Monday, August 13, 2012

Our "Big" Vacation - Onondaga Cave State Park

When we can, we try to take a trip each year that's a little longer than just a 2- or 3-day weekend.  This year we took a 6-day trip to Southeast Missouri.

We made Onondaga Cave State Park our home base, arriving around 3 p.m. the afternoon of July 4, which is also Kat's birthday.  This is a beautiful park near Leasburg, MO, that is tucked into a valley on the Meramec River in the St. Francois Mountains (Ozark Plateau) of Missouri.  We were set up in plenty of time to enjoy a swim in the Meramec River adjacent to the park and also have birthday cake with Kat after dinner.

Thursday was a busy day for us.  We ventured southeast from the park through the Arcadia Valley to three more state parks. 

The first was Elephant Rocks State Park near Ironton, MO.  It was a hot, hot day, with temps around 106 degrees, but that didn't keep us from climbing all over these huge granite boulders.

From there we drove to Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, near Black, MO, and took in the view from the highest point in Missouri.

And from there, we beat the heat at Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, also near Black, MO.  We enjoyed playing in the natural water park formation here and stayed until dusk, wishing we had even more time there.

All three of these parks have their own campgrounds, trails and other amenities, and are worth a visit if you find yourself in the area.

On Friday we stayed closer to home base and visited the area towns of Steelville and Cuba, MO.  Steelville is home to many a river rafting business, as was evident by their canoe art throughout the town.  Cuba lies on old Route 66, and boasts some nice Route 66 murals around town.  Just outside of Cuba is Fanning, MO, where we spied the "World's Largest Rocking Chair" and enjoyed a rest in more realistic chairs on the front porch of the Fanning Outpost before heading back to camp.

Saturday we beat the heat again, this time by touring Onondaga Cave, located in the park.  If you enjoy caves, this is an excellent tour.  The cave is home to rare formations, and the tour guides don't follow cheesy scripts.  Our guide was a geology major at nearby University of Missouri in Rolla who had a genuine interest in sharing information about the cave.

We've determined that it rains on 50% of our camping trips, and this trip was no exception.  We were hoping for another swim in the river, but rain kept it from us.  We had wind and heavy rains, and lost our in-park wi-fi for the rest of our stay, but we were luckier than nearby Cuba, where there was a tornado.

Our original plan was to head home on Sunday, but since we'd still not made it back to the river, we decided to extend our vacation by a day.  We spent all day on Sunday in and out of the water.  We headed back home on Monday morning, but it was not because we were ready to leave.


Parked at Onondaga Cave, Meramec River
near Leasville, MO
July 4-9, 2012