10 Southeast MO State Parks to See on Your Next Camping Trip
Missouri is a state brimming with culture, tradition, history, diverse flora and fauna, scenic beauty and barbecue. Southeastern Missouri, in particular, is a geological wonder, with the Ozark Mountains and the karst topography of St. Francois Mountains making a mark in the landlocked state. Its southeastern-most part, the Missouri Bootheel, is its wettest area. All its natural wonders make it a good place to take your family, friends and your RV on a camping trip of a lifetime.
The Show-Me State has a lot of recreational parks and wildlife sanctuaries to offer, and if you want the whole camping experience to be the best, Southeast Missouri is the place to go.
Here are 10 state parks to add to your bucket list for your next camping trip:
St. Francois State Park
What once was a natural refuge for desperate Civil War outlaws is now a sanctuary for thousands of tourists looking to get away from the metropolis. St. Francois State Park is a 2735-acre natural and cultural history-filled scenic wonder. Coonville Creek and the Big River can be found within the state park, as well as the Pike Run Hills a refuge to rare and indigenous plants and animals and the Mooner’s Hollow—home to moonshine stills back in the day. With lots to offer, visitors won’t run out of activities and idyllic views.
Activities: Equestrian trails, backpacking trail, fishing, biking/walking trails, camping
Paul Sableman from St. Louis, MO / CC BY
Echo Bluff State Park
In the early 1900s, Echo Bluff State Park was once Camp Zoe. It was a place where a summer youth camp once thrived, creating lasting memories for kids. It was then turned into a Grateful Dead tribute festival, Schwagstock, until the state of Missouri took over and developed it into the state park it is today. The whole park itself is an outdoor wonderland where visitors of all ages can camp or stay in modernesque lodges and cabins.
Activities: Backpacking trail, fishing, biking/walking trails, camping, canoeing, swimming
Sam A. Baker State Park
Named after the former Missouri governor, the scenic beauty of the St. Francois Mountains serves as the backdrop for the Sam A. Baker State Park. Fishers are in for a big treat as the park itself is accessible to both St. Francis River and Big Creek, giving expert and beginner anglers alike a chance to snag varieties of fish. This 5323-acre sprawling ground is one of the oldest state parks in Missouri, popular for its fascinating geological structures and igneous domes, including the 1313-feet Mudlick Mountain, where you can have unobstructed views and vistas of the whole park and its surrounding areas.
Activities: Canoeing, equestrian trails, backpacking trails, fishing, biking/walking trails, camping
Trail of Tears Display - Photo by: Adam Jones
Trail of Tears State Park
The Trail of Tears State Park is a solemn reminder of the most tragic chapter of American History. It has been preserved akin to how the Cherokees have seen the place back in the day. You can view the tale of their forced exodus in the park’s visitor center. On a lighter note, the park has many activities and scenic sites to offer. For birdwatchers, being on the edge of the Mississippi River makes the Trail of Tears State Park a good place to see migratory waterfowl. Fishers also have bountiful opportunities because of the river and Lake Boutin. For people with service animals in tow, they’re welcome inside the state park.
Activities: Equestrian trails, boating, backpacking trail, fishing, biking/walking trails, camping
Montauk State Park
Montauk State Park is known for its seven springs. These natural springs flow 43 million gallons per day and form the headwaters of the Current River. The park is a popular spot for fishing enthusiasts due to the cool spring water and the abundance of rainbow trout. Various amenities and activities fill the shady green retreat. Visiting the Montauk Mill, which was built in 1896, is a history trip in itself. It’s a testament to a bygone era when Montauk was once a thriving community. Whether you want to camp, hike or have a picnic, Montauk State Park has something for you, your friends and family.
Activities: Fishing, biking/walking trails, camping, history tour
Lake Wappapello State Park
If you want to rest easy in a lakeside wonderland, then Lake Wappapello is the place to go. This place offers scenic lakeside coves perfect for fishing and frolicking. This coastal park was once used by the Native Americans and pioneers to feed their families. The nearby Asher Creek has a designated winter waterfowl refuge, where birdwatchers can see various wintering birds, such as eagles and ospreys, and other species, such as great blue herons and great horned owls.
