Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery Trail
Posted on March 14th, 2011
Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery lies in the historic and biologically rich White River Valley in the shadow of the Tablerock Lake Damn. Hiking Trails on the hatchery grounds lead visitors through a variety of natural settings, from the shoreline of Lake Taneycomo to the high rocky bluffs overlooking the famed White River.
A wide diversity of plant life can be found near the hatchery. Along the stream bank, bottomland species like sycamore, burr oak, paw paw and spicebush thrive, as do wildflowers such as bluebells, cardinal flowers and violets. The forested area adjacent to the visitor center is mainly oak and hickory trees, with scattered stands of short-leafed pine and red cedar. Springtime offers a colorful display of flowering trees such as wild plum, serviceberry, redbud and dogwood.
The rocky bluffs overlooking Lake Taneycomo support glade species like the rare Ashe juniper, found only in the Ozarks and one other area of the United States, and the smoke tree. Native prairie grasses and broad-leaved plants like coreopsis, black-eyed susan, ox-eye daisy, Missouri primrose and prickly pear cactus cover the glades.
The hatchery area is also home to a variety of wildlife including deer, turkey, squirrel, raccoon, fox, mink, muskrat and beaver. On the glades, you might even catch a glimpse of the collared lizard or “Mountain Boomer”.
To help protect these wildlife species, habitat improvement projects are ongoing at the hatchery. Wildlife food plots and shelter-producing trees and shrubs have been planted. Brush piles have been established for smaller animals and reptiles. An unused rearing lake is managed to attract waterfowl, and numerous nest boxes have been installed.
Missouri’s state bird, the bluebird, is often seen around the hatchery, as are fish predators like the great blue heron, green heron and belted kingfisher. Winter bird visitors include gulls, osprey and eagles. Turkey vultures and beck vultures have a winter roost near the boat launch. Red-shouldered hawks, pileated woodpeckers and numerous songbirds call this area their home.