Visitors Guide to
Morris State Park
At 161 acres, Morris State Park is among Missouri’s smallest state parks.
But the natural features of the park represent a geologic phenomenon known
as Crowley’s Ridge. The ridge, named after Benjamin Crowley, a participant
of the War of 1812 and one of the first settlers of the area, runs for some
150 miles along the Mississippi River floodplain of southeast Missouri into
northern Arkansas. Its wooded hills rise up to 250 feet above the
surrounding fields of cotton, corn, rice and soybeans. Crowley’s Ridge was
built of many thick layers of gravel and sand that were washed in from the
ancient Ozarks when, eons ago, this region a part of the Gulf of Mexico.
After the ocean receded the region was subjected to torrents of water from
ice age glaciers that stripped most of the sediments from the Bootheel
region leaving Crowley’s Ridge. Huge dust storms added as much as another 50
feet of sediment known as loess to the ridge.
The natural landscape of the park is home more than 300 different types of
plant species, some which are native in Missouri only to Crowley’s Ridge.
The uplands contain large white, post and red oaks. The middle to ground
level layers of the forest contains such species as sassafras, red maple,
and dogwood. The lush hollows teem with ferns and shade-tolerant wildflowers
beneath American beech, sweet gum and tulip poplar treesy. Rare species and
some of the plants restricted to the southeastern portion of Missouri
include the red buckeye and Hercules club, both understory trees, as well as
overcup, cherrybark and willow oaks. Several sedges and grasses have been
identified in this park that are not found in any other state park in
Missouri. Most are found in the rare sand forest, acid seeps, and the
remnants of the former Malden Prairie, which are prized features of this
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources wants to preserve the park’s
natural integrity so only minimal development has been undertaken. Beech
Tree Trail, a 2.25 miles loop trail leads hikers from the top of the ridge
down into bottomlands and returns along the ridge top, passing through all
of the different natural communities. The trailhead features an accessible
walkway with interpretive panels that leads to an overlook with bench
seating. A restroom, parking area, and water are also available for visitors
near the trailhead.
The park is named for Jim D. Morris, who donated land he purchased near his
family’s homestead. Morris became the largest independent marketer for
petroleum fuels in Missouri. Morris Oil owns the Village Mart string of
convenience stores in the Springfield and Branson areas. Morris’ parents
were cotton and vegetable farmers in the area and Morris also bought
approximately 40 farms in the area around his old homestead. In 1999 Morris
donated land to the state in 1999 which became the park because “The land
has so much history behind it. And I had no one to guard these old trees. I
didn’t want them to be cut for firewood.”
Birders will find
more than 70 species of
birds at Morris State Park throughout the year.
The Missouri Audubon Society
checklist for birds that can be seen in this area.
Visiting Morris State Park
Dawn to dusk daily
A note about accessibility:
The trailhead features an barrier free walkway that leads to an
overlook, which provides views of the surrounding forest. The rest of
the trail is paved but the terrain has excessive slopes and the path is
not considered accessible.
Directions: Take State Highway J 4 miles west of Malden to State
Highway WW. Take State Highway WW 1 mile south to Morris State Park.
Learn more about the
The official website of Morris State Park.