Missouri is home to several state-operated parks, but none are as close as Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Area. Located only 24 miles from the Missouri State University campus, the area offers activities for all outdoorsy types.
The area is located midway between Branson and Springfield, and covers 2,700 acres throughout Christian County. The area has 18 miles of trails for use by hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders. There are also campsites and an unattended shooting range located in Busiek West.
The longest hiking trail at 5.7 miles is the Orange Trail, located in Busiek West near the shooting range.
To camp at Busiek, visitors must fill out a permit from the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Regional office, located at 2630 N. Mayfair Ave. in Springfield. The permit is free and lasts until the end of the camping trip.
The Foster Recreation Center usually offers a trip once a year to Busiek, though this year it has been replaced with a trip to Ha Ha Tonka State Park.
Allison Schoonbeck, sophomore English education major, said she enjoys Busiek because of the proximity. Schoonbeck said she was “in-between” a novice and avid hiker, the longest hike she had taken being eight miles.
“It’s a good getaway that’s not too far from campus,” Schoonbeck said. “You feel like you’re further out in the country than you really are, but the views are nice and it’s a good workout. It’s the go-to for hiking trails in the area.”
Schoonbeck said the East trail is quieter, as it is further from the gun range.
Matthew McKay, associate professor of geology, said his department normally takes two trips to Busiek per year. These have been challenged by COVID-19, and McKay said he has only been on one trip to the area this year.
McKay said the main reason the Geography, Geology and Planning Department takes trips to Busiek is to teach students about navigation.
“We teach students how to navigate and use the topography and read the land surface,” McKay said. “We do a little bit of looking at the bedrock geology, but it’s a combination of learning to read the topography and interpret and even draw and survey (students) own maps.”
McKay agreed Busiek’s closeness to MSU helps make it the main spot for his department to visit, especially since it is free to access.
For further questions, the MDC Southwest Regional office can be contacted at 417-895-6880. A full map of the area can be found on the MDC website.
Follow Tinsley Merriman on Twitter, @merrimantinsley
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