Explore one of Kansas City’s best conservation places near Swope Park. Take a hike this weekend.

Photo by P. Whalen

“Rocky Point” Woodland /Limestone Glade in Swope Park

Nestled between Lake of the Woods to the north and Oldham Road to the south is an area of Swope Park known as “Rocky Point.”  Utilized as a summer day camp for kids for generations, buildings dating back to CCC days are still present.  Today however, the area has become a focal point for outdoor recreation featuring an extensive network of trails which accommodate mountain bikers and hikers.  Swope Park’s new “Go Ape” zip line course is also here and in fall– though largely unseen by most–archery hunters pursue deer during a managed hunt season.

Since 1999, Rocky Point has been the subject of transformative natural community restoration, mainly through the work of Kansas City WildLands.  Woody vegetation has been cleared, invasive exotic plants like shrub honeysuckle and garlic mustard have been targeted for eradication and most important—the essential natural process of fire has been restored.

The result is the only example of a fire-maintained woodland community in the metro area.  Woodlands are semi-open communities with partially open canopies which allow sunlight to reach the ground and foster a prairie-like herbaceous flora.  Woodlands exist on a continuum of canopy closure ranging from savanna (very little canopy) to true forests (closed canopy).  Adding to the diversity, small pockets of limestone glade are also present atop the ruggedly beautiful Bethany Falls limestone outcrops.

A primitive foot path follows along the top of the outcrops and gives the best view of the sun-loving native flora.  The show begins in spring when a diverse flora including wild hyacinth, rose verbena, golden ragwort, glade onion, spiderwort and others begin blooming.  Old gnarly post and chinkapin oaks spread their limbs wide over the native grasses and wildflowers where dense woody thickets and shrub honeysuckle once suffocated this flora prior to 2000.

Visit and enjoy this biological treasure in the heart of urban Kansas City! Go to www.swopetrails.com to locate the area and view the trail system.

by Larry Rizzo, Natural History Biologist, Missouri Department of Conservation