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State Parks Stories

Missouri State Parks invites you to explore the world of nature our state has to offer. Read our stories and find a state park that's close to you.

Morris State Park: A ridge above

CAMPBELL, Mo. – At 161 acres, Morris State Park is among Missouri’s smallest state parks. But it represents a much larger geologic phenomenon known as Crowley’s Ridge.

The ridge runs for some 150 miles along the Mississippi River floodplain of southeast Missouri into northern Arkansas. Its wooded hills rise up to 250 feet above the surrounding fields of cotton, corn, rice and soybeans.

The ridge itself produces a bounty of fruit, earning Campbell the title of “Peach Capital of Missouri.”

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Morris State Park is among Missouri’s smallest state parks. But it represents a much larger geologic phenomenon known as Crowley’s Ridge.

More to Lake of the Ozarks than just the lake

KAISER, Mo. – Mention Lake of the Ozarks State Park and most people think of water. But they’re leaving out a whole lot of land.

“Something like17,600 acres – we’re the largest state park in Missouri,” said Cindy Hall, a naturalist with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. “We’re also one of the busiest; we have over a million visitors a year.”

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Mention Lake of the Ozarks State Park and most people think of water. But they’re leaving out a whole lot of land.

Wag the tail of the dog days

By Tom Uhlenbrock

What’s a matter, Bunky? Heat and humidity got you down? Feel like a flower wilting in the sun? Already dreaming of a white Christmas?

Missouri offers several sure-fire ways to beat the dog days of summer. Here are a few tried-and-true favorites.

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Missouri offers several sure-fire ways to beat the dog days of summer. Here are a few tried-and-true favorites.

Bats make themselves at home in Missouri’s state parks

LEASBURG, Mo. – You don’t have to go far to find bats at Onondaga Cave State Park.

Just inside the interior glass doors that lead into one of America’s most spectacular caves, a dozen or so tiny balls of dark fur clustered together on the ceiling a few feet above visitors’ heads.

“Those are little brown bats and eastern pipstrelles, which are also called tri-colored,” said Tara Flynn, a naturalist with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

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You don’t have to go far to find bats at Onondaga Cave State Park.

Hot tip: Fire's the secret to Ha Ha Tonka’s flowers

CAMDENTON, Mo. – Larry Webb is walking through a knee-high carpet of yellow, talking about fire. The yellow is a coneflower, Echinacea paradoxa, that is found only one place in the world, the open glades of the Ozarks.

The flowers are at their peak right now, Webb says. The field is a riot of colors, yellow flowers against green grasses. But there’s a catch: In order for  Echinacea paradoxa to thrive, the ecosystem around it needs to burn.

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The yellow is a coneflower, Echinacea paradoxa, that is found only one place in the world, the open glades of the Ozarks.

The ruins of a dream: Ha Ha Tonka’s castle

By Tom Uhlenbrock

Fire played a role in creating another of Ha Ha Tonka’s attractions, the ruins of Robert Snyder’s mansion. In the early 1900s, the wealthy Kansas City businessman purchased 5,000 acres that included a spring-fed lake.

He selected a site on the rocky summit above for his retirement home, saying, “I will fish and loaf and explore the caves of these hills, with no fear of intrusion.”

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Fire played a role in creating another of Ha Ha Tonka’s attractions, the ruins of Robert Snyder’s mansion.

Laughing waters: A hike to where Ha Ha Tonka got its name

In a karst landscape, mildly acidic groundwater moves through soluble bedrock, dissolving the limestone and dolomite into a subterranean maze of caves and fissures. Much of the Missouri Ozarks is karst, earning its nickname as the Cave State.

The first stop on a tour of the park led by Webb, the naturalist, was a natural bridge, where the trail led under a massive arch in the woods. He explained that the formation was caused by the collapse of a cave roof.

“Basically, that’s a sinkhole here and that’s a portion of the cave that did not collapse,” he said.

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In a karst landscape, mildly acidic groundwater moves through soluble bedrock, dissolving the limestone and dolomite into a subterranean maze of caves

Missouri and the Civil War

LEXINGTON, Mo. – Civil War buffs are fortunate that Tilton Davis didn’t believe in home repairs.

Davis, a lawyer, bought the Oliver Anderson house in Lexington after the war and preserved the home for 50 years. The stately mansion was a strategic part of the Battle of Lexington, changing hands three times on Sept. 18, 1861, the first day of the three-day fight.

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Civil War buffs are fortunate that Tilton Davis didn’t believe in home repairs.

Best way to beat the heat? Float.

SULLIVAN, Mo. – Living in Missouri and never floating its Ozark streams would be like being in Florida and ignoring its beaches, or spending a lifetime in Colorado and never hiking the Rockies.

Meramec State Park offers the perfect trip for a rookie to get his or her feet wet, and see what floating is all about. You leave your vehicle at the park, take a shuttle to the Sappington Bridge, and float five miles back.

“The river is easy and wide,” said Mike Fleming, the concessionaire at Meramec. “It’s a nice little float.”

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Living in Missouri and never floating its Ozark streams would be like being in Florida and ignoring its beaches, or spending a lifetime in Colorado an

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