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

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    boat ramp at Hamburg Ferry Access
    Pike

    This area is named for a river ferry that once operated at this location.

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    Bluffs along a stream
    Monroe
    This area provides access to the Elk Fork Salt River but there is no boat ramp.

    Events

    Find events near you.
    Registration period: January 20 - February 9
    Date: Friday, February 10, 2023 6:00 pm - Friday, February 10, 2023 8:00 pm
    Location: Watershed Center

    Get a taste of tradition and learn some camp cooking the old fashioned way.

    This event is for all who want to know more about cooking with Dutch Ovens; those cast iron black pots that make food taste so delicious!

    Learn the basics of Dutch Oven cooking and sample your way to a newfound interest in traditional camp cooking.

    Whether you are a "seasoned" expert or are thinking about getting started, this event is for you.
    Registration period: December 16 - February 24
    Date: Friday, February 24, 2023 6:30 pm - Friday, February 24, 2023 8:30 pm
    Location: Cape Girardeau Nature Center
    So, you’ve had a successful hunt and now you’re looking for new and creative recipes to enjoy your harvest? This is the program for you. Join us as we look to the exciting flavors of Asia for two fresh takes on wild game cooking. This hands-on program will feature a duck dish inspired by Thai yum woon sen noodle salad and a Taiwanese braised quail inspired by the sticky-sweet pork dish Lu-Rou-Fan. Allergy warning: this program will include peanuts, soy, and sesame ingredients.
    Registration period: January 23 - February 28
    Date: Wednesday, March 1, 2023 2:30 pm - Wednesday, March 1, 2023 3:00 pm
    Location: Online only
    Virtual Introduction to Fish Cooking. This session will focus on the common equipment needed for cooking any fish and discuss different cooking methods.
    Registration period: December 22 - March 7
    Date: Tuesday, March 7, 2023 12:00 pm - Tuesday, March 7, 2023 1:00 pm
    Location: Online only
    Cast iron cooking is a fun and tasty way to add to any outdoor adventure. This series of virtual programs is designed to boost your knowledge so you can cook a wide variety of great recipes around camp while making it fun and easy! In part one of this Six-part series, we will discuss the basics of cast iron cooking and how to select the right tools to meet every need around the campfire.
    Registration period: January 23 - March 7
    Date: Wednesday, March 8, 2023 2:30 pm - Wednesday, March 8, 2023 3:00 pm
    Location: Online only
    Virtual Introduction to Fish Cooking. This session will focus on frying fish, including the different types of oil, seasonings, and methods.
    Registration period: December 22 - March 14
    Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2023 12:00 pm - Tuesday, March 14, 2023 1:00 pm
    Location: Online only
    Cast iron cooking is a fun and tasty way to add to any outdoor adventure. This series of virtual programs is designed to boost your knowledge so you can cook a wide variety of great recipes around camp while making it fun and easy! Part two of this virtual series will provide information on setting up your cast iron by seasoning it, cleaning, and caring for it so you can use it for years to come.
    Registration period: January 23 - March 14
    Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2023 2:30 pm - Wednesday, March 15, 2023 3:00 pm
    Location: Online only
    This session will focus on grilling fish. We will discuss different methods, techniques, and ingredients to grill or bake fish.
    Registration period: December 22 - March 21
    Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2023 12:00 pm - Tuesday, March 21, 2023 1:00 pm
    Location: Online only
    Cast iron cooking is a fun and tasty way to add to any outdoor adventure. This series of virtual programs is designed to boost your knowledge so you can cook a wide variety of great recipes around camp while making it fun and easy! Part three of this virtual series will be filled with tools, tips, and cooking ideas to boost your confidence using Dutch ovens and cast iron at home as well as around the campfire.
    Registration period: January 23 - March 21
    Date: Wednesday, March 22, 2023 2:30 pm - Wednesday, March 22, 2023 3:00 pm
    Location: Online only
    This session will focus on other methods of cooking fish. We will discuss smoking, canning, pickling, and salting to name a few.
    Registration period: December 22 - March 28
    Date: Tuesday, March 28, 2023 12:00 pm - Tuesday, March 28, 2023 1:00 pm
    Location: Online only
    Cast iron cooking is a fun and tasty way to add to any outdoor adventure. This series of virtual programs is designed to boost your knowledge so you can cook a wide variety of great recipes around camp while making it fun and easy! Part four we will cover other methods like lunch bag, foil packs, cave man/hot coal cooking, pie irons, and more to make campfire cooking fun and easy!
    Registration period: December 22 - April 11
    Date: Tuesday, April 11, 2023 12:00 pm - Tuesday, April 11, 2023 1:00 pm
    Location: Online only
    Cast iron cooking is a fun and tasty way to add to any outdoor adventure. This series of virtual programs is designed to boost your knowledge so you can cook a wide variety of great recipes around camp while making it fun and easy! In part five we will cover methods of outdoor cooking with little campers so they can be involved and excited about spending time outdoors!
    Registration period: December 22 - April 18
    Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2023 12:00 pm - Tuesday, April 18, 2023 1:00 pm
    Location: Online only
    Cast iron cooking is a fun and tasty way to add to any outdoor adventure. This series of virtual programs is designed to boost your knowledge so you can cook a wide variety of great recipes around camp while making it fun and easy! In this sixth and final virtual program of the series, we will talk about finding and developing recipes and how to make any recipe work in camp, around a campfire, or maybe just at home!
    Registration period: April 1 - May 23
    Date: Wednesday, May 24, 2023 6:00 pm - Wednesday, May 24, 2023 8:00 pm
    Location: Lake City Shooting Range

    Come join our staff in a fun-filled camping adventure! Learn multiple techniques of fire starting and how to safely set up your fire circle. Once successfully starting our fires, we will start with the preparation and cooking of some delicious camp side food. After we thoroughly enjoy our Dutch oven feast, we will sit around the campfire, sharing stories and enjoying some s’mores.