St. Louis, MO: Walkers Island

Birders take note: The shallow depths of Horseshoe Lake and the grain-rich fields of Walkers Island attract an unusually wide range of feathered fliers to this 3.8-mile loop just outside St. Louis.
Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
Birders take note: The shallow depths of Horseshoe Lake and the grain-rich fields of Walkers Island attract an unusually wide range of feathered fliers to this 3.8-mile loop just outside St. Louis.

Listed on the National Audubon Society’s Great River Birding Trail, Horseshoe Lake State Park's 2,400-acre lake, an oxbow formation in the floodplain of the Mississippi, attracts some of the largest and most diverse populations of egrets and herons in the area.

This 3.8-mile counterclockwise loop begins at a small parking area just west of the causeway and circumnavigates Walkers Island. Begin by heading north from the parking area past wildlife cropland and along the wooded shoreline. Expect to see dense groves of silver maple, hackberry, and cottonwoods and great shoreline views as you round the heavily wooded islet before turning south at mile 0.7.

About one-third of the way down the island's western edge, the trail turns away from the shoreline and enters a gated grove of oak and maple while passing the park's 48-site campground. After re-connecting with the shoreline at mile 2.3, the trail turns east. Take the 5-minute side-trip to one of the island's five bird-watching platforms on its southern tip to watch for Snowy Egrets and Little Blue Herons near the shore, especially abundant in July and August.

The final northbound stretch of trail passed beneath maple and cottonwood and though the adjacent south pool of the lake is drained and planted with millet in the late summer (one reason it attracts such large numbers of birds) during wet weather, this section of trail can be muddy and wet enough that you may prefer to walk some stretches of it sans shoes and socks.

-Mapped by Ted Villaire

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 6.1

Waypoints

WKI001

Location: 38.6951778, -90.0737715

This counterclockwise route heads north from the parking area through a grassy field. Watch for swallows wheeling above the cropland on the left (these crops are never harvested, instead they're left as food for wild turkeys, birds, and the 60 deer that live on the island).

WKI002

Location: 38.6987072, -90.0770652

As the trail hugs the wooded shore of Horseshoe Lake, look for wildflowers such as violets, Queen Anne's lace, and morning glories. Also watch for residents of the bluebird boxes alongside the trail and diverse waterfowl (mallards, loons, grebes cormorants and gulls) cruising the half-mile-wide lake.

WKI003

Location: 38.7008759, -90.0823867

As you round the north tip of the island, you'll see huge swaths of cattails growing on the opposite shore of the lake, as well some of the heavy industry common in the surrounding area.

WKI004

Location: 38.6950731, -90.081979

Follow the trail to the left at the 3-way junction just past mile 1. The trail moves east, away from the lake, before turning south in less than 200 yards.

WKI005

Location: 38.6953746, -90.0799191

Turn right at the 3-way junction.

WKI006

Location: 38.6892448, -90.0811315

After passing through the gate, you'll enter a dense grove of oak and maple trees. Scattered patches of wetland flank the trail through this area.

WKI007

Location: 38.6861462, -90.0828481

Pass through another gate. The lake appears through the trees on the right and the park's campground area is on the left.

WKI008

Location: 38.6805015, -90.0824511

Follow the short side trail to the spot overlooking a marshy area, where you're likely to spot great blue herons poised near the shore.

WKI009

Location: 38.6882362, -90.0737915

The final stretch of trail traces the marshy shoreline of Horseshoe Lake underneath a canopy of maple and cottonwood trees. If the weather has been wet, you may want to kick off your shoes to get through the sometimes-flooded trail.

East

Location: 38.6997036, -90.0788569

The northeast corner of Horseshoe Lake extends more than 0.5 mile toward another corner of the park. © Ted Villaire

West

Location: 38.6981295, -90.082773

The wide, grassy trail skirts the lakeshore along its western side before turning inland up ahead. © Ted Villaire

South

Location: 38.6810626, -90.0829983

Shallow, smooth water in the oxbow lake's southern end. © Ted Villaire