Two weekdays here in the later part of September and it’s extremely pleasant. Plus I practically have the whole park to myself. This state park is definitely off the beaten path and, like all state parks in Missouri, entrance for day use, hiking, or fishing is free. Camping with electric hook-ups is $21.00 a day. You can book a site online but as I drove in, it appeared that some of the more desirable sites are first come/first served. These ones are on the woods side with no view of other campers on three sides. I chose a site in the grassy field but I’ve got lovely large trees to look at and only two other campers anyway this week. Note that there are three pull-thru sites. I’m only here for two days but I unhooked my car because you have to drive to the hiking trails and historic sites.
The sites don’t have water or sewer hook-ups but there is a bathroom and a shower building nearby. However, all the facilities have a sign stating that it’s recommended to boil the water so I decided to use my own shower and just be thrifty. They only take reservations through October 31st and the shower house is closed from November 1 to April 14. Also, the road to the hiking trails and lake is closed as of November 1.
You will think you are in Field of Dreams as you drive the last 5 or 6 miles to the park through cornfields and a very narrow two lane road but once you get here, you will be surrounded by a forest of full grown deciduous trees. The park is about 12 miles from highway 65 north and encompasses about 1,100 acres, including ravines and marshes. The first thing we noticed when we got here and parked was all the frogs that hopped out of the way as I walked the dogs. I don’t know what they are but I’m guessing a type of leopard frog that is indigenous to the area.
There are several areas where you can park and hike and for more information on the trails, you can go here. Don’t forget your bug spray! No restroom facilities once you pass the picnic area but trash cans and picnic tables near trail heads. We explored the following:
- Missouri River Overlook Trail — this is a very short trail in a parking lot at the end of the road that includes the Loess Hills Trail as well. It takes you out to a view of a spot along the Lewis & Clark expedition trail. It’s amazing to see things as they were over 200 years ago.
- Loess Hills Trail — also at the parking lot at the end of the road, is a 2 mile trail through the woods that follows the 18 acre lake down below. There are wooden bridges and boardwalks across the wet areas. We didn’t hike the whole trail and there is a sign that states that you will have to cross some mud along the way which we didn’t find. Although the trail was slightly damp, we had easy walking the whole way. We saw a wild turkey, among many other bird species. Only got one orb spider web stuck in my hair. We were lucky this time!
- The Earthworks Trail, one mile, has a small parking lot off Van Meter Park Road with the Mound Field on one side and the trail to the Earthworks on the other side. You can also access this trial from the picnic area. The Mound Field is a site of Native American significance although there isn’t much to see except what’s in your imagination. Earthworks trail leads to an archeological site with descriptive signage. Just like Civil War sites, you will have to use your imagination more than actually seeing anything but it’s still cool. The information claims that the site is more than 1,000 years old and scientists aren’t really sure what it’s original purpose was.
- The Cemetery Trial — this is a short trail across from the campground. It leads through the woods uphill to an historic cemetery and then downhill through cut grass to a memorial garden.
- Oumessourit Trail — Pronounced “Oo-Missouri,” is closed for renovations during 2019. This trail leads through wetlands and bottomland wooded areas.
And if you have to wait for mommy while she takes pictures, you look like this: