Camping,  Travel,  U.S. Travel

Camping at Washington State Park

Hello there, my fellow camping enthusiast!

After the crowds of Memorial Day weekend departed, the family and I went for a quick camping trip to Washington State Park. We didn’t have a whole lot of time after returning from Indianapolis for my nephew’s college graduation, but we wanted to get out and enjoy some camping while HBW Hubby had some time off. The weather was fantastic, the cicadas were present but not as bad as we were expecting, and being so near home, it was worth the quick trip for only a couple days of camping.

Petroglyphs, quaint hiking shelters and incredible Ozark overlooks define the Washington State Park experience. Easy access to the Big River makes the park great for swimming or fishing. Hikers can choose from three rugged hiking trails. Buildings constructed by African American Civilian Conservation Corps stonemasons complement the park and add to its sense of history.

Source: Missouri State Parks

Know Before You Go

Whether you’re in for a float trip or just need a weekend away from the city, at about an hour south-southwest of Saint Louis, Washington State Park is a great getaway. Visit their website to get more information!

Things To Do

  • See the petroglyphs, rock carvings that date between 500-2,000 years old!
  • Hit the Trails! Three trails provide over 10 miles of trail ranging from easy to moderate
  • Go fishing, canoeing, floating, or kayaking in the Big River
  • Have a picnic at one of the single table picnic pads or covered shelter
  • Play at the playground inside the campground
  • Attend a nature program – Available only during the summer months
  • Set up camp in basic, water/electric, or family spots or rent one of the on-site cabins

Campground Amenities

The campground at this park is a smaller one with fewer sites available in general, but they make the most of what they have. There are two main loops, one for basic sites and platform sites and another for electric sites. They also have a few pull-through sites for those that prefer them. There are no full hook-ups, but they do have a fill and dump station at the entrance.

There’s a nice shower house and nice playground at the entrance of the campground, perfectly positioned between the two loops. The shower house is newer and features the increasingly more common style of single-room showers with locking doors, which I like, less of that dorm shower feel. The opposite side of the building from the showers houses public restrooms.

Firewood can be purchased on site. The concrete pads are nice and long, if a little narrow, and the fire pits are a decent size with an flip-over grill. There are plenty of mature trees and shade, but no matter which side of the drive you choose, you’ll either get morning or evening sun.

Speaking of the campsite, we had plenty of 6-legged visitors, but this moth and the many cicadas, courtesy of the two broods that all emerged at the same time this year, made for some interesting observations. The moth looks like a dead leaf and this cicada wing we found was so pretty! The kids enjoyed getting their travel microscopes out to get a close up look at it.

Also, if you are in a pinch and forget to pack your graham crackers for s’mores, I have it on good authority that using cookies works VERY well too! LOL I accidentally forgot to pack the new box of graham crackers, so it was a good thing we had some kitchen sink cookies we’d packed too! SO GOOD.

What We Did

We didn’t have more than a single day to really do much, given the brevity of our trip, but we fit a good amount of things into that single day! My oldest and I wanted to go kayaking on Big River and had a time scheduled that morning, but unfortunately, due to the amount of rain they had, we had to use a raft instead. Wrangling the 4-person raft with my 13-year old was a little unwieldy at times, but we made it work and had a lot of fun together, while little brother and dad stayed at the camp site.

When we got back, we had a quick lunch then headed out with the family to hike the 1000 Steps Trail. Unfortunately, most of the wildflowers were no longer in bloom. Still, we found a few as we climbed the steps, enjoyed the overlook (that first picture at the top of the post was the view from this overlook), and dodged a couple of downed trees on the trail. Plus, we found some seriously huge trees right off the trail that even hubby and I together wouldn’t be able to circle with our arms.

When we finished hiking, we went to check out the petroglyphs. These carvings are estimated to have been made between 500 and 2,000 years ago. Specific dating is undetermined and this range is only possible by observing the content of the etchings. The symbols used here pre-date European settlers and are the work of the indigenous people that lived along the Big River at that time. Those people likely raised crops for food and may have made these carvings of fertility symbols and thunderbirds (like the large thunderbird pictured at the top of this post) to encourage rain and growth of those crops.

I made a video of our trip to Washington State Park, including footage of everything we did and some of the campsite shenanigans we got up to. Come along with us!

It was the perfect quick getaway without being too far away and it’s definitely on my return-to list!

One last thing before I go, in case this tickles your funny bone as much as it did mine…. I took this picture of our little bichpoo, Charlie, who is clearly getting more and more comfortable during camping trips. She’s always finding new spots to nap, like the top of the picnic table! I don’t know why she did that, she’s certainly never allowed up on the tables at home, but darned if it didn’t make me giggle. This girl always cracks me up!

Until next time, happy camping!


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