Camping at Johnson’s Shut-Ins

On a Friday night in August, traffic creeped down the road as people in RVs, trucks towing campers and vehicles filled with tents and camping supplies anxiously awaited check in at the Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park campground. The highway signs pointed the way to the park and signage within the park provided easy navigation to the campground, camp store and activities within the park. The ability to navigate the park eased our fears that we would arrive too late and would find it difficult to locate the campsite and set up camp in the dark.

Setting up camp:
Our camping gear was organized for quick access to set up camp before the sunlight disappeared below the horizon. The only hiccup that we faced with pitching the tent was that the grass sat on top of rocky ground which proved to be difficult to pound the stakes into it. Thunderstorms were predicted for the weekend, therefore it was important to secure the stakes in the ground. We really did not want our tent to blow away.

Rain drops on a tent's rain fly after a mild shower.

Rain drops collect on our tent’s rain fly after a mild shower at Johnson Shut-Ins State Park.

Storms did come through the area while we were camping, but it luckily ended up being mild rain, wind, lightning and thunder. We prepared the car to be able to sleep in it if the storm became severe during the night. However, it did not get to a point that even I, the unadventurous one, felt unsafe in the tent.

Campfire and food:

Aluminum foil breakfast packets cook over the campfire.

Our breakfast in aluminum foil packets cooking over the campfire.

Delicious campfire breakfast!

Delicious campfire breakfast!










It was our first camping trip alone and we discovered that neither of us had ever started a campfire. We used close to a full quart of lighter fluid over the weekend, but we managed to have a fire for all of our meals. We have some ideas of how to better use our resources next time and will write a post about lessons learned on starting and maintaining a fire. The fire ring at this campsite included a grate that was short and not adjustable.

On this trip, we made tin foil breakfasts, brats and macaroni and cheese. I found this great recipe on Pinterest for Campfire Mac ‘n’ Cheese, but the first night we accidentally dropped it in the fire (whoops!) and the second night we did not get it evenly heated. We will have to try it again sometime.

Mac 'n cheese in campfire

Whoops! We accidentally dropped our mac ‘n cheese in the campfire.

Shower and restroom facilities:
The shower houses had three private, unisex restrooms with a toilet, sink, trash can, changing table, hand dryer and electrical outlet in each. It also had three private, unisex shower rooms with a shower that had a short curtain to separate the changing area and a bench in each area. There was a family bathroom that I did not check out, but heard other campers state that it included the shower and toilet in one private room. The shower house had free hot water, but it appeared that it was not cleaned often and there were several bugs in them even with doors that closed completely to each individual room. The hand dryers were placed just inches above the handicap rail and the air pointed toward the wall which made them difficult to use. However, it was nice to have private rooms with locking doors.

The campground:
The campground was divided by type of campsite. Each site was divided by walls of trees on three sides for privacy and nice scenery. There was a large concrete parking area at each site which would easily park two cars. The picnic table was on the concrete parking slab that allowed for ease of moving the cooler in and out of the car.

Tent camping at Johnson Shut-Ins State Park

Our tent at Johnson Shut-Ins State Park in Missouri.

The campground was located within Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, which we will post about later this week. We participated in some of the park activities, but hope to make it back to enjoy more of the hiking trails and ranger-led interpretive programs. The only hiking that we did was on the trail that led through the walk-in campsites. While I told Griff that I am not adventurous enough to want to do backpacking trips, I may consider the walk-in sites at Johnson’s Shut-Ins because they offer hand carts to get your gear through the trail and provide cute decks as a platform for the tents.

The camp store was extremely nice. It was well-organized, clean and had a wide selection of goods. The store offered the standard fire wood bundles and ice as well as a variety of camping supplies, packaged food, food prepared at the store, postcards, souvenirs, books and much more.

It was our first camping trip alone and we learned a lot. It was a wet weekend with the rain, but Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park and its campground is an interesting place. We would definitely recommend this place for the recreation at the Shut-Ins, the privacy in the restrooms and for each campsite and the division of campground types.


One of our first campfire attempts.


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