A diverse and interesting history

Tyson's 2000 acres have been used by early Native American cultures, farmers, miners, railroads, timber harvesters, the U.S. military, and St. Louis County Parks prior to its present use as the environmental field station of Washington University in St. Louis.


12,000 B.C. to 1500 A.D.

Native American Quarry

Tyson was used as a quarry site by Native Americans to gather a specific type of chert known as "Crescent Hills chert," which was prized for making tools. There was likely a Native American habitation site along the edge of the Meramec River flood plain northwest of Tyson.

1890 to 1910

Forest Clearcutting

The entire area, along with most of the Ozarks, was clearcut for pine and oak timber. Although the forest now is dense with vegetation, prior to clearcutting, the understory was much more open, and the forest contained fewer trees. Fire suppression after clearcutting caused the forest to grow back very thick.

Then & Now: Entrance gate


1877 to 1927

Minke Hollow Quarry

A limestone quarry was operated by lease in the Mincke Hollow area. The Hunkins-Willis Company established a small town occupied by the miners and their families. The Tyson Railroad Station served as the town's major connection with the outside world.

Old foundations of houses and the spring box at the Mincke Spring are the only obvious traces of the community that was once in Mincke Hollow. The most southerly of the building foundations is the former school house. Larger foundations at the north end of the hollow remain from kilns and perhaps from a company store.

Calcareous shell fragments and fossils comprise the Kimmswick limestone that was quarried, making it well-suited for making lime. The quarry operation terminated in 1927 when the 50-year lease was not renewed by the property owner.



1941 to 1945

World War II

The Federal government acquired the land via eminent domain. They constructed fifty-five 30-yard-deep bunkers and ten 10-yard-deep bunkers camouflaged into hillsides, as well as various buildings, roads, and the perimeter fence. Munitions and high explosives were stored in the bunkers. At this time, the current Tyson headquarters building was a firehouse.

1950 to 1951

County Park

The whole area, including West Tyson Park and Lone Elk Park, was a park for St. Louis County called Tyson Valley Park and was open to the public. The current headquarters building was converted to a restaurant.

1951 to 1963

Korean conflict

The federal government reacquired the land during the Korean Conflict for storage of agricultural grain.


1963 to present

Washington University

Washington University obtained Tyson as surplus property from the federal government in 1963. Since the university acquired the property, many researchers have utilized its resources for research and teaching.

In the early years, Washington University professors, graduate students, and Tyson staff undertook a variety of studies. These projects covered a wide range of subjects, from forests to amphibians. During this time, the Tyson Field Science Program provided environmental education to children from grades K-12.

Now, Tyson is being used more heavily than ever for teaching, research, and outreach. These programs involve faculty and students from Washington University, as well as from other regional, national, and international institutions.

Learn more about our current operations