It has been a hectic summer. Diverse activities have taken the family hither, thither and yon. Fall is a great time to reconnect with family. Plan a weekend that’s lively, yet calming; filled with activities, but in moderation; thrilling and memorable – a family retreat.
Camping in one of Missouri’s state parks is just the ticket. Imagine: nothing you absolutely must do. We asked our Facebook followers to tell us their favorite state park campsites. Almost all state park campgrounds include (among other amenities) the needed facilities, such as: basic, electric and full hook-up sites for tents and RVs; showers and restrooms; hiking trails; picnic areas; and a dump station. Some have Wi-Fi, dining facilities and firewood.
Facilities and operating season vary by park, so it is always good to check the website first. Reservations are recommended.
Important Notice: Help control the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer which is killing ash trees throughout the Midwest. Purchase your firewood at the site or nearby. Do Not transport firewood from one location to another. Do Not take your own firewood from home. Do Not take firewood from the campsite to any other location.
These are the top six state park camping vote getters, in no particular order. NOTE: Two website links are given for each; the first (i.e.: Trail of Tears Camping) is to the campground’s webpage ~ the second (i.e.: State Park) links to the park’s webpage.
- Trail of Tears Camping - State Park, beside the Mississippi River, 14 miles east of Jackson, includes an area where the infamous Trail of Tears crosses the Mississippi. Exhibits in the visitor center outline this forced march of Cherokee Indians in the 1830s. There is a scenic overlook with panoramic views of the Mississippi River. Facebook user Linda LaBrier Wall says it is her all-time favorite place; she loves to watch the barges go up and down the river.
- Sam A. Baker Camping - State Park, which dates to the 1920s, encompasses 5,323 acres in St. Francois Mountains an hour north of Poplar Bluff. The park features standard, equestrian and special need camping areas, plus rentable cabins. Canoe float trips, horseback and bicycle trails, and a nature center are highlights.
- Roaring River Camping - State Park, about 10 miles south of Cassville, is home to one of Missouri’s most popular and rugged trout fishing streams. Of the three camping areas, one is open year-round. The Emory Melton Inn includes a dining room and guestrooms decorated with rustic flair; some have a private balcony with a view of the river valley. Also, the park offers rustic cabins.
- Onondaga Cave Camping - State Park is home to Onondaga Cave, a National Natural Landmark recognized as one of the most spectacular caves in America. Facebook fan Lisa Owen says: “This park is beautiful. I had a great time hiking the trails, fishing and learning about the caves.” Cave tours are offered March through October. The campground contains an amphitheater, where nature programs are presented during the on-season. Firewood is offered for purchase. The park, five miles south of Leasburg, includes access to the Meramec River.
- Meramec Camping - State Park, about six miles east of Sullivan, is a favorite with canoeists and fishermen on the Meramec River; canoe and raft rentals are available. There are more than 40 caves in the park, several of which are closed during the winter because of bat hibernation. Guided tours are given of Fisher Cave. Do not confuse this with Maramec Spring Park, six miles south of St. James. Maramec Spring (notice the spelling difference) is a trout fishing stream and historic site, privately owned and operated by a not-for-profit foundation. Camping is available there as well.
- Hawn Camping - State Park encompasses some of Missouri's most scenic and unspoiled landscapes, where campsites and picnic areas are nestled beneath the pines. In addition to standard camping and RV sites, there are some primitive, secluded walk-in campsites. Hawn is 14 miles east of Farmington.
In addition to these six Facebook Fan Favs, we offer these options as samples of what’s available in the Show-Me State’s state park system. Keep in mind; this is just a representative list.
Wallace Camping - State Park, eight miles south of Cameron, is a heavily wooded area, favored by bird watchers and solitude seekers.
Lewis & Clark Camping - State Park, 20 miles southwest of St. Joseph, is a great place for bird watching.
Wakonda Camping - State Park is on the Mississippi River, three miles north of La Grange. A favorite of fishermen, the park includes Missouri's largest natural sand beach.
Cuivre River Camping - State Park, three miles east of Troy, covers more than 6,390 acres with more than 38 miles trails through woodlands and prairies.
Bennett Spring Camping - State Park is home to Missouri’s third largest spring which creates our top trout fishing stream. Floating the Niangua River is a popular activity. Bennett Spring is located 12 miles west of Lebanon.
Knob Noster Camping - State Park is a 3,934-acre area with thick forests, clear lakes and grasslands. The park boarders Whiteman AFB.
St. Joe Camping - State Park, five miles south of Park Hills, is one of the largest off-road vehicles (ORV) areas in the Midwest (permit required). Among the many activities in the 2,000 acre park, there is a radio-controlled airplane field.
St. Francois Camping - State Park, five miles north of Bonne Terre, is rich in Civil War lore. The forested ridges and cool hollows offer a welcomed retreat from your stressful life. Canoeing on Big River is popular.
Prairie Camping - State Park, 16 miles west of Lamar, is truly where the buffalo roam. The park’s resident bison herd occupies Missouri's largest remaining tall-grass prairie. (Campfires are prohibited at some camping areas.)
Stockton Camping - State Park, 10 miles south of Stockton, overlooks Stockton Lake, one of the top lakes in the nation for sailing. This 2,716-acre park includes a full service marina and a nationally recognized sailing school.
There you have it. Some fine camping ideas for the family.
For even more ideas, read the VisitMO Blog post, Camping in Missouri State Parks. Okay. There should be nothing holding you back. Get out into the great outdoors this fall and ... enjoy the show.