2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 23
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


CRAUSAZ, Winston, Natural Sciences, Bowling Green State Univ--Firelands Campus, One University Drive, Huron, OH 44839-9791, wcrausaz18@yahoo.com

The former Sheeks Land and Cattle Company represented a colossal, yet relatively unstudied, outdoor experiment. Two holdings near Cabool, in Texas County, comprise about 42 square km of rolling hills that were once covered by open hardwood forest. In 1983 Sheeks began a vigorous operation to clear nearly all of the property. With numerous bulldozers operating 24 hours a day, trees were pushed over and burned. The bare red soil overlying dolomite took as long as two years to develop a grass cover. In 1995 the ranch was the largest cattle producer in Missouri. It continued to operate until 2003. Local residents, some of whom have lived near the ranch for 80 years, were alarmed by the initial deforestation.

Disturbed and undisturbed reaches alternate on and below the ranch. The disturbed reaches and adjacent floodplains are filling with chert gravel. Farmers below the ranch are convinced the gravel coming off of the ranch is a consequence of the massive deforestation event. Yet other areas of the Ozarks and the United States are experiencing similar problems. The gravel may also be coming from unpaved roads, highway construction, the first timber harvest, the second timber harvest, or off-road vehicles.

Beaver were once common in the area, and modified the fluvial system for thousands of years. Along low gradient streams their ponds tend to fill quickly, leaving broad, flat, stepped meadows. Although many streams on the ranch and in the adjacent national forest exhibit a typical pool and riffle sequence, a tributary of Beeler Creek southwest of the ranch headquarters is characterized by a series of broad, nearly flat, stepped meadows up to 50 m long. These relict beaver meadows act as barriers to the movement of gravel through the upper fluvial system. Gravel is coming from reaches near, but both on and off, the base of the ranch.