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The Castor River Shut-Ins! Amidon Memorial Conservation Area 7/4/2015

July 6, 2015

Castor River Shut-Ins 031I have said it before and I will say it again: You can head just about any direction out of Fredericktown, MO and come across a beautiful waterway. From Lower Rock Creek to Marble Creek to the Castor River to the St. Francois River running through Millstream Gardens and Silver Mines Recreation Area, you just can’t beat the rugged, lively, exposed granite waterways that splash and churn and babble throughout Madison County, Missouri. Among my favorite natural places to spend my time, one that I had visited a while back but hadn’t really explored a whole lot is the Castor River Shut-Ins in the Amidon Memorial Conservation Area. Well that got remedied this past weekend when we camped at Castor River Ranch Campground, and spent Saturday morning driving up to Amidon to check out this water carved collection of granite sculptures, within the walls of a canyon flanking this quick moving river as it cuts its way through the solid terrain.

Castor River Shut-Ins 107How to get there:

From South St. Louis County, take Interstate 55 south to exit 174b, which is US-67. Take US-67 south almost 52 miles to Fredericktown, MO. In Fredericktown, exit at MO-72, and make a left and go over the highway. In about half a mile there is a roundabout. Take the third exit in the roundabout, and follow MO-72 around the north outskirts of Fredericktown to where it joins State Highway OO in Junction City. Make a right to stay on MO-72, and take it east out of town a couple miles to State Highway J. Make a left onto State Highway J, and take that for about 4 miles to State Highway W. Make a right on State Highway W, take that for about a mile to where the road curves to the left and becomes Madison County Road 208. At this point you should also be seeing signs for “Castor River Shut-Ins“. Stay on 208 for about a mile to where it splits off with County Road 253. Make a left on 253, and after about a mile the parking lot for the Castor River Shut-Ins will be on your right.

Castor River Shut-Ins 064The Cedar Glade Trail is a mile long and is pretty flat from the parking lot to the Shut-Ins. It then curves to the right up the hill and travels through some glades up above the river canyon. It then continues to curve to the right and turns down into the woods, looping back toward the beginning of the trail near the parking lot.

What I like about this place:

Castor River Shut-Ins 045The Castor River Shut-Ins, without a doubt, is the draw of this conservation area. The pink granite that makes up the natural sculptures throughout the area was formed by volcanic activity 1.5 billion years ago, where magma cooled underneath the surface of the ground, and was later exposed and shaped by the flowing water of the Castor River. It is a narrow canyon, cut out of the hills, that is home to water slides and shoots, showing off some of the prettiest and most unique geological formations Missouri has to offer. The kind of place you could spend a day exploring the hillsides and playing in the water, and a night sleeping soundly next to with the gurgling and splashing playing a constant natural rhythm.

Castor River Shut-Ins 078You CAN camp here. According to the brochure, “Primitive camping is permitted in designated areas and on a walk-in basis with seasonal restrictions”. When we pulled into the parking lot for the Shut-Ins, there was a tent set up far off in the field that was visible, and when we were exploring the river, there were a couple of tents in the forest along it. Please check with the Missouri Department of Conservation for further rules and regulations regarding the Amidon Memorial Conservation Area, and camp with a sense of preservation and respect for the natural place you are in.

Castor River Shut-Ins 105The Cedar Glade Trail gives you a good look at the topography of the area, and takes you through the diversity of ecosystems that occur in exposed granite natural areas. From the lower forest along the river to the glades on the upper parts of the hill, the ruggedness of life in these areas is something I always find impressive and inspiring. That trees and brush and grasses could thrive in places with a diminished amount of soil, and provide cover and food for all the animals that call these glades home is a testament to the determination of life on this planet. Appreciate the environment when you hike here. You are in the home of some of the tougher creatures that live in Missouri, among the exposed solid rock landscape.

Castor River Shut-Ins 061What you need to know:

The one thing that disappointed me about this area was the amount of human evidence throughout. From cans tossed into the forest along the trail, to a styrofoam cup floating in one of the pools along the bank of the river, it was clear that some of the visitors (a small minority, I’m sure) to this place have less of a regard for nature than they ought to. Please, please, please…take your trash with you when you leave so that other visitors can see it all in its natural glory too, without the colorful and distracting waste that doesn’t belong there at all.

