If the Newenhaus family had a motto, it would be the family that camps together stays together. For more than 60 years, the family has gathered beneath the oaks and pines along Huzzah Creek in the Ozarks to camp, hike, fish, float, and watch wildlife. It is a closeness fostered by time together and the slower pace of outdoor living. While the family has grown dramatically through the decades, the time together exploring the outdoors has been the common thread shaping their lives.
And So It Begins
In 1950, Ted and Ardella Newenhaus, who lived in St. Louis, were looking for a place to take their growing family on vacation on a very tight budget. Ted’s colleague suggested one of his favorite camping spots in the Ozarks, just a few hours from their home. With borrowed camping gear and a heart for adventure, the family set out to one of the most scenic and biologically diverse areas in Missouri — Huzzah Creek.
Located in the Ozarks, Huzzah Creek runs through Huzzah Conservation Area, which has 6,225 acres of rugged forest terrain to explore, including fishing and floating opportunities on the Meramec River and Huzzah and Courtois creeks. The Ozark Trail, which covers more than 350 miles of conservation areas, state parks, and national forests in Missouri, goes across Huzzah, allowing hikers up-close access to many of the conservation areas’ unique features. There are also more species of crayfish than anywhere else in Missouri. It is a camper’s paradise.
Huzzah was an instant hit for the Newenhaus family. On their first camping trip, the family cooled off in the crystal cool waters of the Huzzah Creek, delighted to find an abundance of crayfish and salamanders. It was the first of many family hikes to the bluff to see wildflowers and birds among the oaks and shortleaf pines. It was a haven for wildlife they never had the opportunity to see in the city. It also became the family’s camping spot year after year.
“All my best childhood memories are from camping with my family,” said Mary, one of the eight daughters in the family. “My claim to fame is that I’ve never missed a trip.”
To The Future
It’s a little easier for Mary to make the trip these days. After meeting her husband in the area, they built a cabin with a scenic overlook of the Huzzah Valley. It’s a breathtaking view she loves no matter what the Missouri season.
“We get a perfect view of the sunrise and the full moon,” Mary said. “For Missouri, I don’t think it gets any better than our view here.” Watch a four season timelapse video
of the Huzzah Valley at bit.ly/23fY3m0.
But Mary’s not the only Newenhaus family member to make the Ozark landscape home after years of camping there. Her sister, Annie, and her husband loved camping so much they decided to move to the country to be around nature every day, while her brother, TJ, camps all year round and is hoping for a second career as a campground host. “I am the youngest, so I’ve been coming here since I was born. Now I bring my kids and grandkids,” said TJ proudly. “I’ve camped all over the country, but this is my favorite place. Missouri has everything — creeks and rivers and lakes and mountains. I think camping would be good for anybody to take up if they haven’t tried it before. It’s very inexpensive compared to hotels.”
TJ and his young grandson, Jeremiah, like to spend a lot of time fishing and watching for wildlife by the creek. “I see bluegills, sunfish, and bass,” said Jeremiah. “I usually bring my goggles down to the creek and swim under, and there are a lot of crawdads and tadpoles, too. It’s like an outdoor aquarium.”
While TJ continues to nurture the love of nature with the younger generation, he remembers fondly the start of the camping tradition with his mom and dad. It’s a legacy he remembers daily.
“My dad, who started our camping trips, is no longer with us, but he hiked up the bluff for the last time when he was around 80 years old. I have a picture of that and it’s the first thing I see when I walk in the door to my house,” said TJ.
Even with Ted’s passing, the entire family, including the nine children, 26 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren, and matriarch Ardella, continues to camp at Huzzah each year as one big happy family. They all have their unique roles for the camping reunions, including camp setup, cooking, and clean up. The Newenhaus family also enjoys their nightly campfire time with music and games. “We play a game called ‘Remember When’ where we tell a memory, and you can bet 90 percent of the memories are from camping,” said sister Laurie.
The Newenhaus family would tell you it’s never too late to start an outdoor camping tradition. Missouri has some great scenic places to get you started, but Huzzah will always be their favorite. The Ozark wilderness inspired them from the very beginning and continues to bring them closer together to this day. See the Newenhaus family story at bit.ly/25XCHJ5.
