Much as I enjoy hiking my own Ozark hills, Missouri has many lovely places to enjoy. ShawneeMac Lakes Conservation Area is one.
This area once belonged to a family named Ziske. They put up two earthen dams creating two fishing lakes. Old timers still call them Ziske Lakes.
Now the lakes are a Missouri conservation area. Fisherman come to fish from the banks or drift along in boats. Only electric motors are allowed.
I find many plants along the lake shores such as flax, swamp milkweed, common alder and Meadow Beauty. Water shield grows in the upper lake. Ducks and geese come by for a time, then move on.
The lake shores are mowed. Picnic tables and benches are scattered around. A floating gazebo is a popular place for larger groups. ShawneeMac Lakes Conservation Area is only open during the day.
A nature trail goes around the lakes. Tall shortleaf pines shade the trail. It is a yard wide and graveled. It winds along the edge of the both lakes.
Wooden bridges span incoming creeks. Monkey flowers bloom below some. Gayflower blooms near the lake. False Solomon Seal, American holly, Carolina buckthorn and more grow along the trail.
When time or energy is limited, a trail branches off crossing the first dam. It goes back to the second parking area near the gazebo.
The main trail continues on. A branch loop takes off onto higher ground. The trees are mostly hickories and oaks – white, black, post and blackjack.
The loop comes back into the main trail just before it crosses the second dam. The lake side is covered with large rocks. Alder, hop tree, swamp milkweed, bittersweet and bent pod milkweed hide the rocks.
The other side is a long, dirt slope. Asters, grasses, common and butterfly weed milkweeds and sunflowers cover the slope.
The trail climbs a hill to an archery range and back down to the lake shore. This side of the lake shore is thick with multiflora and pasture rose bushes. Passion vine drapes itself over the bushes.
After two and a half miles, the trail climbs up a hill past a field of common milkweed and a second field scattered with rattlesnake master. It comes back to the second parking area.
Hiking the trail at ShawneeMac Lakes Conservation Area is relaxing. The trail is often empty of people leaving the forest fairly quiet even though people live close around the area. Missouri is lucky to have so many wonderful conservation areas.