Native Missourians and visitors alike have Helen Coffer Hawn to thank for the current sprawling state park. This schoolteacher grew up in Sainte Genevieve County and sought to share the natural treasures around her with the public. Using her own income, she purchased bits and pieces of land; she amassed a considerable amount (almost 1,500 acres!) which she bequeathed to the state upon her death in 1952 (“Women’s History in State Parks”). While today’s Hawn State Park totals nearly 5,000 acres, Helen Coffer Hawn and her land donation spurred the movement to conserve the land.
The first of Hawn’s alluring natural areas is Pickle Creek, which is renowned for its unique geological circumstance. First and foremost, Pickle Creek is one of the lesser-seen Missourian locations which features exposed igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rock. As we’ve discussed in class, this is fairly unusual, given the general lack of metamorphic rock in Missouri (due to glacial deposits originating from the north) (Gillman, 6). These rocks, though close in physical proximity, span over 1.5 billion years (“Pickle Creek”)! Along with its geologic background, Pickle Creek also boasts an impressive collection of fish. With “at least 20 native species” of fish (“Pickle Creek”), we see obvious diversity; in fact, Pickle Creek is a point where prairie fish and Ozark fish start to mix together. We see species like the Ozark Minnow (native to the Ozark region) along with Red and Sand Shiners (primarily native to the prairie region) (“Pickle Creek”). It’s a point of diffusion that syncretizes Ozark and prairie regions.
The second of Hawn State Park’s natural areas, the LaMotte Sandstone Barrens consist primarily of exposed sandstone and generally boast a drier, more dehydrated climate than the rest of Hawn State Park (“LaMotte Sandstone Barrens”). As a result, the vegetation present in the area is more inclined towards water conservancy than other native Missourian plants. The vegetation of the LaMotte Sandstone Barrens likewise goes to show that just because succulents are efficient with water regulation doesn’t mean they can’t be visually stunning. The Rock Pink (also known as the Fame Flower, or “phemeranthus calycinus”) in particular sports vivid, pink petals with intense chromatic depth. It grows best in mildly acidic soil and thus appears frequently in rocky glades and sandstone, hence why we see it in the LaMotte Sandstone Barrens (Hilty, 2015). Other vegetation present includes mosses and lichens which grow on the rocky surfaces exposed.
The third and final of Hawn State Park’s natural areas is Botkin’s Pine Woods. Botkin’s is for the appreciator of all things arboreal, soilly acidic, and berry-related. Once there, one can find shortleaf pines that stretch up to nearly 80 to 90 feet tall (“Botkins Pine Woods”). There’s likewise a noticeable collection of berries present, including farkleberry, deerberry, and blueberry. Interestingly, these shrubs all stem from the bluberry family (“Botkin’s Pine Woods”). The final thing to savor in Botkin’s Pine Woods is the bird presence. Seasoned birders will cherish the sights and sounds associated with red-breasted nuthatches and elusive pine warblers (“Botkin’s Pine Woods”). Although this is the third and final of Hawn’s designated natural areas, there’s still a considerable amount of splendor to be found elsewhere in the park.
Local flora includes the pine, oak, and flowering dogwood – perhaps Hawn’s most common trees. On the fauna side, wildlife one can expect to see include turkey, squirrels, deer, raccoons, skinks, and even bobcats (“Hawn State Park”). All this said, it should be safe to conclude that Hawn is a gem of the Show-Me-State. Ever since its origins with Helen Coffer Hawn, the park has undoubtedly welcomed those who seek its solace with open arms.