There is a plethora of natural space in the Missouri Ozarks and Harry S. Truman State Park is one of the best. You can find this 1,440-acre park in east-central Missouri by Warsaw in Benton County. The park boasts 3.9 miles of gorgeous trails to explore, a 55,600-acre lake with many different species of fish, and 186 campsites for both RV and tent camping. With the clear waters, amazing bluffs and ridges, and spectacular fishing prospects, there is something for everyone to do here.
There is a marina, boat launch, two beaches, and much more for the summer months but you can enjoy the park in the fall as well. Visitors say that the autumn colors make it the perfect place for a hike or picnic in the fall. The park was named after the only president who was from Missouri, Harry S. Truman, who was born on May 8, 1884. Today you can visit the home where Truman was born as well as the landscaping around it. President Truman actually attended the dedication of the park in 1959 when the United Auto Workers donated the home to the state. Toss the fishing poles and water toys in the camper and head to this historic park today.
Just a couple of hours from Kansas City or four hours from St. Louis, Harry S. Truman State Park in west-central Missouri is a short drive from anywhere in the state. From St. Louis, you will take Interstate 70 west and from Kansas City you will head southeast on highway 49 before taking the curvy, narrow Highway UU. Keep it slow and easy on this road and watch out for wild critters like deer that sometimes wander into the street.
You may want to stop at the stores in town to get whatever supplies you need. There are also a few fast food restaurants and gas stations to fill up your RV as well as your stomach. Once you get to the park, it is best to leave the rig at the campsite and walk or bike to where you want to go because the roads are narrow and bumpy. Watch out for low hanging tree limbs and potholes and you should be okay though. All of the campgrounds have some spacious sites, but you will have to check the reservation site to make sure you get one big enough for your RV or camper.
Wild Turkey Ridge has 23 basic campsites that are open all year long. The pad lengths are 45 to 71 feet in length and the family campsite has a secondary pad that is 58 x 12 feet. Each site comes with its own table, fire ring, and lantern hook and there is a water spigot between campsites 138 and 139. You can find the restrooms with flush toilets, shower house with hot water, and laundry facilities at the intersection by the trailhead to the Bluff Ridge Trail. The water, showers, and RV dump station are turned off during the off-season so bring your own water during that time. Pets are welcome but they have to be on a leash or restrained at all times.
There are 42 basic campsites in Thorny Ridge, which is open all year. The pads are between 47 and 60 feet in length and the four family sites have an extra pad between 52 and 55 feet long and an additional electric hookup. You will be close to the lake no matter which site you choose at Thorny Ridge because this campground is on a peninsula that juts right out onto the water. In fact, the boat ramp is at the end of the road by campsite 157. There is a parking lot at the boat ramp large enough to accommodate a trailer as well as an RV for the day while you take your boat out for the day. You will find the shower house, restrooms, and laundry facilities right in the middle of the campsite by the camp host site 166. The water, showers, and RV dump station are turned off during the off-season so bring your own water during that time. Pets are welcome but they have to be on a leash or restrained at all times.
Raccoon Ridge is open year-round and has 27 campsites with electricity. The pads range from 48 to 60 feet in length and there is one family campsite with an additional pad of 55 x 12 feet. It also has an additional electric pedestal and all the sites have a fire pit, table, and lantern hanger. The laundry facilities, shower house, and flush toilets can be found by the host campsites 22 and 23 and there is an ADA accessible parking lot there. The RV dump site is in the circle by the trash dumpster and there are two water access spots by sites 42 and 48. The water, showers, and RV dump station are turned off during the off-season so bring your own water during that time. Pets are welcome but they have to be on a leash or restrained at all times.
Devil’s Backbone has 20 campsites with electric that are open all year long. The pad lengths run from 47 to 57 feet long and each site comes with a picnic table, lantern hook, and fire ring. The family site has an extra 56 x 12 pad and electrical hookup. The RV dump station and trash dumpsters are in the ring on the main park road and there are two water spigots by campsites 13 and 18. The laundry facilities, restrooms with flush toilets, and shower house with hot water are just past the dump site by the parking lot. Pets are welcome but they have to be on a leash or restrained at all times. The water, showers, and RV dump station are turned off during the off-season so bring your own water during that time.
