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 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.

    Know The Rules
    • 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.
    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


    Find events near you.
    Registration period: September 15 - October 9
    Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2023 5:30 pm - Wednesday, October 11, 2023 7:30 pm
    Location: Walter Woods Conservation Area

    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: September 18 - October 8
    Date: Thursday, October 12, 2023 10:00 am - Thursday, October 12, 2023 11:00 am
    Location: Shaw Nature Reserve

    This event will cover simple fire making methods, cooking utensils, food options and a cooking demonstration. 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: August 8 - October 13
    Date: Saturday, October 14, 2023 8:00 am - Saturday, October 14, 2023 10:00 am
    Location: Jay Henges Shooting Range
    Get ready for your Fall hunting and camping trips with this Dutch Oven cooking class. We will go over Dutch oven parts, controlling temperature, care and cleaning, and more. This is a hands-on class, where we will cook an entrée and a dessert item. All equipment and food are included. If you have dietary restrictions, please notify us at the time of registration so proper accommodations can be made. Ages 10 and up. Children ages 10-15 must have a parent or guardian present.
    Registration period: September 15 - October 26
    Date: Saturday, October 28, 2023 8:30 am - Saturday, October 28, 2023 10:30 am
    Location: Lake City Shooting Range
    What a great way to spend a late October morning! Come join us for a delicious breakfast from a Dutch oven over coals and learn how to make a tasty Dutch oven dessert for later. While we wait for the dessert to cook, there will be fun activities for the kids and adults. Bring your camp chairs and an appetite!
    Registration period: October 1 - October 28
    Date: Saturday, October 28, 2023 10:00 am - Saturday, October 28, 2023 1:00 pm
    Location: Runge Conservation Nature Center
    Slow down and learn the art of cooking outdoors in a Dutch oven, a versatile and historic way to prepare delicious food. Participants will help make the meal from the main dish to the desserts. Runge will provide all ingredients, cookware, and expertise. You bring interest, enthusiasm, and, of course, your appetite! Registration required. Ages 12+
    Registration period: October 1 - October 24
    Date: Saturday, October 28, 2023 3:00 pm - Saturday, October 28, 2023 6:00 pm
    Location: Tower Grove Park-New Comfort Station
    Dutch oven cooking can be a fun and easy way to enjoy the outdoors. Whether you are camping, fishing, hunting, or enjoying your backyard, this program will add another element to your outdoor experience. In this program discover the basics of using a Dutch oven including care and regulating temperature. We will try a couple of recipes in our Dutch ovens while we enjoy the sights and sounds of the outdoors. Children under the age of 7 are welcomed but will need adult supervisor. Please bring lawn chairs. Meet the naturalist at the West End of the Park.
    Registration period: September 22 - November 21
    Date: Tuesday, November 21, 2023 6:00 pm - Tuesday, November 21, 2023 7:00 pm
    Location: Online only
    There are many great places to camp in the Ozarks. Join Naturalist Morgan Wyatt as she gives several options for both primitive and not-so-primitive campgrounds along with the amenities, special features, and equipment needed for each one. When registering for this virtual program, please provide a valid email address so a link may be sent to you.
    Registration period: August 29 - December 8
    Date: Saturday, December 9, 2023 8:30 am - Saturday, December 9, 2023 10:30 am
    Location: Andy Dalton Shooting Range

    Join us to learn about cooking all sorts of wild game including rabbit, squirrel, deer and turkey. We will be looking at how to prepare good meals out of different game animals. We will also share some recipes that will make your mouth water. Feel free to have your favorite wild game recipe to share.

    Registration period: August 29 - December 8
    Date: Saturday, December 9, 2023 8:30 am - Saturday, December 9, 2023 10:30 am
    Location: Online only

    Join us to learn about cooking all sorts of wild game including rabbit, squirrel, deer and turkey. We will be looking at how to prepare good meals out of different game animals. We will also share some recipes that will make your mouth water. Feel free to have your favorite wild game recipe to share.

    Registration period: September 15 - December 15
    Date: Friday, December 15, 2023 6:00 pm - Friday, December 15, 2023 7:30 pm
    Location: Cape Girardeau Nature Center
    You parents deserve a break! That’s why we are offering a program just for you while providing an equally awesome program for your children at the same time. Have you always wanted to attend one of our programs but had trouble finding childcare? Here’s your chance to practice and enjoy different methods of outdoor cooking while your kiddos enjoy fun naturalist-led activities and crafts in the adjoining classroom. Please enroll all children and adults that will be attending. Childcare will only be provided for ages 6 and up.