Columbia Bottom bird photography near St. Louis was a real treat and produced some excellent images. I’ve been searching for new places to photograph birds closer to my home, and I stumbled on the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area (CBCA) quite by accident. An article about sunflower fields was in my news feed. The sunflower fields were an easy drive away, and birds on sunflowers sounded beautiful!
About the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area
The Columbia Bottom CA is roughly 4000 acres located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Columbia Rivers. There are six miles of river frontage and about nine miles of well-marked trails. Long stretches of the trails are paved and wheelchair accessible. There is a lovely Visitor Center with tons of information about the CBCA.
When settlers discovered this area in the 1800s, they thought it would be the perfect place to build a shipping hub. They planned and began to build the town of Columbia, and it was repeatedly destroyed by the wild rivers. The good news, St. Louis, turned out to be the right place for a city, and the area was perfect for birds and wildlife!
Columbia Bottom Location
The Sunflowers at Columbia Bottom
They stagger the planting of sunflowers beginning in early May to maximize prime views of the enormous flowers. The peak viewing should be mid-July to the beginning of August.
Tip! The first sunflower field is always jammed with people. There are typically 14 fields of sunflowers, so keep driving until you find fewer people. Some of the flower fields are not visible from the roads, check with the Visitor Center for current locations. While there, you should also ask about flooded trails, which are a common occurrence.
Birds at the Columbia Bottom
Bird photography at Columbia Bottom can be superb. The Audubon Society has listed 269 bird species at the CBCA, including some rarities like Fulvous Whistling-Duck, White Ibis, White-tailed Kite, Swainson’s Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Northern Shrike, and Chestnut-collared Longspur.
Here is a link to the eBird checklist for the CBCA.
Bird Photography Advice Columbia Bottom CA
The CBCA is pretty simple for photographers; you simply drive the route, stopping and checking the various ponds, pools, and overlooks along the drive. You are free to pullover and get out for a stealthier approach. Keep your ears and eyes open as you never know what you will see. Be sure to check-in at the Visitor Center for any updates on rarities and popular hot spots.