Visitors to Stoddard County have an opportunity to see the Bootheel region as it once was. Early visitors marveled at the vast swampland and the variety of wildlife. Some spoke of the fields full of game, wild cattle, deer, turkeys, partridge, parrots, quail, woodcocks, wild pigeons and ring doves.
A visit to Mingo National Wildlife Refuge is reminiscent of those early visitors. The Refuge, located off Highway 51, north of Puxico, was formed over 18,000 years ago. The 21,676-acre refuge preserves a remnant of the vast swampland that once covered most of the Bootheel and is home to various waterfowl and other migratory birds. It is the only large tract of bottomland forest left in the Bootheel of Missouri. A visitor’s center is open year round. Hiking, canoeing, fishing and nature study is allowed during daylight hours from March 15 through September 30. Limited picnic facilities are also available. From October through March, visitors should stop by the headquarters before venturing into the refuge.
Mingo is also home to the Mingo Job Corps Center. This is a voluntary program for young men and women, ages 16-25, who have had limited opportunities for success in school or work. See schools for more information.
Excellent hunting and fishing can be found at the Duck Creek Wildlife Management Area, located north of Puxico on Highway 51. The 6,190-acre area offers waterfowl hunting and some of the best bluegill and bass fishing in the state.
Southwest of Dexter on Highway ZZ is where you’ll find the Otter Slough Conservation Area. Made up of 4,866 acres, the area is managed primarily for species associated with wetlands such as migratory waterfowl, mink, otter, herons, egrets and many kinds of shore birds. Open marsh areas provide natural seeds, tubers and invertebrates, all important waterfowl foods.
In Bloomfield, you’ll want to visit the City Park, home of two log cabins built in 1833 by Morton Barnett in what was the swampland near Clines Island. These rare and well-preserved survivors of pioneer days were moved to the park for public display. Built of hand-hewn poplar logs, one stands two stories high with a dog run through the center. The second log cabin is a one-story structure. The Holly Ridge Conservation Area west of Bloomfield makes for a nice scenic drive.
Bloomfield is the birthplace of the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes. The Stars and Stripes Museum is headquartered here just off Highway 25. The Stoddard County Courthouse, listed on the National Historic Register, is located in Bloomfield. Visitors can tour the building, veiw the war memorial on the lawn, and see the historical marker of the first county court.
Dexter, the largest city in Stoddard County, has several parks and a 12-acre fishing lake. The Heritage House, located on a site adjacent to the lake, is one of the oldest houses in Dexter. This 1876 house is now a living museum with period furnishings. Also available for tours is The Heritage Museum and The Heritage Caboose. The Museum holds the history of Dexter in photos and artifacts, and also houses a genealogy research room. Seasonally, visitors can enjoy the beautiful Christmas decorations at the Hickory Log Restaurant. .
In Puxico, visitors can see the only log cabin library still in use in the continental states. Built in the 1930s by the WPA, the building is on the State Historical Register and will soon be on the National Register. The Old Depot is a must-see for railroad enthusiasts as well as the caboose housed there. Friends and family gather each August for Puxico’s annual Homecoming, which celebrated its 50th year in 1996. Good food is abundant at this annual event! About 10 miles east of Puxico is the Crowley’s Ridge Wildlife Area where you can enjoy pretty scenery.
In Bernie, Bloomfield and Dexter, murals have been painted on the sides of various buildings, depicting the history of the area. For additional information on a visit to Stoddard County, contact the Dexter Chamber of Commerce at 1-800- 332-8857, or contact the IDASC. Ross Cotton Gin is available for tours during the season. See an actual cotton gin in operation from boll to bale. Located on KK, 2 miles to Frisco.