Best Public Park St. Louis 2012 - Weldon Spring Conservation Area
Highway 94 and Highway D
St. Charles, MO 63304
While trekking through the varying topography of the Weldon Spring Conservation Area (off Highway 94 along the north bank of the Missouri River, it's easy to forget that this tract of forests, grasslands and bluffs was once dedicated to destruction: During World War II an army contractor made TNT here. Then in the 1950s and '60s, the Atomic Energy Commission processed uranium ore for nuclear bombs here. The state bought the land in 1978 and the feds cleaned out all the toxic stuff, leaving the department of conservation today with a safe — and breathtaking — 7,390 acres. The hiking and mountain-biking trails offer only one excuse for exploring the hills and ridges, plumed with oak, hickory and sycamore. Feel free to forage mushrooms, berries and greens while you're there. Hunters can bag rabbits, doves, squirrel and raccoons (plus deer and turkey on special managed hunts). The limestone bluffs afford panoramas of the wide Missouri, but if heights aren't your thing, you can pedal along the Katy Trail, which passes below. When Lewis and Clark came through here, there were no picnic tables, restrooms, ball fields or amenities. That holds true today, so you get to enjoy this area as they did — in the raw.