Monday, September 23, 2013

Where to Go: Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, Missouri

I’m loving this cool weather, but if summer throws one or two more hot days at us Missour’ans (as it is apt to do), then you need to check out Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. Otherwise, you’ll just have to wait until next summer.

Johnson’s Shut-Ins is not a mental hospital, even though that’s what it sounds like. A “shut-in” is “an Ozark term for a river that’s naturally confined within a deep, narrow channel” (thank you, Wikipedia). In this case, the Black River begins as a normal little creek, then splashes into jutting dikes and ridges of rocks, forming a challenging obstacle course/natural playground all along the river. It ends in a deep, cold pool that’s perfect for swimming. 

There’s more to the state park than just the shut-ins: there are hiking trails, walking trails, picnic areas, and a visitor’s center. But honestly, come for the shut-ins: everything else is icing on the cake.

Why you should go: If you’re looking for an afternoon of water activities in an idyllic Missouri setting, this is the place to go! Good for rock-climbers, swimmers, explorers, and generally outdoorsy kinds of people.

How to get there: Johnson’s Shut-Ins are located in the beautiful Francois Mountains of Missouri. You can find directions on their site.

Our somewhat failed attempt at a group shot.
What to bring: The most important thing to bring are aquashoes, skeletoes, or strap-on sandals. The rocky creek beds are brutal on bare feet, and something with grips are really useful. Also bring your swimsuit, a change of clothes (there are changing rooms there), snacks, water, sunblock, bug spray, and anything else you need for the outdoors.

What else you need to know: The park closes at 7, 6, or 4, depending on the season (check the hours here). Be prepared to get some bruises— the shut-ins are tough to navigate and the park hasn’t done anything to make it safer for swimming. The more physically fit you are, the more you’ll enjoy it!


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