The Show-Me State boasts one of the finest state park systems in the nation, with countless miles of trails, hundreds of acres of shoreline, plenty of wonders, both natural and human-made, and thousands of hours of family activities.
Take a trip to the 1870s, at the Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site, on the outskirts of Lawson. In the late 19th century, Waltus Watkins built this grand home and three-story woolen mill; both buildings have been meticulously preserved and are open for tours. In fact, this is the only 19th century woolen mill in the nation with its machinery still in place. Stop by the visitor center to learn more about the fascinating Watkins family and their many successes.
Approximately five miles from Laclede, visit Pershing State Park for a glimpse at life before Europeans settled the land. Follow the hiking trail and boardwalk through a wet prairie, along a stream, and down into a bottomland forest. A vast variety of wildlife, birds and waterfowl call the park home. Anglers can try their skills in Locust Creek and in the park’s four lakes. Reservable basic and electric campsites make Pershing State Park a great overnight destination.
Hear the rumble of adventure at Finger Lakes State Park, 12 miles north of Columbia. The park’s trails and motocross track provide the perfect terrain for off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. The 2.25-mile Kelley Branch Trail is designed for mountain bikers. There are seven strip-pits (the Finger Lakes) for swimming, canoeing and fishing. After a day of high-speed fun, relax at the large campground, beneath the canopy of trees.
Unforgettable vistas greet you at Elephant Rocks State Park, four miles north of Pilot Knob. The red granite rocks look remarkably like a train of circus elephants, walking trunk-to-tail. Climb over these amazing formations and snap lots of photos; be sure to take a close peek at the names carved in the rocks by 19th century miners. Settle down for a picnic at one of the park’s scenic picnic areas.
Family fun abounds at Robertsville State Park, which is bordered by the Meramec River and Calvey Creek, on north side of Robertsville. Boating, fishing and hiking are highlights of the park. Hikers receive excellent views of bluffs, hardwood forests, and peaceful clearings. A variety of water birds make it well worth taking your binoculars.
Summon your inner archaeologist at Mastodon State Historic Site, on the outskirts of Imperial, 20 miles south of St. Louis. Home to one of the most extensive deposits of ice age fossils (including Mastodon bones), this site displays history in epic proportions. At this don’t-miss destination, hike, picnic and learn about the ancient Clovis culture, which existed in the area between 10,000 and 14,000 years ago.