One place I just can’t recommend enough is the gorgeous Johnson’s Shut-ins.  Located in Middlebrook, Missouri, this natural rock formation is a popular attraction due to its unique landscape.  Billions of years of erosion caused by the East Fork Black River went into the making of this mesmerizing haven of rocks, waterfalls, and natural pools.

I camped at the nearby sites and took the short drive over to the Shut-ins.   The visitors there could be seen swimming, bird watching, sunbathing on the rocks, rock-climbing, and sliding down the natural waterslides.  Nostalgia set in upon arrival from the several times I went in my youth.  All these years later there is still something new begging to be explored.  People of any age can find solace or excitement at the Shut-Ins.

Whether camping nearby or simply coming down for a day excursion, some recommendations from experience are to 1) bring water shoes or old shoes that are comfortable and can get wet.  Flip-flops can easily come off in the currents or whilst rock-climbing.   This goes double for the adventurous types and kids planning to play on the rocks and in the water. 2) SUNSCREEN! Be it spray-on or in lotion form, sunscreen is very important.  Just a few hours of sun can lead to some nasty sunburns without sunscreen.  Reapply as needed and while on the topic, Aloe Vera should be a consideration.  3) Snacks in Ziplocs are a good idea because it’s a bit of a hike back to the parking lot and any food not in a cooler may cook in an idle car.  Bringing snacks can prolong the fun by preventing a trip outside the recreation area.  Also, dispose of all food waste in a proper manner as to avoid attracting animals and making litter.

The surrounding area of the Shut-Ins offers hiking, camping, and sightseeing.  The Scour Trail is a unique hiking trail nearby where prehistoric fossils and can be seen at certain areas.  There are much easier hikes closer to the Shut-ins.  Something I enjoy doing is hiking then taking a swim in the river after to cool down.

If you plan on camping at the Johnson’s Shut-Ins sites, there are cabins, electric sites, an equestrian loop and walk-up camping.  I tried the walk-up camping for the first time and it was a more immersive and scenic way to go.  Campers park in a lot then walk up a trail where there are wooden platforms to set up tents to avoid sleeping on rocks and sticks.  At the trailhead, there are wheelbarrow-type wagons designated for transporting all your camping gear.  Going up was a bit of a workout with the wagon and a ton of gear but my site was one that was further in.  That’s my obligatory heads-up.  The walk-up sites are more integrated into the wilderness and provide great scenery.

If you are into camping, hiking, bird watching, sightseeing, swimming or climbing, then do yourself a favor and check out Johnson’s Shut-Ins.  It is free to visit the recreational area and can be visited in the form of a day trip.  Just be careful, have fun and be sure to check out The Alpine Shop’s selection of gear to suit your adventure needs.