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March 9, 2014

20130414_143250I love Missouri State Parks. I have been camping in them for years and I am familiar with their rules and policies and reservation system, and I think they each have something unique to them that showcases the natural beauty of Missouri. I also feel that our State Park system is important as part of the ongoing goal to preserve the natural areas around us.

I also like privately owned campgrounds. I like their facilities and their more relaxed rules and policies. I think they typically tend to offer a more “resort” experience, and they are usually located near a natural place in Missouri that is a can’t-miss location. They can be a lot of fun, during the day AND into the night hours, if one is so inclined.

These are not the only places to go camping in our beautiful state however.

1113One of the places that I have recently been giving a lot more focus to, in my own personal research, is the Mark Twain National Forest. Yes, NATIONAL Forest. The U.S. Forest Service, under the Department of Agriculture, manages over 193 million acres of forests and grasslands in America. 1.5 million of those acres (making up 5% of the land here in our own backyard) is the largest amount of publicly protected ground we have in our beautiful state of Missouri.

The areas that are designated as National Forest are broken up into six districts, all of which are in the south, southeast, and central parts of Missouri. Within each of those districts there are many outdoor recreational opportunities for camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, bird watching, and more.  Within the Potosi/Fredericktown district’s 280,000+ acres alone, there are a good handful of campgrounds, and a lot of miles of trail, in which you can find a place to spend a day exploring the woods and creeks, or a spot to set up a tent and sleep under the stars for a night. We just had a recent adventure involving the Berryman Recreation Area and the Brazil Creek Recreation Area, which really opened my eyes to what is really in these National Forest areas. And those are just two spots! The way I see it, from Marble Creek to Silver Mines to sections of the Ozark Trail, the list of places to camp in just these two districts alone is limited only by your willingness to get out there and check out someplace new!

20130414_141948The funding to protect all these areas comes from a couple places, beyond just federal taxes. They receive funding from the (minor, if any) campground fees, map sales, and timber sales, among other various sources. One of the cool things is that 25% of the revenue generated goes right back to the counties in which the forest is located, to go toward public schools and county roads. Local reinvestment from a federal preservation program.

2014-02-22 11.13.57There really is a lot to explore, and the website has a ton of information to get you going, so I encourage all of you to check out what is out there. The one striking thing that keeps occurring to me as I conduct my own research about the Mark Twain National Forest, is that I am coming to the realization that I may never have enough weekends to go and check out all the places to experience within them. We are very fortunate to have all the protected land that we have in Missouri. I hope you get out there to see it! I know that I am going to be, as much as I can, as soon as possible.

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