Camping

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camping
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Camping is a great way to unplug, recharge, and connect with nature. More than 300 of Missouri’s conservation areas offer camping for those looking for a more adventurous, primitive experience. All camping on conservation areas is free, and most camping is first come, first served. Be sure to have a backup plan in case the spot where you want to camp is already occupied.

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Guidelines for camping on MDC areas

Check the dates

Be aware of hunting seasons. Some areas will be busier during these seasons and may have temporary trail or road closures. Also, some areas expand or restrict camping during firearm hunting seasons.

Bring your own necessities

Sometimes designated campgrounds will provide fire rings, picnic tables, dumpsters, and latrines, but more often camping on conservation areas is primitive with little or no facilities provided. Also, no RV hookups are provided at any department area. Campers should expect to bring their own water.

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Before You Go

Before planning a trip in the spring or fall, check Places to Go for information on the specific conservation area where you wish to camp to see if the area allows camping or has restrictions during hunting seasons.

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Know The Rules
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  • Campers can stay up to 14 consecutive days in any 30-day period and must remove all personal property at the end of the 14-day period. Each camper is limited to 30 total camping days within one calendar year on all department lands.
  • On those areas with established campsites, only two camping or sleeping units are permitted in each site.
  • Walk-in (dispersed) campers should camp at least 100 yards from parking lots and roads.
  • Pack out at least as much as you pack in, and don’t burn trash in campfires.
  • Check the regulations for the specific area where you want to camp. Some areas allow open dispersed camping (walk-in-, float-in-, or backpack-type camping) while others allow camping only in designated sites. Some areas require a special use permit for all camping.
  • Groups of more than 10 people camping on conservation lands must obtain a special use permit.
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Respect your neighbors

Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily. Visitors who are not occupying a campsite must leave the campground by 10 p.m. During quiet hours, campers should not make any excessive noise, both personally or with mechanical devices, that disturbs other campers.

Keep fire contained; use local firewood

Know how to keep from starting a wildfire when you camp. Visit Make Your Camp Firewise for guidelines, and remember to use local firewood for campfires to keep from spreading tree-killing pests and diseases across the state.

Properly dispose of human waste

If no latrine is available at your campsite, follow these steps to properly dispose of human waste:

  • Choose a spot that is at least 200 feet away from a trail, water source, or campsite.
  • Make a hole about 4 inches wide and 6 to 8 inches deep to contain the waste.
  • When finished, completely cover the hole, and do not leave any toilet paper visible on top of the ground.
Be Bear Aware

While black bear attacks are extremely rare, it’s wise to follow a few precautions now that these bears have made a comeback in Missouri. Visit Camping and Hiking in Black Bear Country to learn ways to stay safe when camping and hiking where there might be black bears.

Plan For Emergencies

Bring a first aid kit, and have a plan in place in case of emergency. Remember that you are responsible for your safety and the safety of those around you.

Report Misuse

To report any misuse of the area, contact the Conservation Agent assigned to the county where you observed the issue.

Great Places For Camping

Events

Find events near you.
Date: Thursday, September 1, 2022 8:00 am - Friday, September 30, 2022 8:00 am
Location: Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center
Come and see this months Hallway Artist, Geoff Anderson's bird photography! Born and raised in south county St. Louis, he grew up camping, fishing, and exploring the outdoors. Professionally, he works in the construction industry, but makes it a point to get out into the outdoors as much as possible. In college, he started to pursue photography with birds being his main focus. After finally seeing a sora in Alabama during 2014, he decided that it was time to really commit to bird photography. Since then, he has logged many hours sitting in the woods, standing in grass, wading in mud all in the pursuit of that perfect image of birds. Everything ( but 1 ) that's on display this month is an image taken in his backyard at my home in South County. He moved into this house 6 years ago and has worked to create wildlife habitat in the space we share with all the wildlife. Since then, he has recorded 107 species of birds here, as well as dozens of species of butterfly, moth and bees.
Registration period: August 19 - October 8
Date: Saturday, October 8, 2022 2:00 pm - Saturday, October 8, 2022 3:30 pm
Location: Cape Girardeau Nature Center

Earlier this year we learned about camping and the different ways you can cook over a fire. Now, let’s put those skills to the test to make a yummy treat! Join us around the campfire as we talk about fire safety and make our own tasty food. For those participating in the Cape Nature Center’s “A Year in Color,” this program will earn a purple arts and cooking bead.

Little Acorns programs are designed to help children ages 3-6 learn about the natural world through hands on experiences, crafts, and focused free-play activities.
Registration period: August 19 - October 11
Date: Tuesday, October 11, 2022 2:00 pm - Tuesday, October 11, 2022 3:30 pm
Location: Cape Girardeau Nature Center

Earlier this year we learned about camping and the different ways you can cook over a fire. Now, let’s put those skills to the test to make a yummy treat! Join us around the campfire as we talk about fire safety and make our own tasty food. For those participating in the Cape Nature Center’s “A Year in Color,” this program will earn a purple arts and cooking bead.

Little Acorns programs are designed to help children ages 3-6 learn about the natural world through hands on experiences, crafts, and focused free-play activities.