Best Tent Camping Missouri and the Ozarks  by Steve Henry

Best Tent Camping: Missouri and the Ozarks Guide Book

by Steve Henry (Menasha Ridge Press)
Best Tent Camping Missouri and the Ozarks  by Steve Henry
The Ozarks is a land of clear rivers, tall bluffs, deep forests, and aquamarine springs. And this spectacular backdrop is the setting for some of the most scenic campgrounds in the country. Hundreds of miles of trails and thousands of miles of rivers lace the countryside around these forest hideaways, opening the door to endless adventure. But do you know how to fi nd the right place? Here’s the answer, right in your hands. Maybe you seek a small, quiet campground near a fi sh-fi lled stream for a weekend of solitude . . . or maybe you and the family need a campground with all the amenities and lots of recreational options. In Best Tent Camping: Missouri & the Ozarks, outdoors writer and enthusiast Steve Henry has compiled the most up-to-date research—in the region he knows so well—to steer you straight to the safe and scenic treasure spot you had in mind.

© 2014 Steve Henry/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Tent Camping: Missouri and the Ozarks" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 65.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 65.

Alley Spring may be a big campground, but it’s a wonderful place to camp in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. It’s not merely a pretty place on the Jacks Fork River, but a historical one as well. The Alley community once thrived in this river bottom, anchored by the Alley Mill, which still stands next to the deep, clear pool of Alley Spring. When you’re not on the river, you can hike a trail around the millpond or explore the old mill on one of the organized tours offered during the summer months.
Van Buren, MO - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Alley Spring may be a big campground, but it’s a wonderful place to camp in the Ozark Scenic Riverways. It’s not merely a beautiful place on the Jacks Fork River, but a historical one as well. The Alley Community once thrived in this pretty river bottom, anchored by the Alley Mill, which still stands next to the deep, clear pool of Alley Spring. When you’re not on the river, you can hike a trail around the millpond or explore the old mill on one of the organized tours offered during the summer months.
Eminence, MO - Campgrounds
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Unlike the landscapes surrounding most campgrounds in this book, Arrow Rock isn’t a natural scenic wonder. Its campground is still a peaceful hideaway, but the area’s draw is its history. The town’s name is derived from the nearby bluffs visible for miles on the Missouri River, which were noted on a 1732 French explorers map as Pierre a Flèche, or “rock of arrows.”
Arrow Rock, MO - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Unlike the landscapes surrounding most campgrounds in this book, Arrow Rock isn’t a natural scenic wonder. Its campground is still a peaceful hideaway, but the area’s draw is its history. Though less than 100 souls now inhabit Arrow Rock, its past still lives through its old buildings, antique shops, and historic sites. The best place to begin your exploration of Arrow Rock is its superb visitor.
Arrow Rock, MO - Campgrounds
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Bay Creek is a bit of a secret. In conversations about the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, I learned about Alley Spring, Big Spring, and several other more popular campgrounds along the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers. Bay Creek is only briefly mentioned in the park’s campground information and is indicated only by a tent symbol on the park map. I thought it might be a nice spot—and it sure is.
Van Buren, MO - Campgrounds
Berryman Recreation Area is the old campsite of Civilian Conservation Corps Company 3733. The picnic pavilion here is dedicated to the men who worked at the camp in the 1930s. Berryman Campground is a wonderful place to hang out. A mixture of mature pines and hardwoods shades all the sites, and on rainy days you can walk over to the picnic shelter to continue reading, writing, relaxing, or shooting the breeze with fellow campers. There’s a nice open lawn near the shelter for sun worshippers, who enjoy soaking up some sun even on those cool and crisp fall days that are such a delight in the Ozarks. The lawn is a superb place for stargazing too, making Berryman a great camp for observing special astronomical events such as comets, lunar eclipses, or one of the several meteor showers that light up the heavens each year.
Potosi, MO - Campgrounds
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Big Spring’s history as a public recreation area dates to 1924, when it became one of Missouri’s first state parks. In 1969 Missouri donated this jewel to the National Park Service to be part of the newly established Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Now thousands of visitors come to this lovely area on the lower Current River to enjoy canoeing, hiking, scenic drives, dinner at the park’s rustic Civilian Conservation Corps–era lodge, and, of course, camping next to the river in Big Spring’s expansive campground. For those outdoor enthusiasts who prefer a little decadence with their outdoor fun, 14 comfortable cabins await.
