Located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River Bee Tree Park provides 5 different trails. The land was previously owned by southwestern Bell Telephone Company founder, Eugene Nims. Mr. Nims built the mansion in 1929 for a weekend retreat. Nims also established extensive gardens around the mansion. The property was purchased in April 1969 for $197,000 with funds donated by the Open Space Council and with matching federal money to create the park. One can only assume there was a tree at one time with a colony of bees. Bee Tree is a mixture of mature woodlands, open areas and a fishing lake. The park is known for its display of spring wildflowers. Jack in the pulpit, bellwort, spring beauties, Dutchman’s breeches and many more can be found at Bee Tree. The woodland area contains huge mature trees of oaks and hickories. The understory shrubs are a mix of dogwoods, redbuds, paw paw, and spicebush. Along the high bluff, overlooking the river, the shallow soils and dry conditions support different trees and herbaceous plants found in the rich woodlands. Nearly all of the soils in the park are wind blown loess. These soils originated at the time of the last glaciers. Deer and the occasional wild turkey can be found at the park along with the more common wildlife and bird species. The Chubb Shelter Overlook is a great place to stop by. Built right on top of the bluff the overlook extends just slightly over the rock outcropping to get the best possible view of the Mississippi River and the surrounding Illinois landscape. Many park visitors stop at the overlook to watch tugs and barges moving up and down the “Old Man River.” The lake is managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation and contains a healthy population of bluegill, large-mouth bass and channel catfish. No boats are allowed but there is ample bank fishing and a fishing dock. A Missouri state fishing license is required. Special regulations apply to the lake and are posted at the fishing dock. Picnic sites, picnic shelters and a playground are just a few of the attractions to the park. Bee Tree consists of 200 acres. Mississippi Trail .8 mile Flat/Rocky Natural Treadway Hiker & Biker As you would expect from the name the Mississippi Trail parallels the river along the high bluff. The trail links the Chubb Overlook with another overlook 1/2 mile away. The trail is natural with a narrow treadway. It follows the contour and is relatively easy. This is the only trail that drops down on the bluff just a little so the hiker can experience the natural bluff community. This shallow soil, dry area supports plants such as, little bluestem, side oats grama, wild onion, and other plants that have adapted to these droughty conditions. Along the course of the trail you will pass by the Nims Mansion. The trailhead is the Lower Shelter parking lot. A drinking fountain can be found at the Chubb Overlook. Crow’s Roost Trail .8 mile Steep Gravel/Natural Treadway Hiker & Biker Crows’ Roost begins at the Chubb Overlook and follows the bluff downstream above the Mississippi River. The trail is a mix of rock and natural surfaces. The trail follows the bluff line before turning abruptly to descend a hill away from the river. The trail is .8 miles in length and does have one moderate climb. The trail passes through a woodland with a mixture of mature and younger trees. A small grove of persimmon can be found on the top of the hill. This native tree produces a sweet fruit in the fall of the year, but just make sure you wait until after a hard freeze before sampling. Crow’s Roost Trail descends a rather steep hill and connects into the Fisherman’s Trail along the lake. Taking Fisherman’s Trail to the right will lead you to Paw Paw Trail which will take you back to the trailhead completing a loop trail. The trailhead is at the Lower Shelter parking lot. A drinking fountain can be found at the Chubb Overlook. Fisherman’s Trail .8 mile Flat Gravel Treadway Hiker & Biker As the name implies Fisherman’s Trail loops around the lake and provides access to the lake. The .8 mile trail consists of rock and asphalt for the treadway. The trail is flat and easy. Since most of the trail is out in the open and not shaded make sure you take plenty of water if you tackle the trail during the dog days of summer. A parking lot near the lake serves as the trailhead. Great blue herons are a frequent visitor during the summer months. These large birds stalk the shallows hunting for fish, frogs and anything else they can eat. Suitable for cross country skiing. Paw Paw Trail .5 mile Steep Natural Treadway Hiker & Biker Although the trail is only .5 miles in length Paw Paw Trail the trail user will be rewarded with a beautiful example of a mature oak-hickory woodland. The large trees shade the trail throughout the growing season. The deep ravines provide micro-habitats for trees and plants alike. Christmas ferns crowd the hillsides. This is a must trail in the spring of the year. It is in these woodlands that spring colors burst forth with a display of spring wildflowers. The rich deep soils host trilliums, trout lilies, May apples, jack-in-the- pulpits and many, many more. In the lower reaches of the trail Paw Paw, as you would expect, is an abundant shrub. This native Missouri shrub is one of the first to bloom ushering in spring. The reddish brown 3 petal flowers usually appear in the early days of April. These flowers develop into the “Ozark Banana” that ripens in late August. This custard flavored fruit is sought after by skunks, raccoons, opossums, grey fox and many different species of birds. Humans too can consume the fruit if you are fortunate enough to beat the critters to the prize. Paw Paw Trail connects the Chubb Overlook area with the lake and Fisherman’s Trail. The trail can be accessed either from the lakeside parking lot or the Lower Shelter parking lot. The trail can be a little steep and slick after a rain. Cedar Trail .1 mile Rolling Gravel Treadway Hiker & Biker This trail is a short .1 mile trail that traverses a cedar grove. The trail has a rock treadway and begins and ends off of Fisherman’s Trail. In the not too distant past this hillside was and old open field. Left un-mowed cedar trees are one of the first trees to invade idle lands. Now this grove produces another little micro-habitat found in the park. Although highly invasive to open abandoned lands cedar trees are very valuable to wildlife. The blue berries are a stable food for many song birds. The thick foliage collects the winter snowfall preventing less snow to reach the ground. This winter refuge is sought by many birds and wildlife alike as a means of protection from winter’s snow and wind.