Best Tent Camping: Missouri and the Ozarks
by Steve Henry (Menasha Ridge Press)
© Steve Henry/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.
This is the second best camp site in the area. We stayed here three nights and during the trip scouted Lost Valley, Kyles Landing and Ozark. Kyles Landing looked to us to be the best hands down. The area was well preserved and many camp sites were well spaced and right on the river, The bluff view was similar to that of Steel Creek. Lost Valley was a joke - just drive by that one and don't waste your time. Ozark looked OK but not nearly as nice as Kyles and Steel. Steel is an open field (don't ask me why the park service clear cut the area) with camp sites scattered around a large field. Several camp sites are near the water but for some reason they stopped clear cutting the trees that are within 100-200' feet of the river so the view of the river and bluff is very obstructed but the river itself in the area is very nice and the bluff is spectacular. Also - warning to Mt Bikers...forget it. They only allow horses and hikers on all trails in the Buffalo National River area...unbelievable!!!. We were there three days and saw no horses. We also hiked one of the horse trials which would have been perfect for Mt. Bikes, For white water enthusiasts...only go in May or April. The best parts of the river are reportedly between Ponca and Kyles but the water is too low starting in June to float. the lower sections are just for paddlers..no rapids. Overall - this is one of the nicest area we stayed during out tour of the Ozarks.
Limited number of campsites, all open and arranged in a long field a little like two grassy football fields with picnic tables. Shade only at the margins. Clean, grassy and nice flush toilets. This is a central canoe put-in and so is handy for canoe folks.
We are new at horse trail riding so take this report for what ever it's worth. We own our horses, Haflingers(small draft)from Austria are excellent trail horses well suited to the rugged mountains of the Buffalo river basin. We rode two days in the park and can say it was the most beautiful scenery were have ever ridden in. The reward was riding the high cliffs on the west side of Steel Creek and coming all the way around and and down to "Hemmed in Hollow" which is about a 300'verical waterfall! The spring rains provided lots of run off and the pictures were fantastic!
We went with a very experienced friend who had been there before. Otherwise, you should carry a good GPS since the trails are not always marked. Crossing the Buffalo river in the spring can be a challenge, look for low water crossings, the spring feed waters are very cold! The trail head horse camp was nice, toliets, water, concret picnic tables, fire rings and tie line posts. First come first serve however. They have about ten sites for horse camping.
I give this a FIVE STAR rating and looking foward to going back this spring.
From the moment you start down into the valley that makes up Steel Creek, you can't help but be captured by the sheer cliffs surrounding you. This land was once privately owned by farmers, and looking around, you can't help but feel jealous of anyone who got to wake up in this amazing place every morning. The camping sites are a bit close, but there are a few sites that afford you a bit more privacy. There is an excellent swimming hole here, but beware of snakes! There is also a great little hike that leads you on top of the bluffs for some great views. All in all, a great place to spend some time.
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