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  • Writer's pictureRuby's Winding Road

An Award For Camping?

Spring has sprung and schools are letting out for the summer! Campers across the colder areas of the country are packing up their insulated gear and stretching in the sunshine. Oh, yes!

Ruby at Cuivre River State Park campground
Cuivre River State Park

Enjoying the spring showers and nature's blooming flowers at a state park can be a rewarding experience. It's a time to trudge through the trails, enjoy the fragrance of the emerging wildflowers and peek at the critters frolicking in the woods. Oh, what fun!

Here, the State of Missouri provides campers with incentives to get out and utilize public resources through the Missouri Camper Award program. To receive an award, a camper must stay overnight at five different state parks within the year. Campers need to make sure each stay is verified by staff. That's it!

The Missouri Camper Award program, managed through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, has received an update this year. It's being incorporated into a larger Customer Rewards Program that allows campers to accumulate points for discounts on future purchases. Participants are encouraged to create an online account to keep track of and verify their campground stays rather than using the former paper forms. If you've already started your paper form this year, they say it's okay to continue for now.

Missouri Camper Award patches 2022
Missouri Camper Award Patches 2022

Although we've been camping in Missouri State Parks for years, we officially kept track of our stays and earned our first Missouri Camper Award in 2022. Yahoo! At that time, campers were awarded with certificates and cool patches. Yes, we're so old we think patches are cool. It appears from an email notice we received about the program earlier this spring, however, that many awards may be transitioning to electronic form rather than old school. Per the email, in addition to points, some prizes will now include electronic certificates and electronic badges to display on social media. To find out details about how the program works and to earn some redeemable points, visit Friendly staff from the State of Missouri can answer questions about the program if you have them.

Remember, the camper award program is just a bonus. The real award is an adventure in a Missouri State Park with family or friends. There are as many as 92 state parks and historic sites to visit, though not all offer camping. Find the one that's right for you online at Have fun and go camping in Missouri! We're already making our plans for this season. Of course we'll be bringing our pup.

Check out some photos from just a few of the parks we've visited within the last year or so:

Arrow Rock State Historic Site - Arrow Rock, Missouri

Arrow Rock is a cozy and interesting place to visit and we always enjoy our stay. It's located just north of Interstate 70 in Saline County, Missouri. It's a small place with roughly 45 full-time residents. Don't let it's size deter you from stopping to visit. There's plenty to see and do.

The Lyceum Theater
One of oldest professional theatres in Missouri

The Arrow Rock Historic District is a National Historic Landmark and a part of the larger Village of Arrow Rock. Founded in 1829, Arrow Rock was once a busy Missouri River town that played a role in westward expansion. The area currently attracts thousands of visitors annually. Start at the Visitor Center to learn about the area and then go on a car or walking tour to experience the historical attractions. Within the Village of Arrow Rock are unique places to stay, shop, and eat. Check the town's online events calendar for upcoming festivals and activities.

How about a show in a 416-seat historic venue that was originally built in the late 1800s as a church? The Lyceum Theatre regularly hosts plays and musicals throughout the summer. The Lyceum is one of the oldest professional repertory theatres in Missouri. Their 2023 season kicks off in June.

Pup visiting University of Missouri campus
Pup visits MIZZOU's Botanic Garden campus in Columbia

Interested in a day trip to a neighboring community during your stay? About an hour east of Arrow Rock is Columbia, Missouri. Columbia is home to the University of Missouri. If you like flowers, trees and plants of various sorts go for a stroll on campus. It's a nationally recognized botanic garden.

Feeling hungry? Columbia has many great restaurants from which to choose, or pick up some fresh produce or baked goods at a farmers market. Afterwards, shop in The District downtown or enjoy an evening at a local music venue.

Just need a stretch in the fresh air? Rock Bridge State Park south of town features a large cave system, sink holes and underground streams. There's no general camping in Rock Bridge State Park, but it's a great place to go for a stroll or picnic. From there you can head back to Arrow Rock or try another camping destination like Finger Lakes State Park north of town where folks can ride off-road ATVs and motorcycles after purchasing an online permit.

Babler State Park - Wildwood, Missouri

Ruby at Babler State Park campground
Babler State Park

Where can we go today? Babler!

It was early spring 2022 when we headed to Dr. Edmund A. Babler State Park. The trees were still bare and the park had quite a few campers staking out campsites.

