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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Great Places For Camping
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.
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.