Conservation Camping

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Published on: Feb. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

Kansas City Urban Ranger Corps Setting Up Camp

Many Missourians are taking vacations a little closer to home this year. Those who might have traveled to Florida or the Gulf Coast are rediscovering Missouri’s natural beauty and the bounty of its diverse landscapes.

Missouri has a wide range of camping destinations. The state has many privately run campgrounds, and the federal government offers camping in areas managed by the Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service, and the U.S.D.A. Forest Service. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources manages Missouri’s state parks, which offer a variety of camping opportunities, from tent camping to motor home sites with water and electrical hookups.

You also can camp on many areas owned by the Missouri Department of Conservation. Conservation areas offer only primitive style camping with no hookups and few amenities. They appeal to campers who really do want to get away from it all.

People like camping for different reasons. Some use it to escape the complications of modern life. Others simply enjoy sleeping outdoors. Some folks travel in RVs and camp as a lifestyle. Some campers may spend a single night out in the tent, but a backpacker may spend a week or more on a trip. The “deer camp” is a favorite event for many Missouri hunters.

In general, camping gets you closer to beautiful misty rivers, elusive bucks, leaf-covered trails, and our treasured natural heritage.

When Missouri voters approved the Conservation Sales Tax in 1976, they wanted more outdoor recreational opportunities. Although hunting and fishing is a primary use for some conservation lands, camping also helps connect people to our fish, forest, and wildlife resources.

There are two main types of camping available at conservation areas: “Designated” camping areas and “Open” camping areas. Designated camping areas are maintained specifically for camping. Designated camping is divided into “Designated Primitive” and“Designated Improved.” The difference between these two is that improved areas have individual campsites, rather than just a general camping area. Designated camping areas may have picnic tables or grills. Not all designated camping areas have restrooms. There is no reservation system to camp in these areas, but they are seldom crowded, except during some hunting seasons.

“Open” camping means that there are no designated camping areas or sites. The primary rule for open camping is that campsites must be at least 100 yards from parking lots and roads. This camping category is great for those campers who want a more adventurous experience than can be found at

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