Valley View Glades Natural Area is a very unique opportunity for nature photographers. I hiked it one time last winter, so I am somewhat familiar with the area. There are natural streams, a couple small natural waterfalls, and epic views across the glade. It is a moderately-difficult hike, so make sure you are prepared and research the area.
You will need the usual hiking boots, insect repellent, tripod, lots of water, food, and a few different focal lengths. This area is very diverse in terms of photographic opportunities. A person could spend days under the forest canopy working with the streams and bottomland wildflowers or hike to the top of the glade and wait for the magic light. Depending on the weather and light on our day, I will have a good plan for us. I would suggest bringing a variety of gear and we will decide our focus when on site. You will need some type of backpack to hike with your gear and store your food and water. This is going to be a lot of fun!
About the Area:
Valley View Glades are representative of a natural community, dolomite glade, that is distributed in a band 2 to 5 miles wide from around Morse Mill extending southeastward beyond Hillsboro and DeSoto to Festus and north Ste. Genevieve County. Along this band numerous outcrops of the Jefferson City-Cotter dolomite formation occur on south and west slopes creating glades. These shallow-soil communities harbor an amazing amount of plant and animal diversity. However, with urban expansion from St. Louis few intact glade communities such as this remain. Most glades in Jefferson County have been heavily encroached by eastern red cedars in the absence of the historic ecological process of fire or have been converted to other land uses.
Visitors can see over 250 native plant species here including many glade adapted species. From spring to fall there is usually something blooming. Most glade plants have some form of adaptation to deal with drought conditions. Some glade plants such as false garlic and slender sandwort complete their flowering and seed production when the glades are wet in the spring. Other glade plants such as prairie dock and glade coneflower have deep root systems to draw up water during the summer months. Missouri black-eyed Susan leaves are covered with hairs to slow evapotranspiration loss of moisture. The American aloe, a native agave species, stores water in its thick succulent leaves. In the spring look for the blooms of Fremont’s leather flower, a plant species found in Missouri mainly on dolomite glades, primarily in Jefferson and adjacent counties. This species is named after John Charles Fremont, a botanical explorer who organized a number of expeditions across the western U.S. prior to the Civil War.
While enjoying the views from the glades keep your eyes out for the more than 25 native butterflies, including common but showy species as the great spangled fritillary, found here. The glade also provides habitat for prairie warblers, eastern towhees, indigo buntings, and field sparrows. Unfortunately illegal collecting of reptiles has occurred for many years on these glades and subsequently the reptile community has been greatly diminished. Please do not flip rocks or collect any plants or animals from the area. Conservation Department staff has used thinning of cedars and periodic prescribed fires to restore and maintain this glade community.