Other than that, it does seem to be a nice park. Its claim to fame is a natural feature, a section of the East Fork of the Black River that has "shut ins," a section of river bed where the water has carved pools, waterfalls, and what amount to natural water slides. It's extremely popular for wading and swimming in the summer. There's also a trail system for people who want to hike or bike, and there's apparently one section of the river close to the shut-ins that allows scuba diving. Why someone would want to scuba dive in a section of the Black River is a mystery to me, but maybe it'll make more sense after we've had a chance to tour the Visitor Center or to actually see the river. At this point, we haven't been over to that side of Highway N. We were on duty in the campground so were kind of limited in just how much exploring we could do. (And we are now on our days off, which we are wisely spending outside the park, back in civilization where the Internet still exists.)
The campground itself is a nice one. It's new -- less than 10 years old -- although the park itself has been around since 1955. The Missouri DNR had to build a new campground, as well as a new visitor center and a lot of other facilities, after a massive flood wiped just about everything out in December 2005. A huge pumped storage hydroelectric reservoir breached; close to 2 billion gallons of water came down the mountainside and went through the old campground, which was located easy walking distance to the shut-ins.
|The S.O. riding Ol' Paint; the golf cart bucks and is trying to throw a shoe.|
|Taum Sauk reservoir. The sucker is huge.|
I will say that after only a few days at the park, I'm happy with our site. There are two sets of campground hosts: Host 1 (us) gets to sit in Loop 1, the Equestrian loop (one reason the golf cart gets referred to as Ol' Paint). Horse camping has not proven to be as popular as planners thought it might be. There is an equestrian trail, but it's "only" 14 miles long. A trail that would keep a person on a horse for at least half a day strikes me as more than long enough, but apparently not. You know how many horse campers were in the park during our first four days in the park? None. There were a couple campers in the loop, but they were overflow from the other loops, which were basically totally full. It was great. There are only ten camp sites and because the loop was planned to include horses, the sites are widely spaced. It was almost like having our own private campground. Definitely a nice change from the fishbowl at Montauk State Park. Not that Montauk was that bad, but it is nice being able to keep the blinds up and not feel like I'm living on a stage. And it was especially nice this morning. No other campers in the loop (the two who were there left Sunday afternoon), no one else wanting to get into the showerhouse. Lots of hot water (endless hot water!) and no worries about someone flushing a toilet and the water temperature changing dramatically, which did happen at Montauk because the showerhouse there is an older one.
The one thing I'm not too thrilled about is being tasked with selling firewood, ice, and camp sites when the camp store and check station are closed. I don't like handling money. And I don't like the idea that campers will know that we handle money. It's not huge amounts of money, but it's still enough to attract potential thieves. The having to handle money at our own camp site (it wouldn't bother me at all to work a register in a camp store or in the check station) is the main reason we've already decided we won't apply for Johnson's Shut-Ins for next year. We like the physical layout of the park; we're less than thrilled with the assigned duties even if in some ways they require a lot less work than what we did at Montauk last year. The life in a dead zone would be annoying but tolerable. But add in the handling money part and the park slips over the line into been there, done that, time to explore other places.