Eighteen thousand years ago, the Mississippi River flowed through this area on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Because of natural events, the river shifted east forming a biologically rich swampland comprised of bottomland hardwoods intermixed with cypress and tupelo. The former channel basin attracted Native Americans who utilized the bountiful natural resources. By the late 1800’s, settlers and loggers started draining the swamp while removing large tracts of old-growth forest. In 1944, Congress authorized the purchase of the remnant forest lands to create the Mingo National Wildlife Refuge. Today, Mingo Wilderness is a large portion of this refuge. A series of ditches and levees adjacent to the Wilderness help approximate hydrologic conditions that once occurred naturally. A large diversity of flora and fauna exists, such as river otter, bowfin, hairy-lip fern, bald eagles, swamp rabbits, wood ducks, and monarch butterflies. The Wilderness provides critical food and shelter for bald eagles and migratory waterfowl along the Mississippi Flyway. Giant cypress dominates the Wilderness swamp offering nesting platforms for eagles and other birds. Otters and beaver, turkey and amphibians are frequent sightings for visitors. Predator-proof nesting boxes, used commonly by the evasive wood ducks, dot the refuge.
The western one-third of the refuge offers a Wilderness setting with diverse habitat and abundant wildlife, an area highlighted with gentle rolling hills of the Ozark Plateau nestled beside Monopoly Marsh with intersecting streams and rich swamplands. Meandering underneath a canvas of cypress and mixed hardwoods, the Stanley Creek and Mingo River flows gently out of the Mingo Wilderness into the remainder of the Refuge--offering many miles of ditches for easy canoe access.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Mingo Wilderness.
Mingo Wilderness nestles between the gentle rolling hills of the Ozark Plateau and the boothill region of southeast Missouri. Located one mile north of Puxico, Missouri off Highway 51, the Refuge Visitor Center is a good place to find information on the wilderness, visitor rules, wildlife viewing opportunities, and other information.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
(No official title, designates Fish and Wildlife Service wildernesses) - Public law 94-557 (10/19/1976) To designate certain lands as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System and to provide designation for certain lands as Wilderness Study Areas
Visitors should contact the Refuge Visitor Center for the latest information on seasonal regulations, fees, etc. Camping is not permitted. Peak visitation to the wilderness occurs in the spring and fall.
The Mingo Basin is a canoeist paradise. Fishing, flat-water kayaking, wildlife observation, and photography are common visitor activities on the wilderness area.
Portions of the Mingo Wilderness Area are also open to hunting for species such as deer, turkey, and squirrels. Each year the refuge hosts a Muzzle-loader Deer Hunt that primarily takes place in the 7,730-acre Wilderness Area. Contact the Refuge Visitor Center for more information on recreational activities within the Mingo Wilderness Area.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
When exploring the Mingo Wilderness remember to dress for the weather and always bring a compass or hand-held GPS to help navigate through the bottomland hardwood forest habitat.
Safety and Current Conditions
Contact the Refuge Visitor Center for current conditions or visit the refuge website located at http://www.fws.gov/refuge/mingo/
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.