Press "Enter" to skip to content

Missouri state parks returning to normal operations: What to know


Missouri State Parks and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have announced phase one of their return to normal operations. 

Many of Missouri’s historical sites and state parks have remained open for day use — with measures in place to promote public health for visitors and employees due to COVID-19

“Missouri State Parks is experiencing record crowds as people take advantage of the outdoor opportunities we have to offer,” Mike Sutherland, director of the Division of State Parks, said in a statement. “We ask for everyone’s patience and cooperation as we implement measures to minimize congestion and maintain social distancing at our facilities.”

According to the DNR, plans for the first phase of the reopening includes: 

  • May 4: Concession-operated lodging, dining, marina, and retail operations will begin reopening at the discretion of the individual concessionaires and following the governor’s recommended guidelines.
  • May 11: Castlewood State Park, Elephant Rocks State Park, Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site and State Park, and Weston Bend State Park will reopen for day use only.
  • May 18: The off-road-vehicle riding area at St. Joe State Park will reopen and will require daily permits to be purchased online. Quantities may be limited to manage capacity.   
  • Park campgrounds and park-run lodging will remain closed through May 18. Missouri State Parks will continue to evaluate public-health data, applicable social-distancing guidelines, and operational requirements to determine when it is appropriate to resume these operations.

Crowds will be closely monitored in an effort to prevent overcrowding, and gates or parking lots may be closed if a park is near capacity, the department said. Visitors are encouraged to practice social distancing and follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Visitor centers, park offices, tours, playgrounds, pools, beaches, enclosed shelters, and group camps will be closed for now. Events scheduled for May could be subject to postponement or cancellation. 

“Never has access to our state parks been more important than during this period of COVID-19 response,” Carol Comer, director of the Department of Natural Resources, said. “Missouri State Parks is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for our visitors, volunteers, and staff, and we are working toward the resumption of additional services as soon as we can do so responsibly.”

Gov. Mike Parson unveiled his plan for reopening the state beginning May 4. At least 7,425 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19 so far, and 318 people have died.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.