Castor River Shut-Ins 099The Cedar Glade Trail isn’t very long, and it doesn’t stray too far off into the wilderness…but after the Shut-Ins where it turns to the right and goes up the hill, it isn’t very well marked. Make sure that you have an idea of the direction of the river and the parking lot, and you should be able to follow the trail through the glades and back into the forest and down the hill. Just take your time, and if you feel like you might not know where the trail ahead of you is, don’t be ashamed to turn back and hike where you’ve already been. Hey, you will get to visit the Shut-Ins twice!

Castor River Shut-Ins 040Be careful on the rocky areas along the river. This whole place is rugged, but where the exposed granite gets wet, it can be very slippery. Watch your step and be mindful of how quickly you could be on your back with a head injury, from just one misplaced foot. Nobody wants to have to carry anyone back to the car, so take your time.

Castor River Shut-Ins 059This really is a place that you have to see if you want to know how beautiful and fascinating the forests and waterways of Missouri can be. The way that a river can carve a canyon through a hill side, splashing and flowing and falling around boulders and bedrock, and down around a bend through a narrow shoot to change into a calmer, more peaceful habitat for all the animals that live in the area, is really a great example of the power and strength of the elements at play here in our beautiful state. Make sure your next trip out into the forests of Missouri includes a day spent exploring the hillsides of the Amidon Memorial Conservation Area, and playing in the rocks and water of the Castor River Shut-Ins.

Castor River Shut-Ins 055

  1. Beautiful pictures!! This is by far one of the most beautiful and unique places in Missouri! Great post!

  2. What about DD Hwy campground at Marquand, Mo. What do we have to do to get noticed

    • Steve, as I do this all as a creative outlet to inspire people to get out into these beautiful natural places, and don’t make any sort of money from it…my ability to go on camping trips is dependent on my work schedule and the resources I have at the time. When it came to picking a place to camp this past weekend, I pretty much looked at my options, covered my eyes, and threw a dart. The Castor River down there near Marquand is a beautiful place, and I want you to know that when I am able to again, I intend on heading that direction and very likely will be camping with you guys. I appreciate you contacting me, and I ask for your patience until the next opportunity for me to get there happens. Take care, and have a great summer!

  3. Debi permalink

    We visted MSGardens once a few years ago and have been meaning to get back for a hike and to check out Amidon. Thanks for the details!

  4. Just Jeff permalink

    Love Amidon. however; If you are a parent with children, or easily offended by nudity beware. This place has a reputation for being an “anything goes” type of place.

  5. cool dude, “Pack it IN, Pack it OUT!”

  6. Thanks for the report on Amidon. We loved the shut-ins but were disgusted by the amount of trash. This season we visited 12 conservation areas, 10 Missouri state parks, 2 Illinois nature preserves and 3 Mark Twain National Forest recreation areas. Everywhere we hike, we carry a spare bag to pick up litter we come across. We call it “the price of admission.” Amidon had more trash than all of the other places COMBINED. We couldn’t possibly pick up all the trash tossed in the river and along the gravel roads. Water bottles, soda cans, beer cans, styrofoam cups, cigarette packs, snack wrappers, fast food bags……..even 2 dirty diapers. I’m guessing locals. There should be some kind of anti-littering campaign in Fredericktown, and volunteer river clean-ups. People are lucky to live near such a beautiful place. You’d think they’d take some pride in it.

  7. Olivia permalink

    Camping is only allowed in the adjacent Amidon Memorial Conservation Area. The area surrounding the shut-ins and trail is designated as a natural area where camping is NOT allowed. I’ve been seeing more and more illegal fire rings being built in the area around the Castor shut-ins, probably partly due to this common misinterpretation of the rules.

  8. I know this is an old post but it is so helpful. My family is going here in a few days! Thanks for your help in choosing a spot our two boys will certainly love.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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