Missouri’s natural environment is highly diverse, with several distinct geological and ecological regions. Rolling hills and prairies are predominant in the north and west; the forested Ozark highlands are in the south; and low, flat land characterizes the state’s southeast region. Missouri is rich in scenic natural formations such as waterways, rocky hills, and caves; in habitats for fauna and flora; and in natural resources such as fertile soils, valuable minerals, and abundant supplies of water. The state is situated at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, the two longest rivers in the United States. Historically, these rivers have served as transportation networks and geopolitical boundaries, shaping Missouri’s heritage as a significant crossroads and border region.
The natural environment has always played a major role in the lives of Missourians. The constant need for food, shelter, building materials, and energy sources has determined where people chose to live and how well they were able to survive. With the development of communities, towns, and large cities, Missourians faced new environmental issues such as the contamination of the soil and waterways, air pollution, depletion of resources, and the need to safely dispose of toxic waste in its various forms. Additionally, land development has disrupted ecological systems and displaced wildlife from its natural habitat.
All of this has combined to produce imbalances in Missouri’s ecosystem. Conservation authorities have for decades monitored the physical environment in an effort to sustain it for both current and future generations of Missourians. The State Historical Society of Missouri houses an extensive collection of manuscripts, photographs, editorial cartoons, magazines, and other materials that focus on this subject.
- Caldwell, Dorothy J. "Missouri's Covered Bridges."
Missouri Historical Review 61 (January 1967): 229-237.
- Christisen, Donald "A Vignette of Missouri's Native Prairie."
Missouri Historical Review 61 (January 1967): 166-186.
- Dains, Mary K. "The St. Louis Tornado of 1896."
Missouri Historical Review 66 (April 1972): 431-450.
- Diller, Aubrey "An Early Account of the Missouri River."
Missouri Historical Review 45 (January 1951): 150-157.
- Eaton, David W. "How Missouri Counties, Towns and Streams Were Named."
First Article: Missouri Historical Review 10 (April 1916): 197-213.
Second Article: Missouri Historical Review 10 (July 1916): 263-287.
Third Article: Missouri Historical Review 11 (January 1917): 164-200.
Fourth Article: Missouri Historical Review 11 (April-July 1917): 330-347.
- Eaton, Miles W. "The Development and Later Decline of the Hemp Industry in Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 43 (July 1949): 344-359.
- Gerber, Rudolph J. "Old Woman River."
Missouri Historical Review 56 (July 1962): 328-346.
- Gibson, A. M. "Lead Mining in Southwest Missouri After 1865."
Missouri Historical Review 53 (July 1959): 315-328.
- Goodman, Marie L. "A State Flower for Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 11 (April-July 1917): 324-326.
- Goodwin, Cardinal L. "Early Exploration and Settlement of Missouri and Arkansas."
Missouri Historical Review 14 (April-July 1920): 385-424.
- Graves, Mrs. Waller Washington "The Hawthorn, Missouri's Official State Flower."
Missouri Historical Review 21 (April 1927): 353-360.
- Hall, Leonard "Wildlife in Missouri History."
Missouri Historical Review 60 (January 1966): 207-215.
- Harper, Christine F. "The Water Wizard: John F. Wixford and the Purification of the St. Louis Water Supply in 1904.”
Missouri Historical Review 99 (October 2004): 24-45.
- Hensley, John R. "In the Shadow of Table Rock Dam: The Army Corps of Engineers, Civil Engineering & Local Communities."
Missouri Historical Review 80 (April 1986): 255-272.
- Kearns, Kevin C. "The Acquisition of St. Louis' Forest Park."
Missouri Historical Review 62 (January 1968): 95-106.
- Keller, Kenneth W. "Merchandising Nature: The H.J. Weber and Sons Nursery."
Missouri Historical Review 89 (April 1995): 307-326.
- Limbaugh, Steven N. "The Origin and Development of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways Project."
Missouri Historical Review 91 (January 1997): 121-132.
- Mahan, George A. "Salt River."
Missouri Historical Review 22 (January 1928): 171-175.
- McIlvaney, Nancy "From the Stacks: The Tooth Fairy vs. The Atom Smashers: The Baby Tooth Survey Records in the Committee for Environmental Information Collection (1956-1977)."
Missouri Historical Review 109 (January 2015): 128-131.
- McKinley, Daniel L. "The White Man's Fly on the Frontier."
Missouri Historical Review 58 (July 1964): 442-451.
- Morgan, M.J. and Morgan, T.D. "Science in Little Dixie: The Missouri Boyhood of John Clark Salyer II."
Missouri Historical Review 112 (October 2017): 1-22.
- Morrow, Lynn. "Before Bass Pro: St. Louis Sporting Clubs on the Gasconade River."
Missouri Historical Review 99 (October 2004): 1-23.
"St. Louis Tourist-Sportsmen: Urban Clubs in the Wetlands."
Missouri Historical Review 97 (October 2002): 20-42.
"Theodore Pease Russell: Connecticut Yankee to Missouri Jeffersonian."
Missouri Historical Review 84 (July 1990): 428-446.
- Nasatir, A. P. "John Evans, Explorer and Surveyor"
Part I: Missouri Historical Review 25 (January 1931): 219-239.
Part II: Missouri Historical Review 25 (April 1931): 432-460.
- Ogilvie, Leon P. "Governmental Efforts at Reclamation in the Southeast Missouri Lowlands."
Missouri Historical Review 64 (January 1970): 150-176.
- Ridgway, Walter "Ghost Towns and Centenarian Communities of Central Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 25 (April 1931): 421-424.
