November 3, 2007
Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge
text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Melanie Cheney
(Note: The hardwood trees we planted were donated by Living Lands and Waters (www.livinglandsandwaters.org) and Forrest Keeling Nursery. The native bottomland shrubs were purchased at more than 50 percent discount from Missouri Wildflower Nursery. Refuge staff selected the site and species and mowed the area. Friends of Big Muddy and Missouri River Relief coordinated the event. 37 volunteers from Kansas City, Orrick, Columbia, Rocheport, Lupus & Boonville planted the trees)
We drove down the steep hill from the cabin, crossed the railroad tracks, and drove across the bottoms. A light frost, soon to melt, blanketed the grass and the table we had set up the day before.
Just as the gloves, t-shirts and coffee were laid out, the first volunteers started to arrive. The immediate task at hand was wrapping the trunks. 150 trees were wrapped by a growing army. Another group grabbed shovels and headed down into the lower terrace with refuge Asst. Manager Barbara Moran to plant shrubs: elderberry, rough-leaved dogwood, false indigo & buttonbush.
A trailer was loaded with wrapped trees and pulled through the planting, with a couple folks unloading five trees at a time into small clumps. The trees got laid out in a grid (for easy mowing…not natural aesthetics…) and pretty people split into pairs and were planting away.
Looking across the planting field, scattered with young oaks and backs bent putting them in the ground, the background was a dark line running five feet high throughout the woods edging the bottom. The line marks the height of this spring's flood, serving as a reminder that any messing around we do in these bottoms is subject to the whims of the river herself.
The morning was perfect down in the valley. The sugar maples along the bluffs were at peak color, brightening as the morning went on. It was quick work, and soon we realized…we’re done.
37 folks took part, including some very small children who did everything from gathering empty pots and flags to patting down the soil around the young trees.
The effort was symbolic. Another new tract of land had just been added to the Big Muddy Refuge, and here was a bunch of river loving folks showing up early on a Saturday morning to help shape it. As the last pots and flags were gathered up, most of the folks went with refuge Asst. Manager Barbara Moran and Troy Gordon of Friends of Big Muddy for a walk down to the river, passing through the thick, new cottonwood forest, patches of older forest and past several scour hole ponds created in the 93 flood and continuing to harbor waterfowl throughout the winter season.
We met back at the beautiful blufftop cabin for lunch and a presentation on the refuge. Everyone still had energy and time to enjoy the beautiful fall day.Click here to check out the great Columbia Tribune article on the day!