Van Buren, MO - Campgrounds
Blanchard Springs Recreation Area, hidden away deep in a narrow forested valley, is one of the most beautiful campgrounds in the Ozark Mountains. Though Blanchard Springs is a popular destination, the campground is at the far end of the complex, where it’s peaceful even on the busiest weekend. Sylamore Creek, a clear spring-fed stream, meanders through camp, paralleled by the Sylamore Creek Trail. There are two swimming holes in the creek, miles of trails to hike and mountain bike, and caverns to explore. The nearby Ozark Folk Center is a wonderful place to learn about Ozark Mountain history and traditions.
Mountain View, AR - Campgrounds
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Brazil Creek Campground is a pretty little camp nestled in a bend of its namesake stream. Tall, stately pines shade the camp, swaying and sighing in the breezes that blow up and down the Brazil Creek Valley. The Berryman Trail, a 24-mile loop that’s popular with hikers, mountain bikers, trail runners, and equestrians, goes through the camp, and Brazil Creek is a wonderful place to end your adventure on the Berryman with a cooling splash in the stream’s clear pools. For more laid-back outdoor adventure, you can drive a few miles east to Huzzah and Courtois creeks, where some of the best canoeing and kayaking in Missouri awaits you. This peaceful campground features nine unnumbered sites scattered across a pine-shaded open area along the east bank of Brazil Creek. All sites are roomy, spaced well apart, and surrounded by expanses of grass suitable for several tents. Six sites are between the campground road and the creek, only a few steps from the stream.
Potosi, MO - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Council Bluff Recreation Area is built around 440-acre Council Bluff Lake on the Big River. Opened in 1985, Wild Boar Ridge Campground is a group of campsites strung along the spine of a forested Ozark ridge above the lake. Stretching over a mile-long ridge instead of being crammed into the tight cluster we’ve come to expect in public campgrounds, sites in Wild Boar Campground are comfortably spaced. All have ample level space for tents. Though many sites are large enough for RVs, the lack of hookups keeps most RVs away. When a behemoth does show up, good spacing between sites and thick woods between camps keep things private and peaceful.
Potosi, MO - Campgrounds
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Cuivre River State Park’s 6,394 acres are an anomaly to the agricultural landscape around it, featuring the ridges, hollows, gravel-bottom streams, and bluff overlooks common to the Ozarks in the southern part of the state. It’s part of the Lincoln Hills, an area that escaped the heavy glaciations of the lands around the park. Many plants and animals living here are found nowhere else in northern Missouri.
Troy, MO - Campgrounds
Cuivre River State Park’s 6,394 acres are an anomaly to the agricultural landscape around it, featuring the ridges, hollows, gravelbottom streams, and bluff overlooking. There’s something for everyone at this attractive state park. Lincoln Lake, a 55-acre clear gem in the middle of the park, has a swimming beach, boat ramp, great fishing, and a 4-mile lakeside trail. There are excellent picnic sites, shelters for reunions, and group camps for overnight get-togethers. An equestrian camp serves horse enthusiasts, and several of the park’s trails are open for horseback riding. The diverse landscape in and around the park attracts a variety of wildlife, making it a great place for birders. Some 38 miles of trail meander through the park, exploring Big Sugar Creek Wild Area, North Woods Wild Area, and the Lincoln Hills Natural Area on loops ranging from 1 to 7 miles.
Troy, MO - Campgrounds
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If lazing in the shade next to a beautiful river is your idea of a good time, you’ll like Deer Leap and Float Camp. Located next to the wide, deep reaches of the lower Current River, these camps are comfortable streamside hideaways. Deer Leap and Float Camp are two separate recreation areas in the Mark Twain National Forest. Because they’re only a half mile apart, I decided to lump them together as a single campground. Both camps were renovated in 2011–2012, making them a little more developed than I’d normally prefer, but they’re still wonderful places to pitch your tent.
