Early Season Hike at Busiek

By Robert J. Korpella

First posted on 04-03-2009

Click on any of the images accompanying this article to see all the photos from Busiek

I had the opportunity to explore Busiek State Forest, a 2505 acre patch of land about 18 miles south of Springfield, Missouri off Highway 65. It was a warm day in the early part of March, technically still winter but it felt more like a spring morning. Most of the leaves and blooms were quiet this time of year but a few brave blossoms tested the weather.

The are two halves to Busiek, one encompassing the western trail system and the other the eastern trails. I headed east.

The trails begin shortly beyond the parking lot although crossing Woods Fork Creek, a usually shallow stream, was necessary since high water at some point before I arrived apparently twisted the foot bridge from its pylons. The bridge sat several yards downstream and its pylons were pointing downstream. The day I arrived, Woods Creek was less than ankle deep and flowing crystal clear.

The east trail system 10 miles long and is comprised of looping trails rated yellow for difficult and red for easy. The red trail follows along bottom land near the creek and the yellow trail heads uphill along a range of hills. There are also silver trails which signify difficult hiking but those are not present on the side I chose.

I took the yellow trail first, which provides a steep, rocky climb. Horses and mountain bikes are allowed on the trails at Busiek so be aware that they can sometimes show some wear from those activities. Even so, Busiek is generally not packed with visitors and you often have sections of the trails by yourself.

It’s also worth noting that the ground can sometimes have puddles of water and trails can get muddy in spots, perhaps from springs that surface or just the drainage after showers. Either way, care is needed as the mud can get deep after horses have occupied the trails and, of course, wet rocks can get mighty slick.

With the proximity of Highway 65, traffic noise is very noticeable early on in the hike but it fades away pretty quickly once you walk a few hundred yards into the woods and you suddenly become aware of the solitude and peacefulness.

At the top of a long climb up the yellow trail, an interesting site awaits: Carter Cemetery where 35 former residents of the area are interred, some from as far back as the Civil War and the last sometime during the late 1920s. Its a quiet, reverent setting and one wonders how difficult the trek up the mountain must have been that long ago and how far away the nearest community was.

After a fairly easy woodland walk, the trail follows a hillside then across a small glade then back down through more forest on the way back toward Woods Fork. The Missouri Dept. of Conservation website lists 2145 of the 2500 acres of Busiek as forest land. The rest is either savanna or old fields.

All along the yellow trail are very nice views of Ozark mountains, hills and valleys. Wildlife include a large variety of birds, deer, turkey and squirrels. Black bears have also been reported at Busiek in February, 2009.

Eventually, the yellow trail heads downhill in a steep descent over some pretty rocky terrain. The views of the forest, the valley beyond and the creek below make it worthwhile. At the bottom of the hill is Woods Fork Creek still flowing clean and clear. At this point, the creek has formed some gravel shoals, deep pools and undercut banks. Fishing is allowed at Busiek but all I could see were baitfish.

The hiker has a choice now of crossing the creek at some low water point and following another trail, following along the creek until meeting up with the red trail (this can be a difficult and long walk) or climbing back up the hill on the yellow trail and eventually meeting up with the red or going back to the parking area.

Busiek is open all year and provides a clean, fun, free entertainment. There are primitive campsites along the creek near the parking area and even hunting is allowed in season (archery and muzzleloader only).

A shooting range is available on the western half of Busiek but that is closed on Mondays, which makes Monday an excellent day for hiking the 8 mile long western trail system as the noise level will be much less distracting.

To get to Busiek from Springfield, head south on Highway 65 about 18 miles. At about that point, the highway climbs down a long hill. Watch for the sign in the median that announces the left-hand turn onto a service road that leads to the park. For more information and to reserve camping sites, call (417) 895-6880.

We’ve also provided some great links to sites that have more information about Busiek State Forest:

Busiek Brochure (pdf file)

Map of Busiek (pdf file)

Birds at Busiek

Mo Dept of Conservation Atlas