We enjoyed a little bit of sunshine during our stay, though we also endured cool temperatures and spring rain. No problem. Rain jackets and sneakers were enough to address those pesky issues. Wet pup? Not so much. She has a rain jacket to help keep away wet dog aroma.

Dedicated in 1938, Babler State Park is named after a local physician who attended medical school in St. Louis and was devoted to charitable cases. Much of the land for Babler State Park was donated by the physician's family members.

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis

The park is more than 2,400 acres in size. In addition to camping, the park has plenty of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. There are picnic and play areas.

The park's location is within a half-hour drive of many St. Louis must-see tourist attractions including the amazing Gateway Arch, world-famous St. Louis Zoo, sensational St. Louis Art Museum and super cool St. Louis Science Center/McDonnell Planetarium. Yeah, let's go!

Crowder State Park - Trenton, Missouri

This park was established in the late 1930s and includes more than 1,900 acres of land surrounding Crowder Lake. We stopped here for one night on a longer westward journey. The gorgeous pine trees towered over our particular campsite allowing us to enjoy shade from their branches, along with cooling breezes on a hot day. Our particular campsite was roomy, located next to the shower house, and was slightly separated from most of the other campsites. Perfect! The campground host stopped by to welcome us and was very friendly.

People come to Crowder to fish, canoe and explore the trails. They had a tennis court on which we would normally play a little pickleball. Not this time, however, as we were only there for one night.

As with many parks, bring bug spray to keep the insects away. Bzzzz.

Cuivre River State Park - Troy, Missouri

Black-Eyed Susan wildflower
Black-Eyed Susan wildflower

A quick jaunt to a peaceful place pretty much describes our journey to this state park. It was a rather impromptu trip, but one that made us feel like we were kids in summer camp. Pretty rustic, plenty to do, fun.

A walk about the park early in the morning revealed wildflowers poking out on the trails for easy viewing. Descend a long series of steps and you'll arrive at a trail that surrounds a serene lake. Small boats quietly floated on the sparkling lake while their passengers fished. It appeared many folks were going to have a fresh and tasty lunch.

Cuivre River State Park has a small beach and swimming area. Families were splashing, playing, laughing and having a good time while we where there. No pups allowed in the swim area, however.

There's a very small museum connected to the park office. There you can learn about area wildlife, as well as the role the Civilian Conservation Corps played in the creation of the park. We picked up a couple of patches at the campsite check-in booth. Cool! Maybe the whole patch thing is just the old Boy/Girl Scout coming out in us.

Cuivre River State Park is a good place to escape to for a few days. It's also about 40 minutes from shops and restaurants on Historic Main Street in St. Charles and about an hour from the Greater St. Louis area. The small town of Troy also has shops and stores. We stopped in at the grocery store just before entering the park. Seems we forgot the butter.

Echo Bluff State Park - Eminence, Missouri

Echo Bluff State Park campground
Camping in Echo Bluff State Park

How about a stay in Timbuktu Campground in Echo Bluff State Park? There are sixty full RV hookups available. Most can be reserved in advance, though there are a small number of walk-in sites. There are also plenty of tent camping areas. Upon arriving at the campground we were reminded that we live in a small world. The fella in the next campsite was once a co-worker. Hey there, George! Yep, small world.

The park is home to a lodge, cabins and a restaurant. The 476-acre park was opened to the public in summer 2016 and wow! You won't be lacking for things to do during your stay. Try hiking or mountain biking on the trails. Fish or dabble in the Sinking Creek. Maybe venture just outside the park to float the Current River.

There is a little shop inside the park lodge that sells t-shirts, supplies and some convenience food items. They had your standard "grab from the freezer" ice cream. We bought some and then went back for more. It sure hit the spot on a sweltering summer day.

Mornings. We seem to enjoy those most no matter where we go. Echo Bluff brought an interesting element to this time of day with its hazy, foggy sunrise surrounding the bluff. It was an eerie kind of neat. We made our coffee and then went for a walk while it was cool. By lunchtime, well, it was hot, hot, hot and most people could be found dabbling in the stream. Including our pup who normally avoids getting too wet.

Knob Noster State Park - Knob Noster, Missouri

This particular park was nice, but our visit was odd. Full moon? Not sure. Fun time? Yes!

