History of Lone Elk County Park, Saint Louis, Missouri
Located in St. Louis County, Lone Elk County Park is a 546-acre wide wildlife management area. Across from Interstate 44, the World Bird Sanctuary, Castlewood State Park, and Tyson Research Center, Lone Elk County Park has protected animals such as bison and elk for many years. It is open to the public year-round and is the perfect spot to take in Mother Nature’s beautiful creations.
During World War II, Lone Elk County Park was part of Tyson Valley Powder Plant, used primarily to test and store ammunition. Post-war, the land became a county park. In 1948, herds of both bison and elk were established in the park. For ten years, wildlife flourished until 1958, when the Federal Government re-acquired possession of the land for use during the Korean War. Because of this, wildlife herds on the land were all destroyed to abide by safety concerns. However, one elk from the park lived on.
Six years later, in 1964, St. Louis County was able to reacquire 405 acres of the original land from the General Services Administration for a price of $460,787. From there, the team was able to reestablish its preservational mission slowly. In 1966, the park’s name was changed from Tyson Park to Lone Elk County Park, signifying the one lone elk that survived in 1958. The park team was then able to bring six more elk onto the property from Yellowstone National Park. Finally, on October 17, 1971, Lone Elk County Park was officially opened. Two years later, in 1973, six bison were acquired from the St. Louis Zoo.
Ralph Foley Shelter
U.S. Army and Air Force vet Ralph Foley joined the Parks Department in 1964 as a maintenance man. Over the years, his devotion to the park earned him a promotion to Parks Construction Foreman. Unfortunately, in 1971, Foley was killed in a car accident in Bridgeton. As an army vet, he was buried at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. In honor of him and his work for Lone Elk County Park, a shelter has been dedicated in his memory that can be visited.
Lone Elk County Park is currently open for visitors. The park gates are opened to the public, free of charge, around 6:30-7 a.m. year-round and close at sunset. While visitors may drive through the park on designated trails, motorcycles are prohibited. Domestic animals, such as dogs, are not allowed under any circumstances, even if kept inside the vehicle. Along the White Bison Trail, visitors can catch a glance at the herds of elk and bison while also admiring other animals such as whitetail deer, wild turkey, and waterfowl. According to Lone Elk County Park’s official website, visitors are welcome to stop by and see the animals. Park staff feeds them all in the morning, so the best time for viewing is around 8 a.m.
While fishing is usually permitted in Lone Elk County Park, a lake leak last summer closed all fishing for 2017 for the fish population to grow and flourish. However, the Lone Elk County Park team plans to reopen fishing for a limited time in June of 2018, followed by a reopening for a full rental season in the fall.
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