Buck Ridge has 61 premium electric sites that are open year-round with pads that run from 50 to 70 feet long. There are six family sites with an extra pad, table, and electric hookup. All of the campsites have a lantern hook, fire pit, and table. The shower house, restrooms, and laundry facilities are at the Bluff Ridge Trail trailhead by the host campsite number 119. Pets are welcome but they have to be on a leash or restrained at all times. The water, showers, and RV dump station are turned off during the off-season so bring your own water during that time.
Bobcat Run is open all year long and has nine premium electric campsites, each with a picnic table, fire pit, and lantern hook. The pads range from 51 to 64 feet in length and they are all within 500 yards from the shower house and restrooms. There is one family site with an extra pad and electric hookup. You can also find the amphitheater nearby where they hold activities for kids and adults during the summer. Pets are welcome but they have to be on a leash or restrained at all times. The water, showers, and RV dump station are turned off during the off-season so bring your own water during that time.
The sites that are not reserved can be used on a first-come, first-served basis but you should check in with the campground host or a park ranger. If you cannot find a park employee, follow the instructions on the vacancy card on the post by the site.
Pack the family and some food into the motorhome and head for Harry S. Truman Park for the day to enjoy a picnic. At the eastern end of the park you can find over a dozen picnic sites with picnic tables, grills, and shade. If your family is larger than most, you can reserve the open shelter, which holds up to 130 people. It has two large BBQ grills, picnic tables, a restroom, and electricity. The shelter is also ADA-accessible and if it is not reserved, you can use it on a first-come, first-served basis.
Be sure to pack the metal detector because there are some great places to search for treasures at Harry S. Truman State Park. During the off-season is the best time to go because there are less people so you will not be bothered as you search the campgrounds, beaches, and trails for buried treasure. However, you must register for a free permit before going and do not dig holes in the ground and leave them there. Also, archaeological artifacts are protected by Missouri so if you find anything of historic value, you have to give it to the park staff.
Get out of the RV and hike one of the three trails at the park. The Western Wallflower Trail is less than a mile long where you can see the western wallflower, which is a brilliant orange glade flower that can be seen all along the trail. The 1000th Mile Trail is less than a mile and meanders along the glade and up to a concrete lookout over a scenic area of the lake. You will find a bench to relax and enjoy the view here. The Bluff Ridge Trail is the longest trail at just under two miles long and takes you through the forest of red oaks to an overlook on the bluff where you can see the entire lake.
Hook the boat trailer to the RV and pack your water toys because Harry S. Truman State Park has a 55,600-acre lake with 950 miles of shoreline just waiting for you. Go fishing for any number of prospects, do some wakeboarding or tubing, or just hang out on the lake for the day and enjoy the view of the surrounding bluffs and cliffs. If you don’t have a boat, you can rent one at the Truman State Park Marina. They have pontoons and fishing boats as well as canoes, kayaks, rafts, and inner tubes.
There are two fantastic beaches in Harry S. Truman State Park that are equally enjoyable so be sure to pack the beach toys in the camper. One of them is at the Thorny Ridge Campground and is only accessible to those who are camping there. The public beach is at the day use area on the Main Park Road. There are large parking lots at both beaches as well as a changing house and restrooms. The beaches are both open from Memorial Day until Labor Day from 9 AM to sunset daily. However, there is no lifeguard so you will be swimming at your own risk.
During the spring and summer, the park holds special projects and interpretive events like the Annual Kid’s Boat Racing, Nature Bingo, live animal demonstrations, and the Annual Great American Campout Event. There are also programs like Outdoor Movie Night, Bird Feeder Building, and Art in the Park. Most of these activities are done at the amphitheater by the Bobcat Run Campground but others are done at various areas around the park such as the lake and the gift shop.