Chilton Creek Research and Demonstration Area

Open to the Public


Things To Do

Hiking, bird watching, wildflower viewing, exploring.  The Current River offers opportunities for fishing, canoeing, and swimming. View All

Plan Your Visit

Tips and guidelines for visiting this preserve. View All

Get Directions

The Chilton Creek Research and Demonstration Area is the largest Conservancy owned property in Missouri at more than 5,500 acres. This site serves as an outdoor classroom to area school children as well as a safe habitat for a variety of plant and animal species.

Why You Should Visit 

Chilton Creek offers visitors an array of natural wonders to explore: woodlands, glades, springs, creeks and fens. Floristically, it is one of the most biologically rich landscapes in Missouri, harboring more than 700 species of flowering plants. Limited hunting and camping are permitted; contact the St. Louis office for additional information at (314) 968-1105 or email missouri@tnc.org.


Along the Current River in Shannon and Carter Counties, north of Van Buren. Trail and Campground map available here.




5,627 acres


The preserve is characterized by rugged, steeply dissected valleys and hollows, and covered by a large expanse of relatively continuous woodland with small glades and fens. Spring and summer are prime viewing times. A high clearance two-wheel drive or a four-wheel drive vehicle is necessary to access the preserve.
High water from heavy rains can make the preserve inaccessible.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site  

Chilton Creek is a large landscape with diverse native habitats and community types that are representative of the rugged hills along the scenic Current River.  A rich array of native plants and animals can be found here, including dozens of breeding neotropical migratory birds and half of the known snail species in Missouri.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

Working in partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation, The Conservancy has established Chilton Creek as a sort of "outdoor laboratory" for testing land management techniques, such as large-scale woodland fire.  Our goal is to understand the relationship between biodiversity management and timber and wildlife interests, and to export this knowledge to like-minded partners in the Ozarks.


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Half of the known snail species in Missouri can be found at Chilton Creek Preserve.

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Chilton Creek Preserve harbors more than 700 species of native flowering plants.

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Chilton Creek Preserve features springs, creeks, glades, fens and woodlands.

What to See: Plants

A diversity of specialized habitats such as fens, dolomite glades, cliffs, springs, spring-fed creeks and hardwood forest can be found along the Current River.

What to See: Animals

Migratory birds including worm-eating warblers, ovenbirds, Acadian flycatchers, yellow-throated warblers, summer tanagers and others.

Prior to your visit, please call The Nature Conservancy's Lower Ozarks Project Office at (573) 323-8790).  Check the local weather forecast and dress accordingly.  Long pants and sleeves, hiking boots, drinking water, hat and compass are recommended.  During warm weather, light color and light-weight clothing is suggested.  Repellent, binoculars, and field guide(s) are also worth bringing.

Preserve Visitation Guidelines


From the North end of State highway M in Carter County near Van Buren, 
travel highway M until pavement ends and turns to gravel county road. The
county road is very rough but 2WD accessible, travel approximately one mile.
On your left, a dirt logging road leads onto the property after climbing up a hill
If in a 2WD vehicle, continue on the county gravel road another 1/4 mile. On your
left will be the Chilton Cemetery and another small gravel road that lead North into
the mouth of Chilton Creek watershed. Park at a convenient spot; access is by
foot up the creek drainage.

Attention visitors with 4WD vehicles: Please stay on the main ridge roads when
enjoying the property. While many old logging/hunting roads do go onto side ridges
and into hollows, the erosion caused by them has resulted in considerable resource
damage and they are closed to vehicles. In addition, many of the roads located on
the USGS topographic map, Van Buren North 7.5' Quad, are either not correctly
located, or are no longer open.



Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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