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A Misty River Valley Weekend. Castor River Ranch Campground 7/3-7/5/2015

July 18, 2015

Castor River Ranch 112It was the weekend of Independence Day, and there I was with two extra days off and no real plan to do anything other than probably hike a trail each day and sit on the couch and watch TV in the evenings. I knew that I needed to take advantage of the long weekend, come up with a destination, and pack up the car and the dogs and hit the road for a couple days out in nature. I am a big fan of the creeks and rivers near Fredericktown, MO, as they are all gorgeous and rugged, and I knew that there were a couple campgrounds down along the Castor River that I had never been to before. So I picked one at random Friday morning, made a phone call, and by that afternoon we were headed out to Marquand, MO and the Castor River Ranch Campground.

Castor River Ranch 206How to get there:

From South St. Louis County, take Interstate 55 south for about 22 miles to exit 174b which is US-67 South to Bonne Terre/Farmington. Take US-67 south for about 57 miles, through Farmington and then through Fredericktown. A couple of miles South of Fredericktown, make a left on State Highway A. Take State Highway A for almost 10 miles to State Highway M, just south of Marquand, MO. Make a right on State Highway M, and then after a very short distance, make a left on State Highway DD at the top of the hill. After about a 2 miles on State Highway DD you will cross the Castor River. Castor River Ranch Campground will be just after the river on your left. Another option is the DD Highway Campground on the right, which is a campground I plan to eventually visit.

Castor River Ranch 016What I like about this campground:

I think what really stood out to me was the relaxed style of hospitality that Jon and Mary projected in the handful of interactions I had with them. Like innkeepers at a bed and breakfast, they had a flexibility and welcoming spirit, and seemed experienced and enthusiastic at finding ways to accommodate the people that chose to stay at their little campground next to the Castor River. They even allowed us to pitch our tent at the far end of a field, giving us a bit of privacy and quiet away from the main campground area that might be hard to get from some of the bigger resort campgrounds or the state parks. A personal touch, and we appreciated the pleasant attitude with which they conducted their business.

Castor River Ranch 199This is a family and dog friendly campground. With kids playing all day in the river off the gravel bar next to the campground and dogs roaming around off leash, this is a destination for you if you want a relaxed family weekend enjoying the sun and the river. Max and Norton (our dogs) both enjoyed the lack of being tied up, and freely wandered our site, appreciating their ability to lay in the grass wherever they wanted. It was also nice to be in a campground where once the sun went down, so did the volume. Not much of a party crowd, other than the crickets and frogs singing away the evening, which is the way I find I prefer.

Castor River Ranch 013I think you can tell a lot about an outdoor enthusiast’s character through their willingness to give back to nature on a regular basis. Jon and Mary are active Missouri Stream Team members (Castor River Ranch Stream Team #3506) who hold regular cleanups along their beloved river, and are also participants in the Missouri Adopt-A-Highway program. Being advocates for the natural beauty and health all around them, their care for nature shows in the look and atmosphere of their little river front campground.

Castor River Ranch 201What you need to know:

As this is a very dog friendly campground, you should be aware that you may get a visitor from another campsite once in a while, investigating what the tasty smell is wafting through the air from the grill over your campfire. Any pups that we encountered were friendly and kept a good distance, but just keep in mind that if you aren’t a dog person, then maybe this isn’t the campground for you (How could you NOT be a dog person?!?).

Castor River Ranch 118In the main campground area, I believe there was only one bathroom/shower house. As we were on the far end of the place, closer to their cabin, Jon and Mary were kind enough to let us use the bathroom/shower house adjacent to where they stay. I don’t know if that was a regular practice, but it was very kind of them. Just be aware that you may have to wait for someone else to be done brushing their teeth before you get to use the facilities in the morning. When nature calls, practice a patience that is reflective of the relaxing you will be doing most of the time anyway.

Castor River Ranch 018It is a smaller private campground, so I would certainly recommend calling them on the phone in advance of your visit to set up your accommodations. Also let them know what you prefer when it comes to a campsite. Where we were set up in the field was a very primitive spot, lacking a picnic table and a fire ring with a grill. Had we needed either of those, I am sure that Jon and Mary would have found a way to accommodate us. Think about your needs as campers and see what they have to offer. They also only take cash or check, so make sure to have that form of payment on hand. The closest ATM is at the Great Southern Bank nearby in Marquand. It is worth checking out simply for its very unique drive-thru!

Castor River Ranch 205It was a last minute plan that ended up working out great. We spent two gorgeous days and nights in the misty river valley south of Marquand, MO along the Castor River. Drove up to see the Castor River Shut-ins and do some exploring of the countryside in the morning, played in the river during the afternoon, and then relaxed by the fire in the evening. It is certainly a quieter part of the Missouri woods to camp in next to a vibrant and life filled river, and I look forward to our next chance to go down and visit the pretty little campground with some of the friendliest and accommodating owners I have met so far, at the Castor River Ranch.

Castor River Ranch 114

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