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A Father’s Day to Remember! Trail of Tears State Park 6/19 to 6/22/2015

July 12, 2015

Trail of Tears State Park 245It was Father’s Day weekend, and I was determined to spend some time on an adventure with my kids, Eli and Sophie. We had the opportunity to help out with a Missouri Stream Team event down in the Missouri Bootheel, and as it was the closest Missouri State Park with camping to where we were going that Saturday, we decided that we would be staying for the weekend at Trail of Tears State Park, just north of Cape Girardeau, MO, along the currently overflowing Mississippi River.

Trail of Tears State Park 315How to get there:

From South St. Louis County, take Interstate 55 south for just about 91 miles to exit 105 which is US-61 to Fruitland/Jackson. Make a left on US-61 and go under the interstate toward Fruitland. After about a mile, make a right on MO-177. Stay on MO-177 all the way to the Proctor and Gamble facility, and follow MO-177 where it turns to the right. After about 4 more miles heading south on MO-177, the Trail of Tears State Park entrance will be on your left. Probably half a mile into the park is the Visitors Center, where there is a very friendly staff that can get you any information you need.

Trail of Tears State Park 303They have two campgrounds at Trail of Tears State Park. The lower one is the Mississippi River Campground, which has 17 sites, all with electric hookups and some additionally with sewer and water, and is open and reservable all year. This campground was actually closed the weekend we visited due to flooding, so we didn’t get a chance to see what it looked like. The second campground is deeper in the park, up in the hills along some of the ridges. It is the Lake Boutin Campground, and it has 35 sites, all primitive tent sites with fire rings and picnic tables. This campground is open and reservable May through October. There is also a special use camping area, which is for larger groups. I don’t know what the qualifying rules are, but you can call the park office to find out more about that site if you have a big group. Also, check the Missouri State Park Camping Reservation webpage for more information.

Trail of Tears State Park 266Trail of Tears State Park also features almost 15 miles of hiking trails, 9 of which are part of the Peewah Trail, which is available for day hiking AND overnight backpacking. We hiked a good amount of the Sheppard Point Trail, but ended up having to turn back due to the Mississippi River expanding into the forest. I can assure you that this is not usually the case. Check out the Trail of Tears hiking webpage for information about all 4 trails within the park.

Trail of Tears State Park 258What I like about this Missouri State Park:

I think one of the things that the kids and I enjoyed and got a lot out of was the Visitor Center. There is a lot to be learned about the local region, and especially concerning the solemn history of the Trail of Tears. Within the Visitor Center were interpretive displays, a room for presentations where you can also watch a short film about the Trail of Tears, and a trained and friendly staff to answer all your questions. This moment in United States history is a sad and difficult one, but certainly a reality that we should be aware of so that we keep from repeating the terrible actions we carried out as a nation…driving the native Cherokee from their land and their homes and marching them across the country on a dismal and heartbreaking path, decimating their tribes the entire way. Sobering history to know, but important to remember. Stop in and learn a little something while you’re there.

Trail of Tears State Park 316Lake Boutin is a 20 acre lake toward the north end of the park, and is stocked with bass, catfish, and bluegill for fishing. There is also a beach and swimming area which is open from May through September, and is the perfect antidote for a hot summer afternoon. Make sure to take your fishing rod and your swim trunks, and spend the day at Lake Boutin!

I have camped at this state park twice, and both times it was quiet and relaxing. I get the sense that it isn’t a very busy campground most of the time, and certainly one that gives you the opportunity to enjoy Missouri nature in relative peace and quiet. The campground host that we met said that her and her husband had been volunteering there for years, and were very pleasant, welcoming, and accommodating.

Trail of Tears State Park 310What you need to know:

In the Lake Boutin campground, the roads for the campground are along ridges up on top of the hills, so some of the campsites have a bit of an incline and don’t feature a whole lot of room for bigger tents. Make sure to check the “slope” and the “pad length” if reserving a site. As it isn’t a very busy campground though, this is one that you also may be able to get away with NOT reserving a site. That way you could tour the campground when you get there and pick the best one for your needs.

Trail of Tears State Park 249There was a decent amount of Poison Ivy in the brush in some areas of the park. Make sure to know what it looks like and how to identify it if you are allergic, and do your best to avoid it when you are out on a trail or walking around the campground.

As I mentioned previously, the Mississippi River campground was flooded out when we visited. Make sure to check the Trail of Tears Advisories webpage to keep up to date on conditions that you need to know about.

Trail of Tears State Park 290All in all we had a great Father’s Day weekend at Trail of Tears State Park. Cape Girardeau is just south of there with a lot of history to learn about and modern day attractions to see. Check out the VisitCape website to find out everything you need to know. There is also a Missouri Department of Conservation Nature Center that you need to check out with all sorts of informative and interactive exhibits. Ultimately though, between the Visitor Center, the hiking trails, Lake Boutin, and the scenic overlook, we could have stayed within the park all weekend and not run out of things to do. If you haven’t visited Trail of Tears State Park yet, put it on your list. There is a lot of history to learn and relaxing fun to be had in the forests along the Mighty Mississippi River, just north of Cape Girardeau, MO.

Trail of Tears State Park 287

  1. Great post. I have camped there ONE time in my life and when I went it was flooded, so I was up on Lake B too… the visitor’s center is very moving… I still remember getting weepy touring it. Happy belated Father’s Day!

    • There was something special and important about that place, that is a little different than your average State Park Visitor Center experience. Definitely moving. Thank You!

  2. Carole Young permalink

    We love this Park!

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