101 Fun Things to Do: Nature Lovers

Friday, June 1, 2012
Trail of Tears State Park

1. Trail of Tears State Park in Cape Girardeau County. The 3,415-acre park is a memorial to the Cherokee Indians who lost their lives in a forced relocation, as well as a place for visitors to participate in a variety of outdoor adventures including hiking, backpacking, camping, fishing and picnicking.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways

2. Ozark National Scenic Riverways attracts more than 1.5 million visitors a year to the Current and Jacks Fork rivers in Southern Missouri. Water activities such as floating, canoeing and fishing are the big draws, but visitors can also explore the numerous natural features in the region. Big Springs, Blue Springs and Round Spring are spectacular in their own right, and the Alley Springs Mill gives a glimpse of days gone by.

3. Lake Wappapello State Park in Williamsville, Mo., offers camping, fishing, lodging, picnicking and swimming as well as hiking, equestrian, mountain biking and backpacking trails.

4. Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in Puxico, Mo., was established in 1944 as a resting and wintering area for migratory waterfowl and other birds. The 21,592-acre refuge contains approximately 15,000 acres of bottomland hardwood forest, 3,500 acres of marsh and water, 506 acres of cropland, 704 acres of seasonally flooded impoundments and 474 acres of grassy openings.

Cape LaCroix Recreation Trail

5. Cape La Croix Recreation Trail runs throughout Cape Girardeau, beginning near the intersection of Lexington Avenue and Kingshighway, and is great for walking and biking.

6. Tower Rock in Perry County is a majestic landmark of limestone rock that towers more than 90 feet above the Mississippi River bed. The water is turbulent as it passes around the rock, which has prompted centuries of legends and the respect and fear of rivermen.

Kentucky Lake (photo courtesy Kentucky State Parks)

7. Kentucky Lake is a haven for lovers of water sports. People flock to the lake to boat, ski and fish, but there are activities for all ages ranging from go-carts and mini golf to craft fairs and car shows. State-run resort parks like Kentucky Dam Village come packed with amenities, or you can rough it with your family at one of the campgrounds that surround the lake. Land Between the Lakes, which lies between Kentucky and Barkley lakes, offers biking, hiking and equestrian trails as well as a bison and elk prairie.

8. During the winter, the city of Jackson stocks Rotary Lake with trout and allows the public to enjoy fishing. It's a great excuse to spend time outdoors, even during the colder months.

9. Otter Slough, along Route ZZ in Stoddard County, has 4,866 acres managed primarily for species associated with wetlands. Migratory waterfowl, herons, egrets and many kinds of shorebirds are found here. Also seen at Otter Slough are mink, otter and other water-loving animals.

10. Johnson's Shut-ins State Park near Lesterville, Mo., has bounced back after being destroyed by the collapse of the Taum Sauk Resevoir. Visitors can splash in the shallows of the East Fork of the Black River or explore Mother Nature's own waterpark: the shut-ins themselves. Multi-use hiking and equestrian trails wind through the Ozark Mountains and expose millions of years of geological history. Camping is also available at the park.

11. Located in Dunklin County near Kennett, Mo., the 1,066 acres at Little River Conservation Area provide opportunities for outdoor recreation. The wetlands attract many migratory birds, making it great for bird-watching and photography.

Giant City State Park

12. Giant City State Park at 235 Giant City Road, Makanda, Ill., is nestled in the Shawnee National Forest, just minutes south of Carbondale. The area was named for the impressions made by its massive sandstone structures. Eons of geological faulting and folding have molded a landscape like none other, which is now clothed in lush garments of fern, moss, large flowering mints, hundreds of species of wildflowers and 75-plus varieties of towering trees.

Elephant Rocks State Park (photo courtesy Missouri State Parks)

13. At Elephant Rocks State Park in Graniteville, Mo., giant granite rocks stand end-to-end like a train of circus elephants. About 1.5 billion years ago, hot magma cooled and formed coarsely crystalline red granite, which later weathered into huge, rounded boulders. Standing atop a granite outcrop, one of the largest elephant rocks, Dumbo, tops the scales at a whopping 680 tons.

14. Explore the Shawnee National Forest on horseback or grab a backpack and hike the 160-mile River to River trail. Rock climbing and rappelling are permitted in several designated areas. Camping is available at designated areas throughout the forest and at commercial sites operating near its boundaries.

15. Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, southwest of Ironton, Mo., in Iron and Reynolds counties, provides 7,448 acres of solitude amid unspoiled land with a wilderness quality hard to find in today's world. Located in the St. Francois Mountains, Taum Sauk Mountain is the highest point in Missouri. Mina Saul Falls is the tallest wet weather waterfall in Missouri.

Castor River (photo courtesy MDC)

16. Castor River Conservation Area, located south of Marble Hill in Bollinger County, is home to Blue Pond, the deepest natural pond in Missouri. Visitors can explore the conservation area by foot, bike or horse on one of the six multiuse trails. Primitive camping is also an option for true nature lovers.

17. Clearwater Dam in Piedmont, Mo., was built in 1942 for flood control purposes. Today, it's one of the largest tourist attractions in Southeast Missouri, drawing more than a million people a year for camping, boating, fishing and swimming.

Sam A. Baker State Park (photo courtesy Missouri State Parks)

18. Nestled among ancient mountains and towering trees, Sam A. Baker State Park near Patterson, Mo., is the perfect location for a family weekend. Hike wooded trails that range from easy to difficult then cool off in the waters of the St. Francois River and Big Creek. A lodge at the park serves country favorites to satisfy even the biggest appetite. The park has rustic cabins, a campground and a separate campground for equestrians.

Reelfoot Lake (Associated Press photo)

19. Reelfoot Lake State Park, in the northwest corner of Tennessee, is one of the greatest hunting and fishing preserves in the nation. The lake encompasses 25,000 acres (15,000 of which are water) and harbors almost every kind of shore and wading bird, as well as the golden and American bald eagles. If hunting and fishing aren't your thing, there are also hiking trails, a museum and picnic areas.

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