Spend a couple of days relaxing, enjoying the outdoors and learning a bit of Missouri history at Missouri state parks and historic sites in northeast Missouri. Union Covered Bridge State Historic Site, Mark Twain State Park and Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site can easily be visited in two days without feeling rushed, are very affordable and provide opportunities for exercise, education and rest.
Ponder a time when life was traveled at a slower pace as you stroll across the 120-foot long covered bridge at your first stop -- Union Covered Bridge State Historic Site. Imagine the echoing sound of horse hoofs and wagon wheels as a farmer made his way across the bridge pulling a wagonload of hay. Union Covered Bridge is one of only four surviving covered bridges in the state and is the only one left that was built using the Burr-arch design. It was built in 1871 and served travelers in Monroe County for 99 years not only as a bridge, but also as a local landmark, emergency shelter and signboard. It remains an important structure in the area’s history and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Information at the site highlights the history and design of the bridge as well as other covered bridges in the state. Cost: Free.
After your leisurely visit, hop in the car for a short trip to some outdoor fun at Mark Twain State Park. Begin with a picnic lunch in the Buzzard’s Roost picnic area, where you can also enjoy a picturesque view of Mark Twain Lake from an overlook with the same name that rests atop a towering limestone bluff. Add exercise to your after-lunch agenda with a hike along six miles of trail that affords numerous opportunities to view woodland wildlife and plant life, as well as more scenic views of the lake. The lake also offers numerous quiet coves for fishing enthusiasts. Spend the evening gathered around a campfire in the campground or nestled in one of the park’s camper cabins, which offer electricity and sleeping space for six. The campground showerhouse is available through Oct. 31. Campsite and camper cabin reservations can be made by calling 877-422-6766 or online. Cost: Park admission is free. Camper cabins: $65 plus tax per night. Camping: $13-$21 per night.
Within park boundaries, make sure you visit Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site before heading home. The museum serves as a tribute to one of America’s unique and best-loved personalities and one of Missouri’s most famous citizens -- Mark Twain. The two-room cabin in which Samuel Clemens, author-humorist Mark Twain, was born in 1835 is preserved inside the museum. Imagine how eight people (his parents, four siblings and a teenage slave) would have lived in such a small space. Beginning with his humble birth, you’ll have the opportunity to view exhibits that detail his remarkable life including first editions of his works, a handwritten manuscript of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and furnishings from his Hartford, Conn., home. Cost: Tours are $4 for adults and $2.50 for children ages six to 12.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources preserves state parks and historic sites to give visitors the opportunity to discover Missouri’s unique landscapes and heritage. State parks and historic sites are funded primarily by the one-tenth-of-one-percent parks, soils and water sales tax, which allows visitors to enjoy these resources at little or no cost, making them a great value. Your family will also value their time together exploring and enjoying Missouri’s fascinating natural and cultural resources while creating lasting memories.