Family Weekender: St. Louis

Johnson Shut-Ins State Park
By Gary Lantz
Go Guide: Johnson Shut-Ins State Park

Activities: Hiking, backpacking, camping, fishing, swimming, picnicking.

Age Levels: All levels.

Hours from St. Louis: One hour plus.

Getting There: Johnson Shut-Ins State Park is eight miles north of Lesterville on Hwy N in Reynolds County.

Contact: Johnson Shut-Ins State Park, Middlebrook, MO 63656. Call (573) 546-2450 for more information.

Reference: Geologic Wonders and Curiosities of Missouri, from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geology and Land Survey, Rolla, MO. To obtain a copy, call (314)368-2100.

Extra Treats: Visit nearby Elephant Rocks State Park, where giant, billion-year-old granite boulders line scenic trails. A self-guided Braille trail and a gentle footpath are provided for disabled or older visitors. Elephant Rocks is located in Belleview, MO. Call (573)546-3454 for further information.


If you're seeking a place just to sit and ponder or splash your toes in clear water amid some of Missouri's best outdoor scenery, then Johnson Shut-Ins is a must.

Here, the Black River — touted as Missouri's clearest — rushes through a series of polished stone gorges. The budding geologist in the family will be fascinated to hear he or she is hiking amid some of the nation's oldest exposed rocks!

This is a place where kids can get a taste of truly wild nature, and the old folks can simply walk, talk, commune, and relax. But remember the rocks are polished smooth by centuries of current — the rate of flow can be deceptive, so keep an eye on toddlers around water, and even older children who can't swim well.

The 500 mile long Ozark Trail heads up here and meanders southwest, eventually terminating near Lake Fort Smith State Park in Arkansas. Most of the 8,470-acre park remains as wilderness, host to more than a thousand species of plants and wildflowers. Developed areas include picnic spots and a campground.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 6 Jun 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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