Camping with your family may seem like a daunting adventure, especially if you’ve never slept all night under the stars. However, camping can be a very affordable and fun family outing. Missouri offers some incredibly scenic places to pitch your tent and freely explore the outdoors. With more than 1,000 conservation areas across the state, your camping destination may be closer than you think.
Where to Camp
The first step in getting ready for a camping excursion is to determine a camping location. Family and friends may offer sound advice on some top camping spots, especially if they are big campers. Never discount firsthand experience when it comes to outdoor hotspots. If you don’t have any word-of-mouth recommendations, the Department’s website can point you in the right direction: on.mo.gov/1S5l6Yx. You can search for conservation areas close to you, by activity, or even by natural area. Each conservation area listing on the website details things to do on the area, such as camping or hiking, as well as what habitat and wildlife you might see around you.
Each area of the state offers a different landscape to enjoy. You might camp up north and take in the beauty of a prairie sunrise or go down to the Ozarks to enjoy the majestic forests. There are streams and rivers, lakes and ponds, and large wetland areas — all great spots to enjoy the water and wildlife. Hikers may also choose a camping spot by scenic trails that meander up hillsides for a spectacular view that takes your breath away — both from the beautiful view and being winded by the walk. There are lots of unique outdoor spots all across Missouri perfect for an overnight stay.
What to Bring
Once a camping location has been scouted and selected, you’re ready to start thinking about packing for your trip. Don’t get overwhelmed by the camping supply list. Just like the Newenhaus family, you can start your first camping trip by borrowing the basics, such as a tent or sleeping bags, from friends or family. You can also cook your food on an open fire at the campsite versus bringing a camping stove. It’s up to you how heavy or light you want to pack. It’s important to be prepared on your outdoor adventure. Developing a checklist is helpful. The length and location of your trip may dictate your list. Here’s a sample list to get you started:
- Shelter: tent, ground tarp, stakes, and a hammer or ax to get stakes in the ground
- Bedding: sleeping bag, extra blankets, pillow, mat or pad for under your sleeping bag (or an air mattress and air pump, if you want to be really comfy)
- Cooking: cooler, large water jug or water bucket, matches/lighter, stove with fuel or campfire grill, fire starter, aluminum foil, ziplock bags, paper towels, plates and silverware, trash bags, dish soap, cooking pot, tongs, can opener, cutting board, knife, seasonings, and condiments
- Clothes: comfortable clothes, hiking shoes/boots, extra socks, hat, bandana, sweatshirt/jacket, rain gear, swim suit, towel
- Miscellaneous: sunscreen, lip balm, lantern or flashlight, extra batteries, compass/GPS, bug spray, water filters/purification, camp chairs, hammock, first aid kit, rope, conservation area map, fishing pole, fishing license, binoculars, handwipes, nature journal, tote bag
If you decide to start a cozy fire at your campsite, buy firewood where you camp and burn it all before you leave. When preparing your fire, clear a generous zone around your fire ring and store any unused firewood a good distance from the fire. Keep fire-extinguishing materials, such as a rake, shovel, and bucket of water, close so you can quench your fire in a hurry. Extinguish campfires each night and before leaving camp. These tips can help avoid a dangerous forest fire at a campsite.
The pace of your life can slow down tremendously during a family campout. Take the time to enjoy the fresh air and the company around you. Fun family activities might include:
- Listening to the nature sounds around you — bird calls, running water, trees in the wind
- Finding a trail and hiking it to the very end
- Exploring a creek or pond for crayfish, frogs, and turtles
- Bird watching with your brand new binoculars
- Hanging in a hammock amongst the trees
- Breaking out your fishing pole to catch some fish for dinner
- Floating or canoeing down the river
- Taking a nap in the grass or in your tent
- Skipping rocks in the water
- Scouting for animal tracks in the dirt or mud
- Swimming all day
- Telling funny jokes and stories around the campfire
I Want to Learn More?
You’re now ready for your first camping trip. You know where to camp, what to bring, and fun activities when you get there. However, if you’re an overachiever and want to learn new outdoor skills before you go, the Department offers free programs to help you build that knowledge. Classes are offered in birding, camping, canoeing, Dutch-oven cooking, fishing, fire building, hiking, map and compass, outdoor survival, and much more. Go to mdc.mo.gov/events to find an outdoor skills class near you.