The Shaw Nature Reserve (SNR) encompasses 2,400 acres of natural Ozark landscape, breathtaking Meramec River frontage, and an extraordinary diversity of native plant and animal habitats. The Missouri Botanical Garden founded the Shaw Nature Reserve, formerly known as Shaw Arboretum, in 1925 when coal smoke in St. Louis threatened the living plant collections at the Garden. The orchid collection was moved to the Reserve in 1926, but pollution in the city abated before it was necessary to move the entire plant collection.
The Reserve became a focus for native habitat management and restoration in the 1980s. As a result, the Reserve is able to offer 14 miles of hiking trails through an array of Ozark border landscapes, including forest, glades, tallgrass prairie, oak-hickory woodlands, savannas and wetlands. David Orthwein, who serves on the advisory board, explains his passion for Shaw, “What started out as day visits to the Reserve in my youth has evolved into an appreciation for these unique habitats. I even created my own prairie fifteen years ago and now have a beautiful landscape of coreopsis, Indian paintbrush, black-eyed Susan and Echinacea and species that are only found in well-established, mature prairies such as the shooting star. The Reserve’s prairie restoration is probably the best I’ve seen – it’s very inspiring.”
SNR provides visitors a uniquely varied experience of Missouri’s rich biological heritage. The Whitmire Wildflower Garden is a five-acre demonstration garden with paths that meander beneath massive oaks, over water and through beautiful displays of native wildflowers. A home gardening demonstration area provides information and examples of the Midwest’s hardiest and most attractive native wildflowers, shrubs and trees. Several historic buildings are also found at the Reserve including The Bascom House, an elegant brick home built in 1879 by former Confederate Col. Thomas W.B. Crews, The Maritz Trail House, a rustic stone and log picnic pavilion, serving as a meeting point for many of the Reserve’s hiking trails and The Dana Brown Overnight Center a complex of historic buildings from the 1850s, carefully taken down at their original locations and reconstructed at the Reserve.
The Shaw Nature Reserve is located on Interstate 44 in Gray Summit, Mo., 22 miles west of the I-44/I-270 interchange at exit #253 (two exits west of Allenton/Eureka). The Nature Reserve is open everyday.