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.
Registration period: January 13 - April 24
Date: Thursday, April 25, 2024 2:30 pm - Thursday, April 25, 2024 3:00 pm
Location: Online only
Cooking outdoors is a great complement to many other outdoor activities. Whether you are camping, fishing, hunting, or enjoying your backyard, this program will add another element to your outdoor experience. In this session, we will look at smoking, canning, pickling, and salt fish to name a few.
Registration period: March 29 - April 28
Date: Monday, April 29, 2024 5:00 pm - Monday, April 29, 2024 7:30 pm
Location: August A Busch Shooting Range
Would you like to learn how to cook outdoors using a dutch oven? The program will cover how to get started using a Dutch Oven including equipment and techniques, and you will be able to sample a couple of recipes.
Registration period: March 29 - April 28
Date: Monday, April 29, 2024 5:00 pm - Monday, April 29, 2024 7:00 pm
Location: August A Busch Shooting Range
Would you like to learn how to cook outdoors using a dutch oven? This is the program for you! Samples will be provided but not enough for a meal.
Registration period: April 18 - May 4
Date: Saturday, May 4, 2024 1:00 pm - Saturday, May 4, 2024 2:30 pm
Location: Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center
Registration required (ages 12+) Knowing the basics for constructing a simple shelter to escape the weather or spend the night in a wilderness situation is a valuable skill. Building forts and tipis in your backyard with your kids can also be a valuable skill plus a lot of fun! You will learn how to use rope lashing to build a simple pole structure and how to stay dry on your next camping trip with a tarp and guy lines. Plus, other fun camping/shelter hacks to get you ready for the summer camping season. If accommodations are needed, please e-mail the instructor after registering and at least one week prior to the program.
Registration period: February 16 - May 9
Date: Saturday, May 11, 2024 10:00 am - Saturday, May 11, 2024 11:30 am
Location: Shaw Nature Reserve

This event will cover simple fire making methods, cooking utensils, food options and how to cook using a tin can. Toward the end of the program, participants will have an opportunity to put into practice what they’ve learned.

All planning to attend the event should register separately. Children younger than fifteen years of age must be accompanied by an adult. If you have any questions, please contact the host.

We look forward to having you join us!
Registration period: April 10 - May 9
Date: Saturday, May 11, 2024 5:00 pm - Saturday, May 11, 2024 10:30 pm
Location: Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center

MEET AT LITTLE COMPTON LAKE CONSERVATION AREA for an evening of outdoor fun with an overnight camping option. Enjoy archery, fishing, (dinner break), a slide show on dark skies and a tour of the stars with telescopes from the Astronomical Society of Kansas City.

*This is a (Class 3) dark sky area. For comparison, the Blue Springs area is Class 5-6, two-three classes brighter. Little Compton Lake CA is about a 2-hour drive northeast of Blue Springs, MO. *Archery/fishing equipment will be provided by MDC for this program. BRING YOUR OWN FOOD, WATER AND CAMPING GEAR IF YOU CHOOSE TO CAMP FOR THE NIGHT. MO fishing rules apply: 65 and older and under 16 don’t need a license. There is a privy and large gravel parking lot with larger flat mowed area around it (NO ELECTRICITY). It is an MDC area, so no fees to camp. Area regulations say dogs must be leashed.

Archery and fishing programs offered from 5:00PM - 6:30PM. Then, we break for dinner.

People may chose to fish again after they eat.

Dark Skies/Astronomy program from 8:30-10:30PM.

People may choose to camp or drive home after that.

Registration period: March 7 - May 10
Date: Saturday, June 1, 2024 6:00 am - Sunday, June 2, 2024 12:00 pm
Location: Montauk State Park

Missouri Disabled Sportsem will be hosting eight (8) mobility impaired individuals for a weekend of trout fishing at Montauk State Park.

Mentors, track chairs, daily trout tag, fishing equipment, and room & board will be provided for the selected participants.

Our group will be staying at a near by campground Friday night through Sunday morning. Selected participants can book their own accomidations if camping is not an option for them.

The eight selected participants will be notified of their inclusion to the event approximately two-weeks prior.
Registration period: March 15 - June 22
Date: Saturday, June 22, 2024 11:00 am - Saturday, June 22, 2024 12:30 pm
Location: Cape Girardeau Nature Center
With the start of summer comes frogs singing throughout the night around our ponds. One in particular is bull frogs. We’ll learn about bull frog life history and the frog gigging season before making some delicious frog leg mole tacos. We’ll also learn how to make your own tortillas.
Registration period: June 1 - June 28
Date: Friday, June 28, 2024 6:00 pm - Friday, June 28, 2024 8:00 pm
Location: Runge Conservation Nature Center
Whether you’re an avid backpacker or a backyard bonfire enthusiast, come join other women to learn more about the best part of any outdoor adventure – the food! Participants will learn the tips and tricks for making easy and delicious meals with just a campfire and have the chance to try some tasty treats! Registration required. Ages 16+
Registration period: April 19 - September 21
Date: Saturday, September 21, 2024 9:00 am - Saturday, September 21, 2024 9:45 am
Location: Cape Girardeau Nature Center

Singing songs by the campfire? Roasting marshmallows? Listening to crickets from inside a tent? The wonderful world of camping is waiting for Missourians to enjoy, and little ones can begin learning about this wonderful pastime in their early years. In this month’s program, learn all about camping and participate in some fun camping-related activities and crafts. Babes in the Woods programs are designed to empower parents to introduce babies and toddlers ages 0–2 years to the sights, sounds, and textures of nature.