With the Memorial Day holiday behind us and the tourism season underway, Missouri State Parks and the Ozark Scenic Riverways are in the middle of a phased reopening that began in early May.
Missouri State Parks campgrounds are now open to accommodate existing and new campground reservations. New reservations can be made for arrival dates beginning today (Tuesday).
A partial opening of retail operations began May 4 and lodging and food service started May 8with a limited capacity and following all social distancing guidelines.
Trout tag and fishing permit requirements returned May 16 at three state trout parks: Bennett Spring, Montauk in Dent County and Roaring River State Park. Daily trout tags are $4 for adults and $3 for those 15 years of age or younger. The daily limit at these three parks remains four trout per day.
Missouri State Parks will also be instituting a number of changes related to campground operations “to better facilitate appropriate social distancing and improve the safety of operations for Missouri State Parks’ guests and staff,” according to a press release.
The additional measures include the following:
• Reservations will be required prior to arrival.
• Campground occupancy will be limited at some parks and sites.
• Missouri State Parks will increase the frequency of cleaning shower houses and restrooms.
• Campers will use a new contactless, self-check-in feature.
• There will be occupancy restrictions in shower houses and restrooms.
• Missouri State Parks will only accept credit and debit cards.
“We are happy to be able to reopen our campgrounds and provide another outdoor recreational opportunity for our visitors, but, as you might expect, our guests will see some changes,” said Carol Comer, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. “We hope all of our visitors will continue to be respectful of others, practice social distancing, avoid crowded areas, and do their part to help keep our parks and historic sites safe and clean.”
One of the changes visitors will experience is a new contactless, self-check-in feature. Prior to arriving at the state park or historic site, campers will receive an email with instructions on how to access their reservation online and check in on the day of arrival.
Alternatively upon arrival, campers can check in by opening the camera on their smartphone device and hovering over the QR code posted at the campsite, and following the prompt. Missouri State Parks staff will be available at the park or historic site to answer any questions.
Campers also should be aware that reservations will now be required at most campgrounds and park-run lodging prior to arrival, and can be made up until 7 p.m. the day before arrival. First-come, first-served camping will no longer be available at most state park campgrounds. New reservations can be by visiting mostateparks.com.
Missouri State Park beaches reopened to the public on May 21, with visitors expected to practice social distancing.
“We know people are ready to get outdoors, but we all need to practice social distancing when we do,” said Missouri State Parks Director Mike Sutherland. “The safety of our dedicated parks team and the enjoyment of our visitors depends on all of us being responsible, whether we are indoors or outdoors. If an area or trail is crowded, we hope visitors will use that as an opportunity to explore a new area or trail that is less crowded.”
Visitors should review signage posted throughout the parks and state historic sites, and diligently follow the guidelines for the health and safety of others.
• Keep a minimum distance of six feet between you and others.
• Avoid crowded areas and groups of people.
• Stay close-to-home and travel with only those from your household.
• Wash your hands often.
• Come prepared and carry hand sanitizers, soaps, wipes and water.
• Avoid handshakes, hugs and touching your face.
• Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
• Be kind and considerate of others.
• Most importantly, stay home if you are sick.
Visitors are encouraged to visit mostateparks.com to find a park close to home and to check for individual park advisories before heading to the park.
Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Following guidance from the federal government, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local public health authorities, Ozark National Scenic Riverways is increasing recreational access and services.
Ozark National Scenic Riverways began expanding access May 9 as follows:
• Park concession operations and outfitters are authorized to open for business at their discretion, as they are able to meet CDC guidelines. Some float concessions may opt to remain closed as they adapt their business practices to implement CDC guidelines to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
• Camping on gravel bars while engaging in multi-day floats and dispersed camping along the Ozark Trail while engaging in multi-day hikes will be allowed.
• The spring branch hiking trails at Big Spring and Alley Spring will reopen, as well as the staircase into Devils Well.
• The following spaces and services continue to be available:
• Restrooms at many river access points and day use areas will continue to be open as they have been.
Park rangers are available to answer questions by phone at (573)323-4236, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., seven days a week.
• All campgrounds and designated campsites were expected to reopen on May 22, with the exception of group campsites.
• Restrooms and showers were expected to reopen May 22, although there will be short closures to accommodate rotations for cleaning and disinfecting in accordance with CDC guidelines.
With public health in mind, the following facilities remain closed at this time:
• All picnic pavilions and group campsites will remain closed but are expected to reopen on June 5.
• All visitor contact stations, including the Alley General Store and Van Buren Visitor Information Center will remain closed.
Acting Superintendent Jason Lott said ONSRwill follow a phased approach to reopening facilities and bringing back its summer workforce.
“We are continuing to evaluate how soon we can safely open additional facilities and resume services and programming,” he said.“Visitors are encouraged to continue taking any personal safety precautions that make them feel more comfortable during their visit.”
While a number of areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders, including the guidance in the Show Me Strong Recovery Plan at https://showmestrong.mo.gov/. For additional information, please contact 573-323-4236, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., seven days a week. Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted at www.nps.gov and on social media channels. Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.