Camping

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camping
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Camping is a great way to unplug, recharge, and connect with nature. More than 300 of Missouri’s conservation areas offer camping for those looking for a more adventurous, primitive experience. All camping on conservation areas is free, and most camping is first come, first served. Be sure to have a backup plan in case the spot where you want to camp is already occupied.

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Guidelines for camping on MDC areas

Check the dates

Be aware of hunting seasons. Some areas will be busier during these seasons and may have temporary trail or road closures. Also, some areas expand or restrict camping during firearm hunting seasons.

Bring your own necessities

Sometimes designated campgrounds will provide fire rings, picnic tables, dumpsters, and latrines, but more often camping on conservation areas is primitive with little or no facilities provided. Also, no RV hookups are provided at any department area. Campers should expect to bring their own water.

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Before You Go

Before planning a trip in the spring or fall, check Places to Go for information on the specific conservation area where you wish to camp to see if the area allows camping or has restrictions during hunting seasons.

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Know The Rules
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  • Campers can stay up to 14 consecutive days in any 30-day period and must remove all personal property at the end of the 14-day period. Each camper is limited to 30 total camping days within one calendar year on all department lands.
  • On those areas with established campsites, only two camping or sleeping units are permitted in each site.
  • Walk-in (dispersed) campers should camp at least 100 yards from parking lots and roads.
  • Pack out at least as much as you pack in, and don’t burn trash in campfires.
  • Check the regulations for the specific area where you want to camp. Some areas allow open dispersed camping (walk-in-, float-in-, or backpack-type camping) while others allow camping only in designated sites. Some areas require a special use permit for all camping.
  • Groups of more than 10 people camping on conservation lands must obtain a special use permit.
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Respect your neighbors

Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily. Visitors who are not occupying a campsite must leave the campground by 10 p.m. During quiet hours, campers should not make any excessive noise, both personally or with mechanical devices, that disturbs other campers.

Keep fire contained; use local firewood

Know how to keep from starting a wildfire when you camp. Visit Make Your Camp Firewise for guidelines, and remember to use local firewood for campfires to keep from spreading tree-killing pests and diseases across the state.

Properly dispose of human waste

If no latrine is available at your campsite, follow these steps to properly dispose of human waste:

  • Choose a spot that is at least 200 feet away from a trail, water source, or campsite.
  • Make a hole about 4 inches wide and 6 to 8 inches deep to contain the waste.
  • When finished, completely cover the hole, and do not leave any toilet paper visible on top of the ground.
Be Bear Aware

While black bear attacks are extremely rare, it’s wise to follow a few precautions now that these bears have made a comeback in Missouri. Visit Camping and Hiking in Black Bear Country to learn ways to stay safe when camping and hiking where there might be black bears.

Plan For Emergencies

Bring a first aid kit, and have a plan in place in case of emergency. Remember that you are responsible for your safety and the safety of those around you.

Report Misuse

To report any misuse of the area, contact the Conservation Agent assigned to the county where you observed the issue.

Great Places For Camping

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Kayaker on a stream at Mudpuppy CA
Ripley
Mudpuppy Conservation Area consists of 1,404 acres in Ripley County at the end of Route BB.

Events

Find events near you.
Registration period: May 1 - May 27
Date: Friday, May 27, 2022 10:00 am - Friday, May 27, 2022 11:00 am
Location: Runge Conservation Nature Center
Camping might sound in-tents but a Little Acorn’s camping trip is sure to be a good time! Join us as we pack a bag and head out to the campsite to learn more about this fun outdoor activity! Registration required. Must have a child in the 0-2 age range AND the 3-6 age range.
Registration period: May 1 - May 31
Date: Tuesday, May 31, 2022 10:00 am - Tuesday, May 31, 2022 11:00 am
Location: Runge Conservation Nature Center
Camping might sound in-tents but a Little Acorn’s camping trip is sure to be a good time! Join us as we pack a bag and head out to the campsite to learn more about this fun outdoor activity! Registration required. Ages 3-6 years.
Registration period: April 21 - June 7
Date: Wednesday, June 8, 2022 6:00 pm - Wednesday, June 8, 2022 8:00 pm
Location: Parma Woods Shooting Range

Registration required (All ages)

Camping is a fun way to unplug and spend time together as a family. From car camping at your local campground to a remote backcountry experience, there is something for everyone. Join our seasoned staff to learn about what equipment and skills you need to start camping today.

Date: Saturday, June 11, 2022 9:00 am - Saturday, June 11, 2022 10:00 am
Location: Cape Girardeau Nature Center

Let’s go camping! Camping can be a fun way to get outside and explore with your family. Come to the nature center to learn how to set up your campsite and how to stay safe. For those participating in the Cape Nature Center’s “A Year in Color,” this program will earn a yellow outdoor adventure bead.

Little Acorns programs are designed to help children ages 3-6 learn about the natural world through hands on experiences, crafts, and focused free-play activities.
Date: Saturday, June 11, 2022 10:00 am - Saturday, June 11, 2022 11:00 am
Location: Cape Girardeau Nature Center

Let’s go camping! Camping can be a fun way to get outside and explore with your family. Come to the nature center to learn how to set up your campsite and how to stay safe. For those participating in the Cape Nature Center’s “A Year in Color,” this program will earn a yellow outdoor adventure bead.

Little Acorns programs are designed to help children ages 3-6 learn about the natural world through hands on experiences, crafts, and focused free-play activities.
Date: Tuesday, June 14, 2022 10:00 am - Tuesday, June 14, 2022 11:00 am
Location: Cape Girardeau Nature Center

Let’s go camping! Camping can be a fun way to get outside and explore with your family. Come to the nature center to learn how to set up your campsite and how to stay safe. For those participating in the Cape Nature Center’s “A Year in Color,” this program will earn a yellow outdoor adventure bead.

Little Acorns programs are designed to help children ages 3-6 learn about the natural world through hands on experiences, crafts, and focused free-play activities.
Registration period: May 17 - June 26
Date: Sunday, July 3, 2022 9:00 am - Sunday, July 3, 2022 10:30 am
Location: Shaw Nature Reserve

Join us July 3rd to learn basic outdoor cooking. This event will cover simple fire making methods, cooking utensils, food options and a cooking demonstration. Toward the end of the program, participants will have an opportunity to put into practice what they’ve learned.

All planning to attend the event should register separately. Children younger than fifteen years of age must be accompanied by an adult. If you have any questions, please contact the host.

We look forward to having you join us!
Registration period: May 19 - July 10
Date: Monday, July 18, 2022 1:00 pm - Monday, July 18, 2022 2:30 pm
Location: Warrenton Pool Park

Join us July 18th at Warrenton Pool Park pavilion to learn basic outdoor cooking. This event will cover simple fire making methods, cooking utensils, food options and a cooking demonstration. Toward the end of the program, participants will have an opportunity to put into practice what they’ve learned.

All planning to attend the event should register separately. Children younger than sixteen years of age must be accompanied by an adult. If you have any questions, please contact the host. Please park in the Warrenton Aquatic Center parking lot and walk down to the Disc Golf pavilion where the program will take place.

Registration period: April 4 - August 15
Date: Saturday, August 20, 2022 10:00 am - Saturday, August 20, 2022 1:00 pm
Location: James Youth Center