4200 New Haven Drive
Columbia, MO 65201
The Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge is growing. Established in 1994, the refuge has grown to 10,400 acres. Like pearls on a string, these acres are spread out as individual units along the Missouri River between Kansas City and St. Louis. These pearls of habitat benefit floodplain-dependent fish and wildlife species. The Big Muddy Refuge is planning to grow to 60,000 acres by buying land from willing sellers who want to see their properties set aside for the benefit of wildlife and the enjoyment of all.
The pre-development Missouri River as documented by Lewis and Clark was considerably different from today's river. The historic Missouri was a broad, slow-moving, shallow river with braided channels. To put it in perspective, Lewis and Clark didn't float up the Missouri River, they pulled and poled their boats up. These past river conditions created a haven for wildlife, which included vast floodplain forests of giant trees, marshes, and even wet prairies. Today's river is channelized. It is deeper and faster, and controlled by levees, dikes, and other containment structures. These controls make the river more navigable and the surrounding floodplain ideal for agriculture.
The Big Muddy Refuge is allowing the Missouri River to be a river again. In locations where we have acquired enough land and are not affecting preferred conditions of adjacent private lands, we are allowing the river to enter its floodplain. This occurs during minor flood events. We have created side channels, cut down levees, and allowed the floodplain vegetation to return. Currently, in many places the refuge is an impenetrable thicket of young trees and vegetation, but, as the trees grow and the refuge matures, its appearance will change. The process may take decades or even centuries, but we are committed to the future benefit of fish and wildlife resources in the Missouri River floodplain.
Map + Directions
Office Headquarters To reach the refuge headquarters in Southeast Columbia, Missouri, take the AC exit off Highway 63; turn east onto New Haven Road. Travel one mile to USGS Environmental and Contaminants Research Center. The refuge office is located down the third driveway on the right off New Haven Rd. Overton Bottoms North Unit Take exit 111 off Interstate 70 east of Boonville and west of Columbia, Missouri. Turn north onto Highway 98, and drive two miles to the unit boundary. There are four miles of gravel roads in the unit. Jameson Island Unit Take Highway 41 (exit 98) off Interstate 70. Travel 13 miles on Highway 41 to Arrow Rock, Missouri. Take Main Street through town, and turn left on 2nd Street, which runs along the side of the Lyceum Theater. Drive 0.25 mile to the refuge unit. Limited parking and no turn around for trailers. Lisbon Bottoms Unit Take Highway 87 (exit 106) off Interstate 70 in Boonville, Missouri. Follow 87 through downtown Boonville, and cross th