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MACON COUNTY

Population about 16,000

F-2 on the Missouri Highway map

US Highway 63 and US Highway 36 intersect at Macon (pop. c. 5,600). MO Highway 3 and MO Highway 149 run up the center and west side respectively. La Plata, pop. 1,400, is on US 63 just south of the Adair Co. line.

In 1820, 20 year-old Alex Rector was hired to dig a well 1.5 miles west of Bevier, by William Hughes for the sum of 45 cents per day. At the depth of twelve feet he hit a 6-foot coal seam. Several small shafts were sunk soon afterwards. Thomas Wardell began using English mining methods in 1861, and sent two wagonloads to Hannibal for testing. The quality and abundance was a major factor in the changing of locomotive fuel from wood to coal just as the railroads began their cross country push.

Bevier was the center of mining in Missouri for many years. The United Mine Workers' Union was founded there in 1899. Shafts were used until 1936 when strip mining was begun. After the 1960s it was all strip mining. A song about Kentucky applies to this part of Missouri, for indeed, "Mr. Peabody's coal train done hauled it away." Highway 63 was closed at least once in the mid 60s to allow one of the monster machines to cross the road on a deep pathway of dirt. Associated Electric closed the last area mine, used to fuel Thomas Hill power plant, in 1993.

The north end of Thomas Hill Reservoir west of College Mound is in Macon Co. Late fall/winter birding here can be very rewarding. Sightings include: Pacific and Red-throated Loons, Red Phalarope, Western Grebe, Oldsquaw, Black Scoter, Little Gull and Black-legged Kittiwake. Work your way up the north end between the arms to good viewing sites away from hunters.

Macon County has three especially attractive birding areas immediately north of US 36 and west of US 63. They are: Long Branch Lake, Atlanta-Long Branch C A, and Macon (City) Lake. They can be birded by making a loop formed by connecting Bevier, Macon, Atlanta, and State Rte. O on the west side of Long Branch Lake.

Long Branch Lake is primarily a Corps of Engineers flood control property. The Visitor Center and nature trail at the south end are Corps facilities with a viewing deck and indoor restrooms. Their brochure, Long Branch Lake, Missouri, has an excellent map of the whole area.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources operates Long Branch State Park with property on both sides of the lake at the south end. Macon area access is a boatramp with a view of the lake and pit toilets on the east side off Long Branch Lake Rd. Drive across the dam beyond the Corps Visitor Center to the west, to reach boatramps, a marina, developed campground, and the park office.

Atlanta/Long Branch Conservation Area is administered by the Missouri Department of Conservation. This area is a mix of land owned by MDC, and the Corps but managed by MDC, extending from the north entrance off Rt. RA down the two arms of the lake. There is private land between the lake arms.

 

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