- Ritter, Luke "Mothers against the Bomb: The Baby Tooth Survey and the Nuclear Test Ban Movement in St. Louis, 1954-1969."
Missouri Historical Review 112 (January 2018): 107-138.
- Rothensteiner, John E. "Earliest History of Mine La Motte."
Missouri Historical Review 20 (January 1926): 199-213.
- Sampson, F. A. "The New Madrid and Other Earthquakes of Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 07 (July 1913): 179-199.
- Schroeder, Walter A. "Populating Missouri, 1804-1821."
Missouri Historical Review 97 (July 2003): 263-294.
"Spread of Settlement in Howard County, Missouri 1810-1859."
Missouri Historical Review 63 (October 1968): 1-37.
- Shaw, Col. John "New Madrid Earthquake"
Missouri Historical Review 06 January 1912): 91-92.
- Sheldon, Addison E. "The Missouri River Region as Seen by the First White Explorers."
Missouri Historical Review 22 (January 1928): 176-186.
- Shields, Wayne F. "The Chariton River Fish Trap."
Missouri Historical Review 61 (July 1967): 489-496.
- Shoemaker, Floyd C. "Cedar County" Land of Mineral Springs and Flowing Streams, Ozark Highlands and Rolling Prairies."
Missouri Historical Review 53 (July 1959): 329-336.
- Smith, Haden "Covered Bridges: Sturdy Relics of Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 74 (January 1980): 123-136.
- Stepenoff, Bonnie "The Last Tree Cut Down: The End of the Bootheel Frontier, 1880-1940."
Missouri Historical Review 90 (October 1995): 61-78.
- Wood, W. Raymond "William Clark's Mapping in Missouri 1803-1804."
Missouri Historical Review 76 (April 1982): 241-252.
"Objects Worthy of Notice: The Wildlife Encountered by the Corps of Discovery."
Missouri Historical Review 98 (July 2004): 314-323.
"Scenic and Historic Places in Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 6 (April 1912): 144-148.
"Thomas C. Duggins Views Northwest Missouri in 1840."
Missouri Historical Review 55 (January 1961): 124-126.
Environmental publications held within the State Historical Society’s holdings are included in Merlin, the shared library catalog of the four University of Missouri campuses. Included in these publications are issues of Missouri Conservationist Magazine and ornithological books written by John James Audubon.
SHSMO's collection of editorial cartoons graphically and often poignantly reflects the attitudes and opinions of the artists and the citizens of Missouri. St. Louis Post-Dispatch cartoonists Daniel Robert Fitzpatrick and Tom Engelhardt often delivered cartoons with a strong social commentary on Missouri and national environmental issues and concerns.
See the entire Editorial Cartoon digital collection online here.
The State Historical Society of Missouri manuscript collections include papers and records of individuals and organizations active in studying or protecting the environment, and such topics as energy sources, recreation, wilderness areas, pollution, and recycling, and material from those seeking to develop the environment for business purposes and conventional and nuclear power.
The Missouri Environment Oral History Project includes interviews with Missouri land use and natural resource protection professionals, and other individuals related to the environment in Missouri.
Missouri Natural Disasters
An important aspect of Missouri's environment is its climate and weather. Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes occur in Missouri and affect the land as well as its inhabitants, both human and animal.
View a selection of Missouri tornado images here.
View a selection of Missouri flooding images here.
The Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri
The Missouri Botanical Garden, located in St. Louis, was founded in 1859 by Henry Shaw. The Garden is a National Historic Landmark and acts as a public attraction as well as a center for botanical research and science education. The Garden boasts 79 acres of horticultural display, a 14 acre Japanese garden, and includes Henry Shaw's original 1850 estate home. The Missouri Botanical Garden is also the headquarters for The Center for Plant Conservation, an organization focused on preventing the extinction of America’s imperiled native flora and restoring vigorous populations to the wild.
SHSMO Digital Photograph Collections
SHSMO photograph collections feature a wide variety of images depicting other elements of Missouri's environment, landscapes, and wildlife.
|Collection Number||Collection Title|
|P0008||Mary Ann Younk Photograph Collection|
|P0016||Gerald R. Massie Photographs|
|P0018||State of Missouri Photograph Collection|
|P0034||Charles Trefts Photographs|
|P0136||Missouri Department of Natural Resources Photographs|
|P0155||Debbie Kilgore Photograph Collection|
|P0814||St. Louis Division of Parks and Recreation Photographs|
|P0277||1896 St. Louis Tornado Photographs|
|P0375||Mrs. A. D. Segnin Photograph Collection|
|P0030||Missouri Ruralist Photographs|
The vertical files contain magazine and newspaper clippings, handwritten information donated by patrons, bibliographies, programs, brochures, flyers, and other materials that, by reason of their physical formats, cannot be placed on the shelves with books. SHSMO's Columbia Research Center has the following vertical files with materials focused on Missouri conservation, environment, and wildlife.
Lake of the Ozarks State Park
Tourist brochures and travel guides of Mark Twain Lake, Mark Twain National Forest, and Mark Twain State Park.
Missouri Department of Agriculture
Missouri Department of Conservation
- Forestry Division
- Natural Areas
- State Forests
- Wildlife Areas
Missouri Department of Consumer Affairs
Hunting and Fishing regulations and licensing.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
- Air Pollution Control Program
- Division of Energy
- Division of Geology and Land Survey
- Hazardous Waste Program
- Historic Preservation Program
- State Parks
- Technical Assistance Program
Division of Environmental Quality
- Water Pollution
- Missouri River Trail
- Missouri River Valley