Missouri has 87 state parks and historic sites to select from. Park visiting is free family fun. Some historic sites have a small admission fee.

The price is right, and the distance is not far to visit Missouri State Parks. Missouri has 87 state parks and historic sites to select from. Park visiting is free family fun. Some historic sites have a small admission fee. Each park/site is unique in its offerings to enjoy and learn about our residence state.

In 1924, Big Spring State Park became the first Missouri state park. By 1925 there were eight parks, and by 1932, Missouri had a total of 18 state parks. The state park system benefited greatly from the Civilian Conservation Corps, a public works program to alleviate hardships of the 1930s Depression Era. In 1937, the management of state parks was transferred from the Fish and Game Department to the Missouri State Park Board.

One of the early state parks created in Missouri was Bennett Spring State Park, created in 1924. The park is just twelve miles from Lebanon on State Highway 64, and offers visitors much more than an awesome experience in trout fishing. On a gentle fall weekday or weekend the park is alive with folks enjoying a walk or hike, a picnic, canoeing, biking, swimming at the pool (in season), visiting the state store, exploring the trout hatchery or dining in the historic lodge. A visit to the nature center is a “must do” in order to understand the workings of the park and its natural wonders including trails and natural tunnel. There are abundant camping facilities, and cabin and motel rooms are available to the public as well as church services.

The 17,000-acre Lake of the Ozarks State Park’s ridges and hollows was still free open range for livestock in 1968. Rangers spent much of the first summer rounding up livestock. This local state park offers water adventures, trails to explore, horseback riding, and an unusual caving experience at Ozark Caverns - a lantern-light cave tour, and other escapes from busy everyday life.

In 1904, Robert McClure Snyder purchased Ha Ha Tonka Lake and Spring. He once said, "Here I will spend my leisure, secure from the worries of business and the excitement of city life. I will fish and loaf and explore the caves of these hills, with no fear of intrusion."

In 1906, he was one of Kansas City’s first traffic fatalities. Today, the stone ruins of the once-grand castle offer visitors a variety of adventures in the out-of-doors in Ha Ha Tonka State Park.

The Katy Trail State Park is the nation’s longest “rails-to-trails” project, from the towns of Machens to Clinton. The park, over two hundred miles long, is built on the former rails of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad. Folks can bike their way through history and enjoy the wonders of the out of doors as they journey along the trail.

Approximately, 22 percent of all visitations come from out of state. There are 60 miles of paved roadway, more than 900 miles of trails, 2,000 picnic sites, and almost 3,600 campsites included in the 140,000 acres of park land. The Missouri state park system was “developed for Missourians, and reflects an enduring state heritage.” For more information contact: moparks@dnr.mo.gov, or call 800-334-6946, or write Missouri State Parks, P.O. Box 176, Jefferson City, Mo., 65102.