For those of you who like to hike and watch birds and wildlife, there are some outstanding areas very near the Winery. Missouri has some of the best State Parks and Conservation areas in the country, and several of those are very near the Winery. Kansas, too, has some wonderful opportunities for hiking. After a hike at one of these fine areas, stop by the Winery for some wine and a picnic. Here are some of the areas you may consider for excellent hiking and bird-watching opportunities:
Little Bean Marsh Natural Area -- This area, only two miles north of the Winery off Highway 45, is a 186-acre portion of the 427-acre Little Bean Marsh Conservation Area. It is a natural marsh along the Missouri River with a slough and bottomland forest in the old Missouri floodplain. The area is a wintering site for bald eagles and several kinds of hawks. Waterfowl and other marsh birds visit the area during migration. There are two paved trails for hiking. One trail is 0.5 miles long and leads to a viewing platform overlooking the freshwater marsh. The other trail is 200 yards long and leads to a viewing blind overlooking Cottonwood Slough.
Bluffwoods Conservation Area -- This area is about 15 miles north of the Winery, or nine miles south of St. Joseph off Highway 59 (Highway 45 runs into Highway 59 at the exit to Atchison). The area encompasses almost 2,400 acres of rugged, sometimes very steep loess hill bluff land. It is comprised primarily of a diverse mix of upland oak-hickory forest and woodland, with a small amount of grassland and native prairie. Over 100 woodland species of wildlife can be found in the area. In addition, the area has been designated by Audubon Missouri as an "Important Bird Area", which means it is deemed most crucial for bird populations, due to the abundance of birds and/or the diversity of birds present. The area has seven trails of varying length and difficulty, several of which offer scenic overlooks of the Missouri River floodplain looking west into Kansas.
Benedictine Bottoms Wildlife Area -- This 2,112 acre wildlife area is in the floodplain of the Missouri River just below Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. It is approximately 10 miles from the Winery. It is managed for native grasslands, timber and wetlands. The area has a wide variety of wildlife, and many species of songbirds can be seen in the area throughout the year. Shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl use the wetlands. It is open to the public from April 1 through September 30, so keep it in mind during the spring, summer and early fall.
Weston Bend State Park -- This 1,133 acre park is only ten miles south of the Winery on Highway 45. The park is a mix of old fields, bottomland forests, woodlands and wetlands. At least 179 bird species are found within the park and in the surrounding Missouri River valley. The park has a variety of paved, mowed, and dirt trails, many with beautiful and interesting views of the Missouri River and Kansas and Fort Leavenworth to the west.