MDC temporarily closes Bismarck Conservation Area campground due to public safety concerns, misuse of area

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Effective immediately, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has decided to temporarily restrict public access to the campground at Bismarck Conservation Area --  a 1,188-acre tract of land in St. Francois, Iron, and Washington counties -- due to continued misuse of the area by visitors. A gate will limit the campground portion of the area until further notice.

The area surrounds 210-acre DiSalvo Lake, which was constructed in 1944 by the Hanna Mining Co. to serve as a water reservoir for nearby lead-mining operations. MDC purchased the property from Hanna in 1981.

“Due to receiving several disturbing calls from the public, and conservation agents personally responding to frequent disturbances on the campground, we have decided to temporarily close the camping area,” MDC Conservation Agent Clayton Lewis said. “It was a tough decision, but needed to be made for safety reasons.”

In 2020, the area attracted more than 12 arson-related fires, general misuse of the campground, including people violating campground regulations, using it as a place for illegal activities, and using it as a personal campground or storage, he said.

Lewis said within the last three years, the campground at Bismarck Conservation Area has also been the site for more than 100 incidents, including arson, theft, domestic disturbances, illegal drugs, intoxicated persons, warrant arrests, noise complaints, dumping/littering, other assaults, and property damage.

He said authorities have received numerous complaints -- both formal and informal -- from the public regarding the crowds and recent activities at Bismarck Conservation Area. 

MDC Regional Resource Management Supervisor Matt Bowyer said he hopes the campground closure is short lived, but for now this is what staff believe is the only option to reduce the misuse of this area and for public safety.

Additional decisions will be made about reopening the campground portion of Bismarck Conservation Area during peak holiday times, including Memorial Day weekend, 4th of July, and Labor Day weekend. Questions regarding the campground closure can be directed to MDC’s Piedmont Office at (573) 223-4525.