Play in the shallows of the East Fork of the Black River. Shoot through natural hydraulics in the shut-ins. Hike a trail that will show you geologic wonder. The swift waters of the Black River flow through a canyon like volcanic gorge, called a “shut-in” creating a beautiful photographic and swimming opportunity. The park is also Missouri’s most botanically diverse state park. Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is a jewel of the system, a place with something for everyone: pretty picnic areas, Ozark landscapes, natural places to swim, great campsites.
Most of the park, including the shut-ins and two miles of river frontage, was assembled over the course of 17 years and donated to the state in 1955 by Joseph Desloge (1889–1971), a St. Louis civic leader and conservationist from the prominent Desloge lead mining family, which has continued over the years to donate funds for park improvements.
On December 14, 2005 the park was devastated by a catastrophic flood caused by the failure of the Taum Sauk pumped storage plant reservoir atop a neighboring mountain. Part of the damage was the eradication of the park’s campground, but being a weeknight in December, the campground was unoccupied; the only people at the park were the park’s superintendent and his family; the family survived, sustaining some injuries. The park was closed because of the extent of the damage it received.
The park partly reopened in the summer of 2006 for limited day use, but due to dangerous conditions, swimming in the river and exploring the rock formations was prohibited. In 2009 the river and shut-ins were reopened for recreation in the water. A new campground opened April 30, 2010.
Camping, hiking, swimming, and rock climbing are available at the park. A one-fourth-mile walkway takes visitors to an observation deck overlooking the shut-ins. A section of the Ozark trail also crosses the park.
An extension to the park provides an auto tour that passes by the ongoing recovery effort, as well as the recovered endangered fens area, terminating at a shaded overlook of the flood path accessible from the park entrance. From this one can walk a path through the boulder field created by the flood. The boulder field contains many examples of the minerals and rocks that make up the St. Francois Mountains of the Ozarks.
Plan your visit to come visit one of Missouri finest state parks.
(13 miles from Elephant Rocks on Hwy N, 15 miles from Pilot Knob)