Missouri Department of Conservation
If you’re looking for a unique, private place to relax, look no further than the Funk Memorial State Forest and Wildlife Area in Iron County.
The 180-acre property, referred to by some as Riverside, is one of four compartments in contiguous counties stretching to the Ozarks and managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).
“The area has changed hands over the years and MDC now manages to ensure the wildlife habitat is preserved,” said MDC Ranger Becky Fletcher. “The primary objective of this area is wildlife management; it is not wood or fishing.”
Green is all you see at Funk Memorial this time of year, and it’s more than bearable. One of the many plants you will find is diptam – commonly known as wild oregano, from the mint family. It smells as fresh as spices from the pantry. But Fletcher kindly advised against picking protected plants for the dinner table.
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Fletcher said diptam is a unique plant that is also found in the surrounding forests. In winter, she said, the plant displays one of its most unusual traits.
“It’s one of the plants that form frost flowers in the winter,” Fletcher said. “The water in its stalks will burst forth and form little bands of ice.”
As you wander through the greenery, you will find numerous glade grasses and plants such as coneflower, brown-eyed susan, apple fern, daisy, aromatic sumac, hog peanut and persimmon. You will also see hickory, oak and cedar trees and their seedlings. Some of the plants you’ll see are more specific to the Ozark region, Fletcher said, but some only exist there today because the area’s dry soil is needed for their growth.
For bird watching, Fletcher says the Funk Memorial State Forest and Wildlife Area is a good place to visit.
“You have the field and the forest, which makes it easier to spot the different species that live in the area,” she said. “And you might see some chipmunks.”
The area also offers seasonal hunting opportunities for deer, turkey, rabbit, squirrel, dove and quail. You’ll also see turkeys, Fletcher said, “because they like the glades, as do the deer and birds that call Riverside home.”
If you enjoy hiking, there are several access roads that lead into the streams and fields, she said, making it perfect for a “fun, easy” trip. But if you don’t have much time to enjoy the great outdoors during the day, Fletcher says it’s also a great place for lunch if you only have a few free minutes.
For more information about Funk Memorial State Forest and the MDC Wildlife Area, download the free MO Outdoors mobile app or visit Places to Go online at https://short.mdc.mo.gov/4SJ.
Directions to Funk Memorial State Forest and MDC Wildlife Area: From Vulcan on Hwy 49, take Route BB west approximately 4 miles, then north on an unnamed gravel road, see map for area location.