Skip to main content

Tour of Missouri: Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park

Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park. I have longed to go there for a few years but the distance from our home to the park is really...really far. So, we took a week off from work and made the 300 mile drive worth our effort.

We started off at the week off at Montauk State Park. We spent four days trout fishing before moving on over to Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park. Before we explored the Shut-Ins we drove up to Elephant Rock State Park.  After all that rock climbing we were ready for a cool dip into the spring fed water.

I did a lot of research before we left to go on vacation. I knew that a Shut-In was a constriction in a river-way. I knew that hundreds of people visit the Shut-Ins every weekend of the summer. I also knew that approximately five years ago an electric company's water reservoir breached sending 1.3 billion gallons of water downstream flooding this state park. I also knew that venomous copperhead snakes and even black bears were known to call this area their habitat.

No amount of research could have prepared me for the Shut-Ins themselves. The Short Chic felt some sense of familiarity with them as she had played in another Shut-In during our visit to Rocky Falls. But these Shut-Ins were different. There were rocks on top of rocks. Below the surface of the water, you could see more rocks. Some were very sharp. Most were jagged. And the water coming through the rocks was very powerful.

It has been almost five years since the flood. The campgrounds have been moved to higher ground a few miles from the Shut-Ins. Giant boulders remain littered throughout the park as a powerful reminder of the flood. Just inside the entrance is a new and inviting visitor center. If you visit here take a few moments to sit in the air conditioning and watch the three video's available in the movie theater. One video is about the volcanic rock that dominates this area, another is about the reservoir breach and the rebuilding process. When you think about the devastation that occurred and you see all the efforts to conserve and rebuild, it is honestly amazing!

If you are like us and actually plan to enter the water there are a few things you should know before hand. The water is cool and refreshing. It was perfect for a hot summer day. Water shoes are an absolute requirement. I would want the thickest sole shoes I could find. Life Jackets are another must take items if you are visting the Shut-Ins with kids.  Part of me wished we had also brought helmets for the kids to wear as well! 

There is no need for swimming toys. Not unless you select a different part of the river to play in. (Those parts do exist!) Know that any pool bag, towels, or anything else you carried down to the Shut-Ins is just going to get stashed away in the cracks of rock until you are ready to go and collect them. 

There is a store with changing area and lockers at the top of the hill. I wish we would have known that before we drug out things down to the river.  Warning signs are posted everywhere reminding you that in case of a flood you should move to higher ground. There are also warning signs about black bears too! 

The Boy nearly gave me a heart-attach when he decided to jump into one of the deeper pools of water. He even got his mini-me to go with him. He won't admit it out-loud when I am around but I think he probably jumped a little too wide and hit a rock under the surface.

I should report that we never saw a bear during our entire visit. I can't say the same about the cottonmouth snake. We actually had one visit our campsite every evening. I am happy to report that while we did finish our vacation covered in bug bites and unexplained bruises from the Shut-Ins no one was bitten by the cottonmouth.

The Park Rangers and the camp staff held educational/informational programs on the weekend nights that we stayed in the park. The kids attended both of them. The first night the program was ironically about snakes. The second night the program was about the meteor shower that was hitting our area the week after our vacation. The kids came home from the second program so excited about shooting stars as well as balloons and glow sticks (props used in the program)!

The camping area of the park was not what we expected. Given a flood went through here five years ago, we were expecting a tree-less, no shade park.  What we found was the exact opposite. There were plenty of tall trees and a really peaceful outdoor experience. The park has an equestrian loop. A full service loop as well as cabins you can rent. There is even hike-in camping with roll carts you can rent to get your things to your site. After our experience of hiking at Montauk, I will report that we did not venture out onto any state park paths during our time at Johnson's Shut-Ins.

The Boy was disappointed to learn that the entire park has no cell service. He did find free wi-fi at the camp store.

This is one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. I wish words could describe it but honestly they just cannot. I hope the photos help.


Popular posts from this blog

My Weekend Project: A PVC Camping Lamp Post and Flag Holder

I have seen a few of these around campsites and I knew I would like to have one. The only problem that I had is The Husband.

He already thinks we drag too much stuff with us when we go camping and if I had told him my desire to have a PVC Camping Light Pole he would have shut it down quickly!

So, that leaves a girl with only one choice: Figure out how to do it by herself.

I did some internet searching and found a few road maps on RV forums. They seemed easy enough!

I visited the local hardware store for the supplies:

An exterior post lantern light2 inch PVC pipe (I used 5 feet but had to purchase a 10 foot piece)A 3 inch toilet flangeA 3 inch to 2 inch ReducerPVC GlueA 12 foot electric cord kit2 - 3/4 inch PVC Caps I also used a few supplies we already had on hand:

White Spray Paint

3 1/2 foot - 3/4 inch PVC PipeDrill Bits (1 inch and 1/2 inch)Tent Stakes

The first step was preparing the lantern light. I could only find black in the store and I knew I wanted all white. I covered the gla…

Camping Activity: Wood Chip Necklaces

My worry in taking a wide range of kids camping is that the younger kids would be happy just playing together but the older ones, the one's in that awkward pre-teen/teen age, would think everything was so uncool they would just sit around and mope. So I designed a few activities that would hopefully get them up, participating, and moving.

 I came home from work a few weeks before the Family Camp-out and found my neighbors had trimmed their tree limbs and piled the mess in my yard. I refrained from getting angry. Over a nice dinner, I asked The Husband to help me with a little project.

He looked at me in disgust. I was pulling him away from ESPN to help with an unnecessary camping craft.

 I admit I did some begging. In the end, The Husband borrowed his father's chainsaw and decided to help me cut medallions out of a limb.  His mood started changing, quickly.{I then begged him to let me try my hand at the chainsaw, but he would not let budge on that one. I had to settle for hol…

Hand Made Gifts: Tutu Ornaments

My  Short Chic is turning into a little dancer. To thank the dance teachers for their help, we decided to make them a little gift for Christmas. A tutu ornament.

Supplies needed:

Tulle. I selected black, white and hot pink. The pink and white both have glitter {I have been walking around for the past four days with glitter all over me!}. Glass Ornaments that coordinate with your tulle. Some kind of string {I used stretch magic}. And some super glue.

Step 1: Cut  the tulle. 

I learned, from trial and error, that my cell phone was roughly the right size. So, I used it as a template for cutting the tulle.  
Step 2: Tie the tulle to the string.

Using a simple slip knot, tie the tulle onto the string {or Stretch Magic}. I think I used about 40 loops per ornament.
Step 3:  Adhere it to the Ornament.
I do not have a photo of this step. But simply, you take some super glue and glue the tutu ring to the ornament. 
FINISHED!  Once the glue is dried, you are finished. {Well except the wrapping!} I …