the natural beauty of our region but also to learn sound environmental stewardship through the Reserve’s numerous educational programs.
The Missouri Botanical Garden’s land purchase in 1925 began the legacy of Shaw Nature Reserve. Originally set up as a safe refuge for the plant collection from the smoke pollution of the 1920’s, its role in the community has evolved through the years. Shaw Nature Reserve has many roles—as a nature reserve, a place to walk and hike, and a good spot for relaxing and for studying nature. It has become a premier educational, research and habitat restoration and reconstruction site.
Over the years, tens of thousands of school children and adults have learned more about nature and the environment by observation and through the guidance of Shaw Nature Reserve’s educational and professional staff. Teachers themselves come to improve their teaching of ecological principles as well as to gain a greater appreciation of the natural world. In recognition of its worth as an educational resource, the Reserve was designated a National Environmental Education Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 1972.