Dan and I spent five nights at a nearby state park to finish out our 2021 camping season. We stayed with Ole Man River, you know the one who just keeps rollin’ along. For those of you not familiar with that song in the deep baritone voice, that means we camped at the Mississippi River Campground in Missouri’s Trail of Tears State Park. The campground, appropriately named, sits on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi.
A railroad track also lines the campground and the park’s edge. Reviews of the campground often mention the trains which travel by several times a day – and throughout the night, too. Many reviewers are not happy about the noise. There is even a sign on a bulletin board which notes “No Refunds for Train Traffic.”
The trains didn’t bother us. Oh, we heard them at night, but if we did wake up, we quickly fell back asleep. I grew up not far from the Mississippi. My high school overlooked the river. I’ve walked hundreds of miles at Jefferson Barracks, a park in south St. Louis County which overlooks, you guessed it, the Mississippi. Even now, a ten minute drive from our St. Charles home finds us at the river and a ferry crossing. I’ve heard barge traffic and train horns my whole life. I felt right at home.
However, if such noise bothers you – or your dog(s) – you may want to consider elsewhere. Our campground host mentioned that many times when people leave early, it’s because the loud train horn upsets their dog. The train tracks are very close. In fact, one of our campground neighbors left the morning after their first night. They were supposed to stay two more nights, according to their camping tag. We can only guess it was because of the train. It certainly couldn’t have been us, right? Dan and I are boring. We’re the perfect camping neighbors.
In any case, this campground has just seventeen sites with only seven of them being full hook up. So, if people want to pass on this campground, that’s fine by me. I’ll be happy to enjoy this treasure, trains and all.
We had fantastic weather for our last trip of the year. It was fall camping at its best. So, if you go, try to request the same weather. You won’t be disappointed.
The weather was especially perfect for ebike riding. While there aren’t biking trails in the park, the park is huge, and we took advantage of the park’s roads. Normally, we don’t like riding where there are cars, but the park roads had minimal traffic. For one thing, we were there during the week; we arrived on Sunday and left Friday. In addition, the basic campground loop, which hosts about 50 sites, was closed for some maintenance repairs.
Several of the days, we rode about 16 miles, covering every road in the park. We even rode on “Hill Road” which, like the campground, is very appropriately named. Good thing we had ebikes. Some of the hills are pretty steep. At some point, I lost my reading glasses which I had atop my head. They must have flown off when I was flying downhill at speeds which surprised even me. The glasses are red, just in case you happen to see them.
This park has lots to offer. Besides the exhibits and movie related to the Trail of Tears story, the Visitor Center contains numerous nature exhibits. As usual, we found the park staff to be very friendly and enthusiastic about their park and nature, in general. One park ranger spoke about how she loved snakes. We felt a little better about them, too, after she told us why. Snakes eat mice, and one little mouse can have up to a hundred ticks on it.
The outside areas of the park offer even more. There is a lake in the park which features a swimming beach. There are several hiking trails of varying lengths. Throughout the park are beautiful picnic areas, picnic shelters and a number of playgrounds. Our campground had a volleyball net set up and three sets of the “Washers” game, including the washers ready for play. If you can’t find something to do and enjoy, you’re just not trying.
The park’s history has a connection to those famous explorers, Lewis and Clark. The park also has a connection to another expedition, that of Louis Joliet and Father Jaques Marquette. The same Marquette as the Illinois State Park – Pere Marquette – which is just a short drive and a ferry ride away from our home in St. Charles.
Another short drive is the one from the Trail of Tears State Park to the town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. It’s less than eleven miles. So, in the spirit of Lewis and Clark as well as Father Marquette and Joliet, Dan and I spent a day exploring the town. We enjoyed our expedition quite a bit; and my next post will contain all the exciting details. For now, suffice it to say, after a fun day in town, we happily came back to site #7, our home for just a little bit longer.