Getting To Know Boone County

Boone County is located in central Missouri. It is bordered on the east by Callaway and Audrain Counties, the northwest by Randolph, and Howard Counties, and the southwest by the Missouri River.

Katy Trail State Park

Katy Trail State Park

Mizzou Columns

University of Missouri - Jesse Hall and Columns

Missouri River

Missouri River

People and Places

Boone County has a population of 183,610 (2020 US census). The largest city is Columbia, with a population of 126,254. Columbia is the fourth most-populous and fastest growing city in Missouri. The City’s current land mass is just over 66 square miles.

Columbia is the home of the University of Missouri, with more than 30,000 students, as well as Stephens College (548 students (2018-19)) and Columbia College (10,767 (2018-19)). Other towns in Boone County include Centralia (4,213 (2019)), Ashland (3,907 (2019)), Hallsville (1,771 (2019)), Sturgeon (990 (2019)) Rocheport (244 (2019)), Harrisburg (410 (2019)), Hartsburg (86 (2019)), Pierpont (56 (2019)), McBaine (10 (2019)) and Huntsdale (21 (2019)).

Boone Hospital

Boone Hospital Center

Shelter Gardens

Shelter Gardens

Approximately 25% of the population lives in the rural areas of Boone County. According to the 2017 US Agriculture Census, there are 1,184 farms in the county with an average size of 180 acres. The total land used for farming is 212,732 acres. Boone County is ranked third in the state for horse and pony sales and production. Crops include soybeans, hay and forage crops such as corn, wheat and sorghum. Other agriculture includes nursery, and greenhouse products and sod. Local farmer’s markets help maintain the production of vegetables, melons, and potatoes. Healthcare, Higher Education and the Insurance industry are major employers in the region.

Geography and Geology

The county has a land area of 442,259 acres, or about 691 square miles. It is about 41 miles long at the longest spot, and about 22 miles wide. The Topography of Boone County ranges from highly dissected hills to flat flood plains and nearly flat uplands. The area around Sturgeon and Centralia, in the north, averages around 900 ft mean sea level, while the lowest portion of the county is at the southern tip, at about 540 ft. Several areas of the county contain well-developed cave and sinkhole formations.

The soils of Boone County are included in parts of two Major Land Resource Areas (MLRA). The Central Claypan Area, which was mainly formed in the glacial till, covers the northeastern and east-central parts of the county. The Central Mississippi Valley Wooded Slopes is formed from the residuum and loess in the southwestern part of the county.


Boone County is bordered by the Missouri River on the southwest, and by Cedar Creek on the east. There are twenty-three sub-basins that are entirely or partially within the county boundaries. Drainage is mainly towards the Missouri River, from northeast to southwest. However, the extreme northeastern section of the county (Centralia) flows towards the Salt River.

The largest watershed is Perche Creek which drains more than 70% of the landmass. Hinkson Creek, a 90 square mile watershed, is the single largest contributor to Perche Creek. Hinkson is fed by Grindstone Creek, Flat Branch, Hominy Branch, County House Branch, Meredith Branch, and Mill Creek. More than 90,000 people live in the Hinkson Creek Watershed. Between Columbia and Ashland is the Bonne Femme Watershed. This area is well known for karst topography, with numerous caves, sinkholes and losing streams. The area also contains several state parks. Bonne Femme Creek feeds the cave system for the Devil’s Icebox and Rockbridge State Park. Also, in this area is Three Creeks Conservation Area, maintained by the Missouri Department of Conservation. The streams running through these parks are designated as Outstanding State Resource Water


The average winter temperature is 29.6 degrees F. In summer, the average temperature is 74.7 degrees and the average daily maximum of 85.9 degrees. The highest recorded temperature of 116 degrees occurred on July 15, 1954.

The total annual precipitation is 38.94 inches. The heaviest recorded 1-day rainfall was 5.37 inches on August 12, 1993. Thunderstorms are common from May to August. The average seasonal snowfall is 22.4 inches.

