at Big Sugar Creek State Park

History and Significance

Big Sugar Creek State Park is the only state park to represent the Elk River Section of the Ozarks Natural Landscape Division. The Elk River watershed, which includes Big Sugar Creek, is a portion of the Arkansas River Basin, which extends into Missouri's Ozarks. It has a distinct natural history, with many of its plants and animals being southern species that are less common or absent further into our state. Some typify the southern plains, including armadillos, road runners, and plants like a species of prickly pear cactus that occurs there. Others like the Ozark chinquapin, Ozark corn salad and Arkansas bedstraw that are restricted to the Ozark highlands are characteristically abundant in this particular region. This basin is also noted for having the most distinctive fish populations of any major Ozark division.

Big Sugar Creek State Park preserves many features characteristic of the Elk River region. Its heavily forested hillsides are rich with plant and animal life, including 345 different kinds of plants and 134 kinds of birds. Eighty-seven of the birds are breeding residents of the area. The steep hills and valleys expose a rich geology, providing good environments for the rich mix of grassy glades, open woodlands, riparian forests and clear-flowing streams. The aquatic resources include a distinctive fauna as well, with several regionally restricted species present. The park well represents the region's natural diversity.

Preserving and interpreting Big Sugar Creek with its two and a half miles of park frontage and its own distinctive native fauna, is another highly significant element to the park. It potentially offers many recreational as well as interpretive opportunities. This unique natural history theme coupled with interest from the local community resulted in the designation of Big Sugar Creek State Park in 1992 with an initial acquisition of 640 acres.

In 1994, an aggressive prescribed fire program began to restore and preserve the quality of these natural communities. In 2000 the value and significance of the park's natural environment resulted in the designation of 1,613 of the park's 2,048 current acres as the "Elk River Breaks Natural Area". This designation by the Missouri Natural Areas Committee emphasizes the importance of the park's chert woodlands, forests and headwater stream to the natural history of the state.


The mission of Big Sugar Creek State Park is to preserve and interpret the natural and cultural resources associated with the Elk River Region that are located within the park's boundaries, including the Big Sugar Creek riparian corridor. Recreational opportunities consistent with the preservation of these resources and that do not exceed the capacity of the land to sustain these activities, will be provided.

Approved by

Douglas Eiken, Director, Division of State Parks, 01/09/02
Denny Bopp, District Supervisor, Ozarks District, 01/08/02
Kevin Bolling, Park Superintendent, Roaring River State Park, 07/11/01