History and Significance
The creation of the park is directly linked to the citizens of Laclede. In the early 1930s a group of residents, headed by L.F. Moore, petitioned the U.S. Congress for the creation of a national military memorial to honor former Laclede resident General John J. Pershing. These efforts continued for several years, but were eventually denied. A memorial park could not be made to a person still living and General Pershing never lived on the site. In 1937, the Missouri Legislature passed a resolution to purchase 1,770 acres for the price of $20,001, thus making the site a state park. It was not until several decades later the area was recognized for its outstanding natural features.
The park's main feature is Locust Creek, an active meandering stream, and its accompanying bottomland forest, shrub swamps, marshes and wet prairie. This once common landscape along river systems in northern Missouri is now almost extinct due to stream channelization and agricultural uses. Several rare and endangered plant and animal species live in the park, providing researchers and park visitors with a unique experience.
Native Americans inhabited this area long before European settlers arrived. A village site and two burial mounds are located in the park. Information about these inhabitants is limited, but the burial mounds are believed to be between 1,000 and 2,000 years old. In addition, located within the park boundaries are a former mill site, a Cambria-Carnegie truss bridge, a basement barn built in the 1890s, two CCC-era structures, and the War Angel Monument.
Other features of this 3,566-acre park include two state designated natural areas, a 1.5-mile wetland interpretive boardwalk, a seven-mile riparian hiking trail, four small lakes, 39 campsites, two shelter houses, an archery range, picnic areas, two special use areas and two playgrounds.
The primary mission of Pershing State Park is the preservation, restoration and interpretation of a remnant north Missouri landscape. The components include an active meandering stream, sloughs, marshes, wet prairies, bottomland forests, upland forests, savanna, upland prairies and associated plant and animal species. Consideration is also given to cultural and recreational aspects associated with the natural landscape.
Douglas K. Eiken, Director, Division of State Parks, 02/04/04
Frank St. Clair, Field Operations Supervisor, Northern Parks District, 01/25/04
Dan Files, Park Superintendent, Pershing State Park, 01/26/04