The average relative humidity in mid-afternoon is about 60%. Humidity is higher at night, peaking at dawn with an average of 83%. It is sunny 66% of the time in summer and 49% of the time in winter. The growing season in Boone County is 192 days. The first frost is around October 19th, while the last frost is around April 10th. (Boone County Soil Survey, 2005)

Karst Features


There are numerous caves in Boone County. The most notable is the Devil’s Ice Box (above, right) in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. Other caves include Connor’s cave, Hunter’s cave, Tumblin cave, and Rocheport cave.

Rock Bridge Memorial State Park

Rock Bridge Memorial State Park

Devil's Icebox

Devil's Ice Box


There are 418 documented sinkholes in Boone County. The majority of these are located south of I-70, in two distinct areas, one is south of Rocheport, and the other is around Pierpont. The sinkholes are relatively stable, but do discharge to the cave system and groundwater, therefore extreme care should be taken when developing in these areas.

Water Resources Projects

Bonne Femme Watershed Project

French for "good woman" the Bonne Femme plays a critical role in the creation of the county's Karst features. Beginning in the east central portion of the county the Bonne Femme runs through the heart of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. The Bonne Femme, a historically vital stream, is the site of early rural industries such as grain mills, tanneries and breweries.

The Bonne Femme Watershed Project is the revitalization and continuation of several projects from the past that sought to protect and conserve water quality in the Little Bonne Femme and Bonne Femme Watersheds (known together as the Greater Bonne Femme Watershed) in Boone County. The current project includes the development of a watershed-based plan (WBP) for the Greater Bonne Femme Watershed, as well as a stormwater best management practice (BMP) demonstration project (bioretention basins on E. Meyer Industrial Drive) and an outreach initiative to inform local stakeholders of the need for the current planning and future implementation process. The WBP will consist of nine specific elements required by U.S. EPA; approval of the plan by EPA and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources will provide eligibility for future funding to address water quality concerns identified in the plan. The previous watershed project, which concluded in 2007, resulted in the Bonne Femme Watershed Plan. The plan may be viewed in its entirety on The map below shows much of the watershed with roads marked for reference. The five streams highlighted with bright colors show reaches that are impaired because E. coli levels in the water, on average (calculated as a geomean during the recreational season which runs from April through October of each year), exceed the water quality standards set by USEPA and MDNR and codified in state law. 



Bonne Femme

Bonne Femme

Hinkson Creak

Hinkson Creek

Hinkson Creek Collaborative Adaptive Management

Hinkson Creek is a dynamic stream system, with a drainage area of 90 sq. miles or 57,445 acres. The Hinkson Creek watershed runs from the city of Hallsville in north central Boone County to the town of McBaine in west central part of the county. This creek runs southwest through agriculture and pasture land, previous mining land, and urban land. At 32 miles in length the Hinkson runs through the heart of Columbia. Ongoing efforts are being made to remove 11 miles of the Hinkson from the Environmental Protection Agency's list of impaired streams (303).

The goal of the collaborative adaptive management process is to improve water quality in Hinkson Creek by using science-based approach guided by a local stakeholder committee. It will assess the entire stream system, including the creek and other parts of the watershed. Improving the ecosystem should help support the return of the biological community to a fully functioning level as well as addressing other pollutants that may be a contribution to water quality issues.
The Collaborative Adaptive Management (CAM) approach allows a wide range of actions to be investigated. Each of these actions is expected to contribute to reaching the water quality goals; some of these activities may reduce peak stormwater runoff, others may reduce the pollution in the runoff; under Collaborative Adaptive Management (CAM) both can contribute to the solution by improving the water quality and supporting the biological community. By learning as we implement actions, we hope to find the most effective approach(es) to address the water quality challenges in the watershed.



Data Source

  • U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Decennial Census of the United States
  • U. S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1981
  • Land Resource Regions and Major Land Resource Areas of the United States
  • Agriculture Handbook 296.U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C.
  • Palmer, Arthur N., 2007. Cave Geology. Cave Books, Dayton, OH. ISBN-13:978-0-939748-66-2