Doniphan, MO - Campgrounds
Dry Fork Recreation Area is a peaceful campground on the northern edge of the Missouri Ozarks. The landscape around Dry Fork is a transition zone where forest gives way to grassland, featuring a mix of oak, hickory, and pine trees with scattered prairie openings. Consequently, you’ll see a variety of wildlife in this diverse terrain. From your campsite at Dry Fork you can explore this interesting landscape on the 35-mile Cedar Creek Trail System. A network of three loops open to hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians, the Cedar Creek Trail runs past the camp. Dry Fork is also only a short drive from the Katy Trail, a scenic 225-mile railstotrails conversion running from Clinton to St. Charles.
Fulton, MO - Campgrounds
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Dry Fork Recreation Area is a peaceful campground on the northern edge of the Missouri Ozarks. The landscape around Dry Fork is a transition zone where forest gives way to grassland, featuring a mix of oak, hickory, and pine forest with scattered prairie openings. Consequently, you’ll see a variety of wildlife in this diverse terrain. From your campsite at Dry Fork you can explore this interesting landscape on the 35-mile Cedar Creek Trail System. A network of three loops open to hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians, the Cedar Creek Trail runs past the camp. Its eight private sites are tucked into groves of cedars in the surrounding oak-hickory-pine forest, and a pineshaded picnic area is just up the road from camp. Hidden away on a gravel road in the forest, it’s a nice quiet place to spend a few days. All its sites are well spaced, private, and shady. Best of all, the campground is open year-round on a donation-only basis, and unlike many other campgrounds in Missouri, frost-free hydrants let the water stay on all year long. If you’re an equestrian you’ll really like Dry Fork.
Ashland, MO - Campgrounds
Greer Crossing Recreation Area is smack in the middle of one of my favorite landscapes in Missouri—the Eleven Point Wild and Scenic River country. With upper access for canoeing the most beautiful section of the Eleven Point, Greer Crossing is the perfect base for exploring the hills and hollows near the river. Located a few hundred feet from the river, Greer’s sites are level, well spaced, and shady. Most of these spacious grassy sites have room for two or more tents. Walls of trees and brush separate you from the neighbors. No sites are directly on the Eleven Point, but it’s only a short walk to a dip at the nearby picnic area and river access.
Winona, MO - Campgrounds
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The pleasant campground at Gunner Pool Recreation Area isn’t just another excellent facility built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps—it’s the old site of an actual CCC camp. More than 2,200 young men went through what was then known as Camp Hedges, home of Company 743. A normal complement of 170 enrollees worked here at this streamside hideaway in the Ozarks.
Mountain View, AR - Campgrounds
The word haw is old-time mule-driver jargon. The driver would shout “Haw” to turn his team left, and “Gee” to turn it right. Gee Creek runs into Haw Creek near Haw Creek Falls Recreation Area, and at their junction Gee Creek flows from the right and Haw Creek from the left. From this confluence just upstream from the campground, Haw Creek flows over lovely cascades next to camp on its way to nearby Big Piney Creek.
Hector, AR - Campgrounds
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Though the campground in Hawn State Park is more developed than most of the campgrounds in this book, with electricity and concrete parking pads at many sites, I included it for the natural beauty of the campground and the wild atmosphere of the nearly 5,000 acres contained in the park’s boundaries. Located in the flat bottom of a steep-walled hollow, the campground is nestled in a meander of Pickle Creek. Hawn State Park is named for Helen Coffer Hawn, a teacher in nearby Ste. Genevieve, who in 1952 donated the park’s first 1,459 acres. Her namesake park is a wonderful place to spend a few days relaxing in nature’s splendor.
Sainte Genevieve, MO - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Hazel Creek is not fancy—it’s a quiet and restful place on a dead-end gravel road in Missouri’s Ozarks. In other words, it’s just right. Its namesake creek, a clear stream riffling over gravel bars and rock ledges, curls around the south and west sides of the camp, and oak-hickory forest lines its eastern and northern boundaries. The Ozark Trail meanders past camp, and good swimming and fishing are nearby at Council Bluffs Recreation Area. Best of all, there’s no fee for camping at this fine hideaway. Donations are welcome, though, and I strongly recommend making one. If we want laid-back jewels like Hazel Creek to stay open in tight budget times like ours, we should slip a few bucks into the donation box, right?
Belgrade, MO - Campgrounds
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