Otter Slough Conservation Area

Driving Directions

From Dexter, take Highway 60 west, then Route ZZ south 10 miles, then County Road 675 west 2 miles to the area entrance.

Highlights

This area contains 2,600 acres of wetlands as well as cropland, forest and old fields. Facilities/features: a concrete boat ramp, 21 unimproved boat ramps, primitive camping, picnic areas, three fishing jetties, fishing dock, Otter Lake (250 acres), Cypress Lake (100 acres), Otter Lake Natural Area and Bradyville Natural Area.

About This Area

Otter Slough is in Stoddard County.  When early explorers were making their way across what would be southeastern Missouri, they saw a seemingly endless expanse of bottomland hardwood timber and an interconnecting complex of sloughs and St. Francis River oxbows.

The New Madrid earthquakes of 1811 and 1812 caused Otter Slough, Fish Slough, Lick Creek and the Glades Swamp to combine into the large wetland now visited by thousands of migrating waterfowl. Amos Stoddard, for whom the county was named, described the region in 1812: "Nearly half of the lands... are covered with swamps and ponds, and periodically inundated. These swamps, filled with cypress, are mostly dry in the summer;... Many creeks or bayous take their rise in them, and... it is calculated that there are as many as 1 to every 15 miles."

As the explorers moved on, westward expansion and settlement followed. Agricultural development was inevitable, and wetlands were converted to croplands.

During the 1960s and 1970s, much of the land on and around Otter Slough was cleared, drained and graded for crop farming, resulting in the decline of both resident and migratory wildlife. Of the estimated original 320,000 acres of wetlands that once existed in Stoddard County only 6,884 acres remain today.

Otter Slough is now one of only a few examples of a cypress/tupelo swamp left in Missouri. The cypress swamp, open marsh and flooded timber provide acorns, natural seeds, tubers and invertebrates, all important waterfowl foods. Corn, wheat, sunflowers and other row crops are all used to maintain an open marsh condition and provide high energy food during winter months to sustain waterfowl during their long, migratory journeys. Duck numbers have exceeded 60,000 and as many as 250,000 snow geese have been recorded in the past.

Although the 4,866-acre area is managed primarily for migratory and wintering waterfowl, many wading birds, shorebirds, eagles and wetland mammals make Otter Slough Conservation Area their home.

General Information

Southeast

Stoddard,Butler

573-290-5730

Owned by MDC

  • Area headquarters is frequently not open to the public due to area staff being out in the field.

Activities
Activity
(Activity Explanations)
Comments
(Population Definition)
Bird Watching  Birding highlights include spring and fall songbird and waterbird migration, post-hunting season waterfowl observation, and late summer/early fall shorebird use. Designated an Important Bird Area by Audubon Missouri. Get the Audubon Society of Missouri Conservation Area Bird List.  
Camping - Individual Campsites  Primitive camping is available at 3 areas: St Francis River bridge, Cul-de-Sac, and Pool 14. There is room for 2-4 units at each camping area. There are no amenities. The camping areas are used primarily by hunters during waterfowl season and occasionally by anglers, and are not recommended as camping destinations.  
Fishing - Bass Good population. Season dates are from 1pm on the last day of duck season through October 14th. See regulations posted at the lake for further information.  
Fishing - Catfish Good population. Season dates are from 1pm on the last day of duck season through October 14th. See regulations posted at the lake for further information.  
Fishing - Crappie Good population. Season dates are from 1pm on the last day of duck season through October 14th. See regulations posted at the lake for further information.  
Fishing - Sunfish Good population. Season dates are from 1pm on the last day of duck season through October 14th. See regulations posted at the lake for further information.  
Hiking  The Otter Slough Nature Trail is an excellent hiking and wildlife viewing trail that includes boardwalks through cypress-tupelo swamps. Hiking takes about half an hour. It is open daylight hours year round. Early summer and fall are the best times to view native plant life. Songbird and waterfowl migrations in spring and fall are also good times to visit.  
Hunting-Deer Good population. Deer hunting by managed archery hunts only.  
Hunting-Dove Good population. Non-toxic shot only, hunters required to check-in at Area headquarters before entering the field, Special Regulations apply, contact Area headquarters for information. Season dates are September 1 through October 14.  
Hunting-Rabbit Good population. Non-toxic shot only, hunters required to check-in at Area headquarters before entering the field, Special Regulations apply, contact Area headquarters for information. Hunting is allowed after the area's duck season closes.  
Hunting-Squirrel Fair population. Non-toxic shot only, hunters required to check-in at Area headquarters prior to entering the field, Special Regulations apply, contact Area headquarters for information. Hunting closes at the end of the day on October 14th and reopens after the area duck season closes.  
Hunting-Waterfowl – Morning Draw Good population. This area is in the Middle Zone. Daily drawing during duck season and during goose season as hunter numbers dictate. Area closes at 1:00 p.m., Hunters should contact Area headquarters for other Special Regulations.  
Trapping with Special Use Permit  A Special Use Permit is required 

