Located down Route F off Highway 54, Mule Shoe was acquired as an effort to protect the aquatic habitat of the state-endangered and federally-threatened Niangua Darter. Mule Shoe offers exploration for nature and adventure lovers alike with its 2,700-acre span.

The beautiful scenery and careful preservation of nature at the Mule Shoe Conservation Area is a sight that you won’t want to miss during your time in Hickory County.

Located down Route F off Highway 54, Mule Shoe was acquired as an effort to protect the aquatic habitat of the state-endangered and federally-threatened Niangua Darter. Mule Shoe offers exploration for nature and adventure lovers alike with its 2,700-acre span.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) describes the area as “mostly primitive forest” containing “forestland, bottomland fields, steep limestone bluffs, natural communities including dry and dry-mesic chert forest, dolomite glades, a remnant dolomite savanna, and pasture fields” — a description that is completely accurate!

Mule Shoe is the perfect place for visitors who want to get “off the grid” for a while and see more of what Missouri’s natural beauty entails. The area offers a primitive campsite with space for ten or so groups of visitors – visitors can set up their tents near one of burn rings.

The MDC’s website informs visitors that no amenities are included in their trip to Mule Shoe (save for the small family restroom located at the far end of the campsite, so visitors should bring all necessary supplies. Activities to prepare for include hiking and biking, wildlife viewing, hunting and trapping, fishing, and canoeing/floating. 

Hiking and Wildlife Viewing

Because the area is nearly all primitive, untouched land, there are several opportunities for hiking and bicycling while viewing wildlife. Various trail heads are located near the campsite and throughout the area, and visitors can look for wildlife like deer, turkey, rabbit, dove, quail, and various other birds (the conservation area’s bird list can be accessed from the MDC’s Mule Shoe website.

Hunting and Trapping

Mule Shoe allows hunting and trapping under Missouri’s statewide regulations – deer and turkey regulations are subject to annual changes, though, so the MDC advises referring to the Spring Turkey or Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting pamphlets for current regulations. The area boasts “good availability” of deer, squirrel, and turkey, and “fair availability” of dove, quail, and rabbit.

Furbearer trapping is permitted by special-use permit only. Regulations apply to tree stands, also: portable tree stands may be used between September 1st and January 31st but must be identified with the name and address or conservation number of the user and may not have screw-in steps or other materials that would damage the trees.

Fishing and Boating

Mule Shoe also allows fishing and canoeing/floating in the designated areas. Visitors can pole-and-line fish for bass, suckers, sunfish, and various other fish in the area’s fishing lakes, fishing ponds, and permanent streams from the Little Niangua River and from Starks Creek.

Visitors can also canoe in the Little Niangua, and all other boating is limited to use for fishing and wildlife activities. Visit MDC’s Mule Shoe Conservation Area website for more information about Missouri’s fishing regulations.

Other area regulations apply – visit https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places/mule-shoe-ca for a full list of regulations and to begin planning your trip to the Mule Shoe Conservation Area!