The Trail of Tears State Park is located on the eastern border of Missouri, a little over 100 miles south of St. Louis, serves as a memorial to the Native Americans of the Cherokee nations who died along the Trail of Tears. While the park does have a tragic history, the present day forest is a vibrant but serene setting, with a large population of native wildlife. The Visitor’s Center beautifully explores both sides of this notable state park and provides a great deal of educational information about the history of the area.
Fishing is popular here both at the Mississippi River that runs through this park and at Lake Boutin, and it has been mentioned by the Audubon Society for the variety of birds that are found here including songbirds, waterfowl, and raptors. The hiking trails in this park allow for some very scenic views and animals such as deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, and squirrels are often seen here as well. Campsites at this park are roomy and private due to a large number of trees. Well behaved and leashed pets are welcome at the campsites and on the trails, making this a great spot for RVers who are also pet parents.
The Trail of Tears State Park sits on the eastern edge of Missouri, near the border of Missouri and Illinois. The roads to get to the park wind through several small towns, rural communities, and forested areas. The nearest small towns are Fruitland and Jackson, both a little over ten miles to the west of the state park. While the majority of the roads do have several twists and turns, they are not narrow and are typically easy to traverse, even in a big rig or if towing a trailer. The turn into the park is wide and easy to navigate, and the roads inside the park are also paved with cement pads for your RV.
White-tailed deer are abundant in this area and they have a tendency to cross the road without warning, particularly in the early morning and in the evening, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled at all times. Due to the proximity of the Mississippi river, the roads in this area occasionally get flooded as well, so be sure to check road conditions before heading out for the day.
The Lake Boutin Campground is open from May to October and provides an 35 sites, 24 of which are reservable. The majority of the campsites in this campground are back-in style sites, but about a third of them are pull-through sites instead.
The sanitary dump station for the Lake Boutin Campground is near the middle of the campsites, by the restrooms and shower house. The campsites at the Lake Boutin Campground are all primitive, with no electric, water, or sewer hookups, although they do come equipped with a picnic table and a fire ring with a grill. There is a well-maintained modern restroom, shower house, and laundry facility located at this campground, as well as a beautiful scenic overlook of Lake Boutin.
Up to two leashed or confined pets are welcome in each campsite, although they are not allowed in public buildings or on public beaches and may never be left unattended. Please remember to clean up after your pet.
The Mississippi River Campground has 18 campsites that sit near the banks of the Mississippi River, seven of which have full hookups and 11 with just electric. The campsites here are fairly level and each has a picnic table and a fire ring with grill. The sites here are available for reservations year-round, with a minimum stay of two days for weekend reservations. While many of the water amenities are turned off for the winter months, there is a frost-free spigot at the north end of the campsite.
From these sites, you can often see barges and cargo boats floating down the Mississippi River. Be aware that the train tracks that run alongside the Mississippi River Campground is active and you are likely to hear the train whistle both during the day and the night. Up to two leashed or confined pets are welcome in each campsite, although they are not allowed in public buildings or on public beaches and may never be left unattended. Please remember to clean up after your pet.
Open during the summer, Lake Boutin Campground offers 11 sites which are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Trail of Tears State Park is a lovely spot to go horseback riding, whether you are staying in your campervan or RV. You can ride a horse through the beautiful, rustic wilderness that Missouri is famous for along the 10-mile Peewah Trail. While you ride you can listen for songbirds or see if you can spot local wildlife.
The Trail of Tears State Park is a wonderful place to look for birds and is listed as a National Audubon Society Great River Birding Trail. Many different types of song birds, such as warblers, thrushes, and tanagers, nest here and migrate through the area. Waterfowl, including American white Pelicans, can be seen both on the river and the lake. There are many raptors in the area as well, including hawks and kites, with the most notable being the population of Bald Eagles that roost along the bluffs and cliffs of the river during the winter months.
Fishing is a popular sport in the Trail of Tears State Park, both on the banks of the Mississippi River and in the 20-acre Lake Boutin. The Mississippi River is a natural home to several varieties of fish including river catfish, perch, and carp. Lake Boutin is generously stocked with several species, including bass, bluegills, and catfish. Fishing is only allowed during posted hours, which changes seasonally, so it is important to check for current restrictions. A valid Missouri fishing license is required to fish in these waters. Don't forget to pack your fishing gear in your camper or trailer.
The Visitor's Center, located just past the park’s main entrance, has a number of artifacts and educational displays available. These exhibits cover information about the natural history of the park, as well as educating visitors about the forced removal of the Cherokee tribes who once inhabited these lands. If you have a little extra time, about 25 minutes, the center also offers an on demand short documentary film, “Trail of Tears,” produced by the National Park Service.
There are two main trails available for hiking at the Trail of Tears State Park. The Sheppard Point Trail is the shorter of the two, a three-mile loop that is typically available year round. It is an easy-to-moderate trail that has a few steep climbs, occasional loose rocks, and some water crossings. The longer of the trails is the nine-mile Peewah Trail, a moderate trail with a 1,200-foot elevation gain, which is often used as an equestrian route as well as a hiking trail. Be aware of posted signage as both of these trails occasionally become flooded and watch for poison ivy, particularly along the Peewah Trail.
The Trail of Tears State Park is characterized by mature forests in which many types of wildlife reside. White-tailed deer are frequently spotted in and around the park, and squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, and rattlesnakes are abundant. Occasionally predators such as coyotes, foxes, and bobcats can also be glimpsed as they hunt in these vibrant forests. Missouri also has a population of feral hogs that compete with the natural wildlife in the region. If you spot feral hogs anywhere in the Trail of Tears State Park do not approach them and report them to the Missouri Department of Conservation as soon as you are able.