Go to Top of Page

Conservation Department Facilities
Facility Item Name Count Comments
Boat Ramp - Lake - Concrete Cypress Lake   
Boat Ramp - Lake - Other  21  Access to hunting pools for waterfowl hunters to launch boats. 
Camping Area - Individual Campsites   No amenities provided. 
Dock - FishingaccessibleCypress Lake  Fishing dock is ADA accessible and is equipped with a fish cleaning station. 
Fishing Jetty/Platform   Located at Cypress Lake.  
Hunting Blind - Waterfowlaccessible 13  One blind is disabled accessible.  
Parking Lotaccessible 10  Three parking areas are disabled accessible, one at the Area headquarters, one at Cypress Lake and the other at Beaver Lake viewing platform.   
Privy/Restroomaccessible  Located on Cypress Lake and at Area Headquarters.  
Staffed OfficeaccessibleArea Headquarters  Office is staffed only in mornings during duck season.  
Viewing BlindaccessibleBeaver Lake   
Viewing Deck/Tower Beaver Lake   

Go to Top of Page

Features
Feature Item Name Count Size Comments
Designated Natural Area Bradyville NA 141.00 acres For more information, visit natural areas.  
Designated Natural Area Otter Lake NA 33.00 acres For more information, visit natural areas.  
Fishing Lake or Pond Cypress Lake 93.00 acres Fishing closed from October 15th through the end of duck season.  Fishing is open 1 PM to sunset during September teal season.  
Named Wetland Otter Lake 250.00 acres Remnant slough system now being managed to enhance regeneration of cypress and tupelo trees. This system is drained periodically and contains few sport fish.  
Named Wetland Beaver Lake 6.00 acres Remnant slough system that is drained periodically and contains few sport fish.  
Other Shallow marshes and borrow areas 0.00 count Marsh and borrow areas, locations and number vary annually, impoundment fishing regulations apply. Fishing closed from October 15 through February 1. 
Stream - Permanent Cypress Ditch 2.00 miles Access very difficult and banks are steep.  
Stream - Permanent St. Francis River 3.50 miles Bank fishing at Cul-de-sac and bridge on County Rd. 691; banks are steep. 
Stream - Permanent Ditch 12 5.00 miles Banks are steep. Bank fishing access at bridge on County Rd. 691. 

Go to Top of Page

Land Cover Types
Land Type Acres Comments
Crop Land 750.00  
Wetland 2557.00  
Old Field 250.00  
Lakes/Ponds 93.00  
Forest and Woodland 797.00  
Other 419.00 Roads, parking areas, field roads, levees, ditches, ditch banks, etc.  
Total Area Acres:4859.11 

Go to Top of Page

Designated Trails
Trail Name Trail Type Length
Tupelo Trail (Easy) Hiking (Non-Interpretive) 0.40 

Go to Top of Page

Shooting Range General Information

This area has no shooting ranges.

Go to Top of Page