Horseback Riding and Camping in Missouri’s State Parks

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Of all the wonderful sights and sounds Missouri has to offer, the sound of horse hooves clip-clopping down a winding, rugged trail harkens back to a simpler time, a time when a clock didn’t matter and the only rush in a person’s week was getting to church on time.  If you’ve ever ridden a horse you will remember the rhythmic cadence of its plodding and the soothing way in which your back rocks to the front and back again.  At the same time, you feel the horse’s power as its muscles flex while negotiating the changing terrain.  I remember vividly how the horse’s hips gently swayed slightly to and fro almost causing me to fall asleep in the saddle, only to be startled when the horse nickered its soft, neighing sound. This is nature at its finest.

And what could be more natural than horseback riding and camping combined?  If you think about it, the horsemen of yore simply spread their bedrolls on the ground and used their saddles as a means in which to prop up their heads. A lot has changed since then as most equestrian camping sites are equipped with all the amenities for man and beast. And, of course, the 573 has the best state parks for equestrians in Missouri!

The campground at St. Joe State Park, for example, has over 50 camping spots (you’ll want to reserve during the peak riding season) which allow you to park your horse trailer at the campsite and tie up your animals up making it very convenient to have your horse near you. These spots are not piled on top of each other, but allow each site to have some breathing room.  A nice touch.

At St. Joe, the scenic trail which twists and turns through this historic mining property can be enjoyed without the interference of ATV’s on the same trail.  Mountain bikes are sometimes encountered on these trails but the bike riders and horsemen coexist quite well, so no worries if you have a skittish horse.  Of the 10 miles of equestrian trail in St. Joe Park’s Pine Ridge Trail, nearly all of it is a “natural surface” of bare earth strewn with rocks, boulders and roots.

Other equestrian trails in the area are at Sam A. Baker State Park, Johnson Shut-ins State Park, and Trail of Tears State Park.  At Sam A. Baker State Park, the Mudlick Trail meanders its way through the St. Francois Mountains.  Riders at Johnson’s Shut-ins will be able to pass through a 5,000 wilderness area and cross several rocky creeks. And equestrians at Trail of Tears State Park outside Cape Girardeau can ride the Peewah Trail.  This winding and beautiful trail near the banks of the Mississippi River is a place where you’ll encounter steep hills and deep ravines, all heavily wooded and full of wildlife such as deer, turkey and a thriving population of squirrels.  If you choose to ride during the fall, watch for the fresh deer rubs where the bucks spar with small saplings in preparation for the upcoming mating season. The more rubs you see means there’s a large number of male deer.  See how many you can spot.

Fall horseback riding also allows the rider to listen to nature in an entirely new way.  As you ride, you’ll be able to hear the distant honking of Canadian, Snow and Speckled Geese as they migrate down the Mississippi Flyway.  The sound of rustling leaves and the dull thud of your horse’s hooves on the dirt can whisk you into a bygone era where horse travel was the only way to traverse long distances across mixed terrain.
Horseback riding can be a group activity and from my observation, the lone horseman is a rare thing today.  Trail rides are organized and camps are set up to accommodate a large number of riders.

We spoke with several horse owners and without exception all were laid back and were some of the friendliest people we ever met.  The opportunity to ride for uninterrupted miles is right here, right now.  Get out there and ….. giddy up!

My name is Taylor Fischbeck. I am 13 and live in Farmington.  My passion has always been horses.  I have two brothers: Chase is 16 and Tristan is 6.  My parents are Mark and Leslie Fischbeck.  Horseback riding has always been a family thing for us, but it is way more than that to me.  I have been showing horses since I was five and riding since I was three.  My latest passions with horses is barrel racing, pole-bending and, always, cowboy mounted shooting.

Although I love competing with my horses and all of the friends that we make along the way, camping with horses is the best!!  This is where I get to enjoy my horses, and my horses seem to enjoy it, too.  Splashing through the river is the best.  My horses paw and splash themselves, and sometimes just take off swimming.  There is no other feeling in the world than when you are on a 900 pound animal and it takes off swimming.  It is graceful and awkward all at the same time.  It’s so fun!   On these campouts, we get to relax, have fun and see God’s beauty on horseback while riding the trails.  My mom usually has to take two horses for me because I really want to ride from sun up to sun down!  What can be better than campfires, s’mores, playing games and laughing with family and friends and then wake up and do it all over again?

For my 13th birthday party, my parents took six of my best friends camping this summer with horses at Lesterville, and it was so much fun!  We love to camp at Riversedge in Lesterville and Brushy Creek in Black, Mo. Eminence and Sam A. Baker Park are some of our favorites, too.  I don’t care where we camp, as long as we are right on the river and our horses are there. Then we are set to have some fun!

My name is Shelly Thomure.  My husband Tim and I have been married for 26 years.  We have four children and have owned and operated our horse farm since 1998.  We have been raising registered AQHA quarter horses since 2000, when our first foal hit the ground!! And she is awesome!! Our pride and joy, Sugar!!  We strive for beautiful, athletic AQHA quarter horses.  I was raised on a quarter horse farm and Tim married into it.  All of our children love and ride the horses.  We spend a lot of quality time with them.  We have camped and hauled horse all over the country from Georgia to South Dakota to Texas—competing and trail riding.  We have camped in Custer, South Dakota, where Mount Rushmore is located and ridden up to the heads and rode all over Custer National Park with the Buffalo.  We have been to Ivanhoe, Virginia, where we went trail riding with bears and rattlesnakes.  We have camped in Illinois at Shawnee Park and rode to Devil’s Kitchen. We have hauled to Las Vegas, Nevada, and let the horses stay at the South Point Casino.  We have camped where Crazy Horse roamed at Fort Robinson in Crawford, Nebraska.  But I will have to say Eminence, Missouri, is probably my favorite place to camp, ride, shop and float with my friends and family.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW DIGITAL EDITION WITH PHOTO SPREAD AND VIDEO. (Nov 2014 ISSUE)

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