We had traveled to the area to try a place known for their fresh-baked goods that we learned about on a local television channel. Having stopped there first for a couple loaves of bread, we salivated as we attempted to slice, or rather, hack into the tough loaves. Tasty. Our teeth just weren't sharp enough. Turns out the loaves made outstandingly good croutons later. (Seriously, we cut the loaves into cubes, tossed with olive oil and seasoning then toasted them. Delish!)

Pup watching the mowers from inside the van.
Pup watching the mowers

Knob Noster park was pretty and peaceful. Errr, that is until park maintenance crews started mowing. Usually we find staff at campgrounds mow the unoccupied sites and common areas being careful not to get too close to campers. It was strange to have mowers actively driving through our reserved, not very grassy site. They appeared oblivious to the clouds of dust they were coating us in as we sat outside just feet from their whirling mowers. Hmmm. We climbed inside the RV, shut the door, closed the windows and waited for them to leave. At least we could naw on our tasty bread while we waited. When one mower finally left, another showed up and mowed again. Geez. This was not a normal experience for us in a state park.

After the dirt cloud finally cleared, we emerged from our now dusty van to enjoy a rather nice day in the shade from the trees in our site. Our entertainment included a tent camper who couldn't decide which site to choose. She dragged her already popped-up tent from empty site to empty site before settling on one right next to us in the nearly empty campground. No problem except for her two very large dogs. They would growl, bark, and snarl from inside her tiny tent with every move we made in our site. We tried to be discreet in our movements to avoid rattling her dogs. Didn't work. The little tent would shake and rattle until the lady camper would loudly holler "SHUT UP" at her dogs followed by a few curse words. Annoying? Funny? Don't know. Maybe just very memorable.

Knob Noster campsite
Enjoying camp in Knob Noster

Can we talk about the guy carrying his basketball around through all the campsites? No, let's not.

The campground at Knob Noster is currently closed this season for some renovation work per information on the state park website. Aside from the weirdness while we were there, it's a cute campground and we will travel back to try it again when it reopens. We'll keep you posted.

Long Branch State Park - Macon, Missouri

Long Branch State Park beach swim area
Long Branch State Park beach swim area

Inflate your beach ball and bring it to Long Branch State Park in Macon, Missouri. This park has a place for swimming in Long Branch Lake near the marina. You can also rent many fun-in-the-sun water toys like kayaks after Memorial Day. Hand-dipped ice cream? Yep, they have it at the marina store. Need some Minnows, Goldfish or Night Crawlers for your line? Visit the Bait Shop. Just make sure you visit after the start of the summer season if you're interested in these features.

We stayed here in early May and took advantage of the quiet pre-season camping, trails and beaches. Now that Memorial Day is upon us, things will no doubt liven up a bit.

Many Parks From Which To Choose

Not all state parks have camping available in the park, but they are still well worth a visit and can be combined with stays at other nearby parks. We'd suggest checking out Elephant Rocks State Park in Belleview, Missouri. It's here you can climb all over giant granite boulders more than a billion-years old. The park also includes the paved Braille Trail for people with visual disabilities. It's a park we've visited over and over again since we were kids (Thanks mom and dad for the memories!). You can camp nearby in Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park about 20 minutes away in Lesterville. At Johnson's Shut-Ins you can splash all day in the natural water pools and waterfalls. It's a fun place. Water shoes and life jackets are recommended. Don't forget the sunscreen. You'll need it.

The American Flag
Old Glory

Day trip, overnight or longer, just get out into the fresh air at a state park. Your adventure is what you make it. Log onto for parks to visit all across Missouri. Likewise, check state websites in places you travel frequently to find out about some cool places to play and/or stay and if camper reward programs are available where you visit.

Over the next several months we'll be out visiting more Missouri parks, as well as a few in other states. It'll be a way for us to refresh. During our brief absence from blogging, our youngest chickadee graduated from college. OMG! Yep, we're that old. Thanks for stopping by our blog site. Read more of our posts at

Wishing you a safe and meaningful Memorial Day holiday, as we pause to remember and honor those who sacrificed their lives for our country.


gary gerber
gary gerber
May 28, 2023

Nicely done blog. . Keep them coming...

Ruby's Winding Road
Ruby's Winding Road
May 28, 2023
Replying to

Thank you! Will do.

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