The Mark Twain National Forest is located in southern and central
Missouri. The Forest is comprised of 1.5 million acres with many
streams fed by some of the largest springs in the country. Seven
Congressionally designated wildernesses cover 63,000 acres.
There are 16 developed campgrounds that meet the selection criteria.
The Mark Twain National Forest is a forest of surprises. There are echoes of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and even a little Arizona and California in this national forest in the heart of America. The Mark Twain, composed of nine districts and separated by privately owned land, looks like several states within its boundaries, but is still uniquely Missouri. Driving past fields of freshly harvested crops and sun browned grass, one may wonder where is the green. A forest signpost says "turn here" and within a very short distance, there are towering oak and hickory sheltering petite dogwood and sassafras. The change in the landscape is as surprising and refreshing as a splash of cool water and provides the Mark Twain with a wide variety of camping locations and diverse recreational opprotunities.
It is hard today to see the destruction caused by post Civil War logging and frequent wildfires. Legislatively created in the 1930's, the Forest was well established by 1945 when deer and turkey were reintroduced. Stretching from the St. Francis mountains in the southeast to the Ozarks in the southwest, the Mark Twain contains a variety of topography and wildlife that makes every curve and corner a path to discovery. A quick glimpse of a wild turkey or deer, descendants of earlier stock, of might be seen next to grazing cattle as well as hidden in the robust hardwood forest.
Floating is a popular activity within the Mark Twain on 350 miles of floatable streams. Canoeing, rafting, and inner tubing provide means of observing the Forest's bluffs, caves, vegetation, and wildlife. Perhaps the most popular location to the Mark Twain's "whitewater" enthusiasts is Silver Mine Recreation Area. On the banks of St. Francis River, this campground, with nice sites for car, tent, recreational vehicle (RV), and motorhome camping enthusiasts, is convenient to some great float opportunities and an annual competition (check with Fredericktown District Office for more information). Silver Mine Recreation Area, named for actual silver mines, active in the 1920s but long since played out, is a great place for family camping vacations with a lot to explore and do.
For the adventurous and nimble, there are two trails on the east and west sides of Saint Francis River in the Silver Mines Recreation Area. (Do not attempt either hike in less than very good walking shoes.) While both hikes end at the old Einstein Mines Dam, each offers totally different experiences. On the east side of the river, the hiker can observe pre-Cambrian granite and felsite rocks and results of volcanic force. On the west side, the trail leads the hiker to the old mine and its supporting structures. The mine's "leavings" offer a rock hound a treasure trove of various rocks and minerals native to the area.
The Mark Twain has a variety of hiking trails from the most leisurely to the more strenuous, hard-core hiker's trails, such as the planned five-hundred mile Ozark Trail. This trail stretches from St. Louis through the Mark Twain National Forest into Arkansas and provides both the serious and casual hiker opportunities to enjoy the Forest. However, other day hikes also give one an idea of the Mark Twain's topography and geological make-up.
Greer Spring trail, located on Missouri Highway 19, south of Greer Crossing campground, is a one-mile moderate trail through a mixture of hardwood and pines to a delightful example of "karst" geology. The spring, named for the mill-owner who used the spring to run his mill in the 19th century, bubbles and boils from an underground source to the surface in shades of blue and green. Looking into the vortex, one might imagine seeing sunshine from China. It's that deep. While Greer Spring campground can accommodate all modes of camping, its site's seclusion and the amount of privacy offered make it very popular with car and tent campers.
Cobb Ridge campground, near Chadwick, Missouri, with nice long parking aprons and numerous electric hook-ups, is probably the most RV and motorhome friendly camping location in the Mark Twain National Forest. In the center of Chadwick Motorcycle & ATV Use Area, with it near 100 miles of ATV, motorcycle, or mountain bike trails, winding in and out of deep, forested hollows and down long ridge tops, this campground is also very popular with Off-road enthusiasts. With many hollows, caves and springs in the immediate vicinity there is a lot to explore in the area for the non-ORV enthusiasts.
One of several car and tent camping-friendly location is Marble Creek campground. Named for the deposits of attractively colored dolomite in the area which were mined and used in the building trade, the camping location is near the concrete ruins of a grist mill dam and Ozark Trail. This campground illustrates all the special components of the Mark Twain National Forest - great trails, a healthy stand of trees, secluded camp sites, good fishing, as well as interesting geology and terrain.
The Mark Twain National Forest offers sights, sounds and experiences to be remembered for a lifetime. Tubing down the fast flowing Current River, kayaking on the Saint Francis River's white water in the spring, looking into a valley atop a "tough" climb or any number of other outdoor experiences, the Mark Twain National Forest is ready for you.
401 Fairgrounds Rd.
Rolla, Missouri 65401
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
1103 S Jefferson
Ava, Missouri 65608
4 Confederate Rd.
Doniphan, Missouri 63935
108 S. Sam Houston Blvd.
Houston, Missouri 65483
Poplar Bluff, Missouri 63901
Hwy. 8 West
Potosi, Missouri 63664
1301 South Main
Salem, Missouri 65560