The family I set off in June for something we haven't done in a while. We unplugged, and we had a blast doing it. We set out for southeastern Missouri, and camped at the Johnson Shut-Ins State Park. Over the course of the multiple day summer vacation we actually visited a few other Missouri State Parks (more to come on those later).
The Shut-ins are just across a state highway from the campground. The Shut-Ins themselves are a part of the Black River that runs through the park and provides ample low and slow water fun as well as many deep and rushing water spots to enjoy.
The park itself is quite interesting due to a rather recent disaster that took place within the past many years. When the Taum Sauk pumped storage plant reservoir on a neighboring mountain failed on December 14, 2005, Johnson’s Shut Ins was devastated by a catastrophic flood. It destroyed the park’s campground, which was fortunately unoccupied at the time. The only injuries were minor and were sustained by the park superintendent and his family, the only people at the park at the time.
The park was closed due to the damage, and didn’t completely reopen for water recreation in 2009, and a new campground opened in 2010. Restoration was funded by $52 million of a settlement of $180 million, paid by AmerenUE, the owner and operator of the failed reservoir.
The park is overall one of the cleanest and well maintained family campgrounds I have been too in quite some time. In addition to the clean park, new and clean facilities the park staff was amazing. It has been quite a long since I have experienced nature themed activities for the kids at night during a week night at a state run campground.
Not only did our girls really enjoy the program on owls, but the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Staff came to our campsite and brought multiple pelts, fossils and other nature items for our girls to touch and experience. In addition, staff came back again with nature journals, animal posters and guide books after finding out what our girls were interested in. Grace and Gabby talked about this particular experience all the way home.
The Shut-ins provided access to the Ozark Trail as well as many other native trails that reside only in the park itself. In addition to visiting the Shut-ins we also visited Taum Sauk State Park which is the tallest point in Missouri (roughly just over 1,700ft) as well as Elephant Rock State Park. This park is a joy for the whole family allowing everyone to get involved and explore at their pace on either a pave walkway or while exploring the boulders on the edge of the walk way.
In addition to the fun we had playing in the river, explorng the trails and climbing the boulders at Elephant Rock we also began a new journey with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 2017 is the Centennial for the Missouri State Parks. MODNR has created a passport showcasing all of their state parks, museums and historic sites. You can pick one up for a mere five dollars at any site and your your book stamped with a unique site specific stamp. We managed a total of five stamps in just a few days.
For more information about the passport click here.
Simply put, this was a great trip with a wide array of activities to undertake that everyone in the family enjoyed. So, if you in the Midwest... the natural wonders of both the Shut-ins and Elephant Rock are worth the drive.
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