Afternoon at Johnson Shut-Ins

As we left our campsite, the grey clouds relentlessly showered the windshield with rain.  In the few minutes it took to drive to the Johnson Shut-Ins, the rain let up slightly, instilling in us a small hope that we might be able to play in the water.  We parked at a playground along the river.  Nearby was a covered shelter with information about the geologic history of the area.  We used our umbrella to cross the distance to the shelter and educated ourselves for several minutes until the rain was only a drizzle.

Geologic history lesson at Johnson Shut-Ins

Geologic history lesson at Johnson Shut-Ins

We decided to follow a gravel trail near the river and see if it would take us to the Shut-Ins.  I brought my camera with me, but the overcast weather made most photographs I took look rather dull due to poor lighting.  Luckily there were some nice flowers and wild plants along the path that made for interesting subjects.

Black-eyed Susans

Black-eyed Susans

Flowering plant

Flowering plant

After what seemed to be about a fifteen-minute walk, we arrived at a parking lot and a large wooden building.  From the tall radio antenna visible, I suspected it was a ranger station.  That turned out to be the case, but it also had a gift shop and changing rooms for people headed to swim in the river.

From the ranger station, we walked along a pathway until we discovered people playing in the water below.  They were wading in a shallow pool created by the river trying to squeeze through the rocks of the Shut-Ins.  The rocks near this pool were short and only just rose above the water, but as the water ran through the gaps and down into a large pool further down the river, the rocks became giant granite boulders as large as elephants.

Small rocks in upper pool at Johnson Shut-Ins

Small rocks in upper pool at Johnson Shut-Ins

Fox and I walked out on the rocks so we could check out the Shut-Ins from up close and I could take some photos.  As we were doing this, the sky continued to clear up.  We both wished we had brought our swimsuits as the water looked clear and was a good temperature.  After a while we left to return to our campground and eat lunch.

Examining the Johnson Shut-Ins State Park on a rainy day.

Examining the Johnson Shut-Ins State Park on a rainy day.

Later in the day the sun was shining brightly and the clouds had all but vanished from the sky.  We changed clothes in our tent, grabbed some towels, and drove back to the parking lot in front of the ranger station.

Due to the nicer weather, the Shut-Ins were bustling with activity.  Many families were scattered about with people looking on from the beach, playing in the upper and lower pools, and climbing all over the large boulders in the water.

We had received advice prior to our trip that it would be a good idea to bring water shoes.  As we started to make our way out into the river, we were glad we had listened.  The clarity of the water seemed to be due to the rocky bottom and the moist surfaces of the boulders could be very slippery.

Clear river water

Clear river water

To get accustomed to the water, we slowly submerged ourselves up to our heads in the upper pool where the shadows of a cliff above the river made the water temperature quite cool.  Fox was covered in goosebumps, so we decided to go explore the paths the river made between the boulders.

The river split into small streams as the water ran between rocks, creating small waterfalls with personal pools beneath them.  Where the streams could not reach there were some tidal pools with warm, stagnant water filled with algae which we generally tried to avoid.

Streams at Johnson Shut-Ins

Streams at Johnson Shut-Ins

Small pool in boulder at Johnson Shut-Ins

Small pool in boulder at Johnson Shut-Ins

We quickly found that traversing the streams between rocks was best done with both hands and feet in order to reduce the risk of slipping, falling, and hitting our heads on thousands of pounds of solid granite.  Also stepping along the bottoms of the streams gave good traction for our feet.

As we made our way to the larger boulders near the lower pool, we encountered some deeper pools where I could not touch the bottom as well as almost unsupervised kids jumping from a large boulder above into pools near us without warning.  As neither of us were interested in getting knocked out by sudden falling children, we turned around and headed back up to the upper pool where there weren’t as many people.

We found an underwater natural bench formed by flat rocks.  It was covered in some slimy moss but otherwise made a good place to sit and relax in the water.  Again I was struck by how cool the water was when I noticed the goosebumps on Fox’s arms, so we called it a day and waded to the beach to get our towels.

Johnson Shut-Ins turned out to be a great place to visit with clean water in which to swim and unique geologic features which were fun to explore.

Camping at Lake Wappapello

A few signs on US67- South pointed toward Lake Wappapello but the GPS knew which sign was correct and lead the car in the appropriate direction. The campground was on the main road of Lake Wappapello State Park in Williamsville, MO. After locating the campsite, we parked our car on the gravel drive and set up the tent on the grassy area approximately 75 yards from the lake. It was getting dark, so we were happy that we had a tent pitching trial in our backyard earlier that week.

Tent campsite at Lake Wappapello

Griff ‘n Fox tent campsite at Lake Wappapello

Cooking over a campfire:
Griff’s parents had arrived the day before and had started a fire before we arrived, so with camp set up, we used their fire to cook our burritos.  Without having much experience cooking over campfires, we had precooked the meat, assembled dinner and breakfast burritos and wrapped the food in heavy-duty aluminum foil the night before we went camping. Griff’s mom and sister-in-law seemed interested in this no-cleanup way of cooking over the campfire so I felt successful in at least one aspect of camping.

The campground:
Our impression of the campground was favorable. The fire rings were taller than expected and had adjustable height grates. The campsites were well-maintained. The shower house was kept clean, had free hot water in the showers and sinks and had a nice private changing area separated by floor-length shower curtains between the shower and the rest of the shower house. The downside was that signs to navigate the park were not consistent and we had some difficulty finding the camp store. The other negative was that the camp store cooler did not seem to be working properly while we were there because the ice seemed on the verge of melting when we purchased it and we had to go back several times to get ice because it quickly melted.

Fishing on Lake Wappapello

Two men fish early in the morning on Lake Wappapello

Our activities:
Our two campsites were located next to the lake, which provided us with easy access to the water and a view. In our camp chairs we watched boats and jet skis on the water, the forest on the opposite shore and geese traveling on the water and on land near our camp.

At least one person in our group went swimming, canoeing, fishing and/or hiking at the park. The trailhead at Asher Creek Campground had signs that lacked explanation and reminded us of video game strategies.  The trails had natural paths that led us by the lake and up the hill through the wooded area where we encountered a chipmunk and a deer.

Close-up of chipmunk along the trail at Lake Wappapello State Park

Chipmunk along the trail at Lake Wappapello State Park.

Overall:
We liked this campground and would recommend it to anyone who is seeking a weekend on the lake. The food was good, the family time was nice and our camping adventures officially began that weekend.

Video game strategy or hiking trail sign at Lake Wappapello State Park?

Video game strategy or hiking trail sign at Lake Wappapello State Park?