Sam A. Baker State Park is beautiful location where the St. Francois River and Big Creek converge to outline a forested area filled with beautiful trails. The park was created in 1926 by Missouri Governor Samuel A. Baker. The park showcases the unique St. Francois Mountains, which are characterized by their conical shape. During the Precambrian times volcanoes created the igneous rock that is the geological foundation of the park. Mudlick Dellenite, which is exposed at Sam A. Baker State Park, is some of the oldest exposed rock in North America. Along the trail bobcats (Lynx rufus), raccoons (Procyon lotor), armadillos (Cingulata), shrews (Soricidae), and a variety of other plants and animals can be seen. Down by the waters of the St. Francois River, visitors often fish for sunfish (Mola mola), crappie (Pomoxis), and smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) (“Sam A. Baker”).

Our hike through Sam A. Baker State Park was along a flat, well-maintained trail that grew steeper as we arrived at the first of three hiking shelters located in the northeast of the park. From the shelters, the trail leads down an extremely steep slope that leads to Mudlick Creek. Big Creek can also be reached from this trail through some off-trail hiking after reaching Mudlick Creek. The three shelters have three walls with one section open to the elements and overlooking a beautiful view of a river. When we were there it snowed overnight and some ice pellets were blown into the shelter, but luckily not enough to make our night uncomfortable.

We saw an armadillo and a dead shrew near the trail through the park, and close to the waters of Mudlick Creek we also encountered a small bamboo forest. The armadillo was rustling through the leaves next to the trail, presumably looking for something to eat. When it saw our hiking group it ran away, but did not run far until it stopped and resumed its search for food. Upon pursuit it again ran away, but once again did not move far, almost as if feared humans but not much.

During the course of our hike, our group slowly spread out and while most of the group had their eyes up, mine were looking at some of the really unique rock formations when I saw a dead mouse-looking animal, right in the middle of the path. I stopped and carefully using gloves, lifted the specimen to take a better look. Upon closer examination, the animal had the characteristics of a shrew, (Soricidae), which are commonly mistaken for a long-nosed mouse but can be distinguished from them by their sharp and spiky teeth, in contrast to the gnawing teeth common to mice.

Entry by Neil Stein

Near the edge of Mudlick Creek lies a small collection of bamboo. The bamboo growing by the side of the river is an example of an invasive species and the impact they can have on the environment. The whole mini bamboo forest likely all came from one plant that came to the area accidentally. From just one plant, a whole area of the bank was covered in bamboo. The other plants in that area were not able to compete with the bamboo, so that area was only covered with bamboo.

Entry by Sam Schell

Part of the reason we went to Sam A. Baker was to test the water quality. Sam A. Baker is in a region south of Missouri’s big mining district, the Viburnum Trend. We came up with a proposal to test water quality at two different points on Big Creek – one downstream from where Big Creek meets Crane Pond Creek, and one upstream of that. We wanted to determine if a) there was any pollution in the waters, in particular pollution related to mining (ie toxicity), and b) if one creek was more polluted than another.

Water-testing results

Site 1:                                                                          Site 2:

Nitrate: <1 ppm                                                       Nitrate: << 5 ppm

Phosphorous: 2 ppm                                                   Phosphorous: << 1 ppm

Dissolved Oxygen: ~3 ppm                                         Dissolved Oxygen: ~ 4 ppm

pH: ~8                                                                          pH: ~8.5

Temperature: 8°C                                                       Temperature: 2°C

Entry by Annie Gocke

We (the class of 2018) enjoyed a Valentine’s Day sojourn into Sam A. Baker state park. Following a hike up to the shelter, we spent time collecting data on tree growth patterns, specifically focusing on cedars. However, we discovered cedars did not grow at the particular elevation and type of hill we were on, which is known as Mudlick Mountain. We elected instead to focus on the dispersal of trees of all types on slopes of varying gradient, coparing tree size and density for two congruent plots. Our findings and observations regarding the trees of Mudlick Mountain can be found  here.

Entry by Halley Cummings

We spent the night at Sam A. Baker State Park in one of the open shelters, however that night, the temperatures dropped to single digits (Good thing we had 0 degree sleeping bags). Even though it was very cold, when we woke up, we were treated with this beautiful sunrise. In addition, while we were surveying for evergreens, we spotted an American Bald Eagle flying across the valley. 

Entry by Thomas Kong

Differences in Tree Density on Two Sides of a Ridge at Sam A. Baker State Park



We travelled to Sam A. Baker State Park to collect data on the differences of tree populations in the area. Discussing tree populations is important for biodiversity in Missouri, as the heavily forested southern areas of the state are home to numerous different ecosystems. Collecting and analyzing large amounts of data about different characteristics of trees in different locations could help conservationists draw conclusions about factors of ecosystems that are beneficial to the trees and other species, as well as factors that are harmful. This experiment and the data that we collected could be part of a larger set of observations that can contribute to drawing interesting conclusions about the ecosystems.

In this experiment, we chose to collect data on tree populations on the east and west facing slopes of the main north-south travelling ridge in the park along the Mudlick trail. We chose to collect our data between the firetower and the initial trail junction. Having never been to the park before, we decided to first test whether or not there is a difference between the east and west facing slopes on the main ridge, in this case looking at tree density. Our hypothesis was that there is a difference in tree density between the two slopes. The conclusions we draw from this experiment could help other groups in the future create research questions that further the study of the area.


We split into two data collection groups. As each group walked down the trail, every 100 paces, a transect travelling down the slope perpendicular to the ridge line was marked out. Then, each group walked down the transect for 100 meters, 2 meters wide, holding a 2 meter long “double” meter stick out in front, with each side extending to the edge of the transect to guarantee that the width of the transect was kept constant. A tree was counted as being within the transect if the double meter stick hit the tree while walking. Each group surveyed 7 100 meter long transects along the Mudlick Trail.

Data Analysis

According to the data, there appears to be a larger number of trees on the west side of the slope than on the east side of the slope. On average there were 15 trees in a given transect on the west slope. On the east side, there were an average of 9 trees per transect. Additionally, the trees on the west side of the slope seemed to be thinner than the trees on the east side of the slope. As we did not measure tree width directly, we cannot conclude anything about differences in tree width between the two slopes. For the number of trees on each slope, the data should be representative of the entire area, but future researchers may conduct more trials for more accurate data.


In our trip to Sam A. Baker State Park we calculated the tree density in two areas by counting the number of trees within a given transect, which was kept constant by counting the number of paces and holding the pair of meter sticks. The data supports our hypothesis that there was a difference in tree density between the two slopes and one can see that because on average there were 15 trees in a given transect on the west slope versus 9 trees per transect on the east slope. Surprisingly, our technique of holding two meter sticks in front worked efficiently in finding the number of trees within the transect and keeping the transect constant. However, our collection of data could have been improved by tracking of the girth of each trunk, which does impact tree density. Other options for further study that would improve on the data collected include measuring the tree width and height along with proximity of trees to each other. Although the tree densities were not the same between the two sample areas, we remain unsure what environmental factors have caused this difference. For future experiments, it would be beneficial to record any unique qualities of the respective sample areas such as amount of sunlight, proximity to bodies of water, and degree of slope.

February 27-28, 2016