Activities: Fishing, boating, equestrian trails, backpacking trail, biking/walking trails, camping
Taum Sauk Falls - Photo by: Keith Yahl
Taum Sauk Mountain State Park
Located in the St. Francois Mountains, this state park is at the highest point in Missouri. It’s not as accommodating as the other state parks, catering more to hikers and backpackers. Taum Sauk Mountain State Park is the perfect escape to the state’s all-encompassing wilderness, giving you the perfect chance to be one with nature. Mina Sauk Falls, the highest waterfall in Missouri, can be observed in the state park during the wet season. Crystal clear waters flow in the Taum Sauk Creek, recognized by the state for its beauty and scientific value. Being in St. Francois Mountains, awe-striking geological formations are scattered across the state park.
Activities: Backpacking trail, biking/walking trails, camping
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park
In 2005, a failure at the nearby Taum Sauk reservoir caused the waters of the river to rush through, flooding this state park. The disaster didn’t faze the shut-ins—geological pools of wonder where the rocks were shaped by the Black River itself—only bringing debris into the waters; it reopened fully in 2010. This is another St. Francois Mountains-based state park. Here, you can hike the 2-mile scour trail where the flood went through. You can also take a hike and a dip in the shut-ins. Navigating through that trail requires concentration as boulders and crags fill the area.
Activities: Backpacking trail, biking/walking trail, equestrian trails, fishing, camping
Don Kasak from St. Louis, MO, US / CC BY
Onondaga Cave State Park
You will discover in this National Natural Landmark why Missouri is sometimes called the Cave State. Stay on the surface and see the panoramic views of the Meramec River in the Vilander Bluff Natural Area. Or you can visit the namesake itself: the spectacular underground beauty of Onondaga Cave. Ancient volcanic activity has shaped this scenic cavern, filling it up with growing deposits, stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, soda straws. All these geological clusters decorate the cave.
Activities: Cave tours, biking/walking trails, boating, fishing, camping
St. Joe State Park
If there’s anything that makes St. Joe State Park a vacation spot, it’s the off-road vehicle trails—one of the largest ORV areas in the Midwest. Located in the old “Lead Belt” region of southeast Missouri, it used to be a mining area of the St. Joe Minerals Corporation before they stopped operating in the area and donated the land to the state in the 1970s. Outdoor activities are spread throughout the mining-area-turned-state park. Everyone has the chance to enjoy the state park’s winding trails and scenic views. It has four clear lakes—perfect for fishers and those looking for a dip in the water. The mining structures stand today as Missouri Mines State Historic Site.
Activities: Off-road trekking, biking/walking trails, history tour, boating, fishing, swimming, camping
Make your camping trips more memorable by going to the scenic wonderland that is Southeastern Missouri.
Your Camping Experience Elevated
Recreational vehicles make camping a whole lot easier, more comfortable and more enjoyable. These campers and travel trailers can take you and the entire family on the perfect road trip to the perfect vacation spots. It is important for your RV to have all the features to complete all the activities you want to tackle while out relaxing. Your RV must always be in good working condition, as well.
Missouri-based camping experts at 72 West Motors and RVs know all about how to camp in comfort. Whether you’re looking for a new, fully-loaded travel trailer or something pre-owned, at 72 West RVs we know how to help. We have a wide variety of options to choose from—each one takes into consideration your comfort and your needs. We’re also offering the brand new Forest River Surveyor Luxury and Legend brands which offer added features and amazing value, so if you’re looking to buy something from that brand, we got your back.
As RV dealers, we know the importance of finding a good place to have your RV maintained too. We make our customers and their RV’s our number one priority. We have parts and accessories on sale if you need any replacements. We can also complete any camper repair you might need and we are a full-service warrant repair shop. We ensure that your camper gets fixed in an efficient and timely manner.
Contact us today at 573 783-6500 if you want to learn more about our products or repair services.