July 24, 2014

Looking for a room with a view? Go camping

From wilderness areas to spots close to the city, Missouri and Kansas offer campers plenty of options.

Looking for a place to pitch your tent?

How about a spot to park your recreational vehicle?

Or a wilderness area where you can get away from it all when you go camping?

The Star has some answers. Here are a few places in Missouri and Kansas to keep in mind the next time you hit the road to go camping.

Tent camping

**OZARK NATIONAL SCENIC RIVERWAYS: Imagine yourself in a tent at the edge of a gurgling Ozarks river — bluffs in the distance, endless timber everywhere you look.

You can put yourself in the middle of that scene when you camp in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in southeast Missouri.

The Riverways, which consist of 134 miles of water and adjacent land on the Current and Jacks Fork rivers, is a national park that provides the perfect spot to pitch a tent.

The awe-inspiring scenery surrounding the rivers, protected from development, is the backdrop for a variety of camping experiences.

For those looking for the wilderness experience, camping is allowed on river gravel bars. And there also are primitive drive-in sites throughout the park.

For those looking for some company, there are large campgrounds such as the ones at Alley Spring on the Jacks Fork River and Round Spring on the Current.

**SCOTT STATE PARK: Looking to pitch a tent in “true” Kansas? Lake Scott State Park near Scott City in the western part of the state is the place for you.

Here, you will get a feel for what Kansas is all about. You can camp on the prairie, with herds of buffaloes, wildflowers, natural springs, canyons and historical settlers’ homes close by.

It is high on scenery — and recreational possibilities. The park has 100 primitive camp sites and 55 more with utility hookups.

The 1,020-acre park surrounds Scott State Fishing Lake, where there is a swimming beach and canoe and paddleboat rentals..

RV camping

**TRUMAN LAKE: The land surrounding this sprawling reservoir in west-central Missouri is truly an RV camper’s paradise.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates a complex of campgrounds, with 1,100 sites — more than 600 with electrical hookups for RVs.

And Truman State Park, operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, offers 200 campsites, 100 with electrical hookups.

That’s a lot of places to park an RV — and in a setting where the wild is not far away.

Fishing, and deer and turkey hunting are the main attractions. But the parks also offer hiking and horseback riding trails, swimming beaches, and plenty of water for boating and water skiing.

**EL DORADO STATE PARK: Set at the edge of the Flint Hills, El Dorado is Kansas’ largest state park.

And it shows on holiday weekends. Park officials say that some 60,000 to 70,000 crowd into the park on holiday weekends, making it the equivalent of one of the state’s largest population centers.

“We get a lot of use,” said a park ranger for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. “And a lot of the people who come here are camping.”

The park has four major camping areas and a total of about 1,100 campsites, almost half offering electrical and water hookups for RVs.

“On our busy weekends, we look like an RV village,” the ranger said. “We’ll have everything from the tent campers to the big motor homes.”

As at Truman, the big drawing card is fishing and hunting. But water sports, swimming, hiking and a large amphitheater for concerts and festivals also attract campers.

Close-to-home camping

**SMITHVILLE LAKE: Located about 25 miles north of Kansas City, this major reservoir is proof that you don’t have to stray far from the big city to find a place to pitch your tent or park your RV.

There are 780 campsites scattered around the water, most of them managed by Clay County Parks and Recreation. The Crows Creek area, with 415 sites, and the Camp Branch area, with 366, are the most popular.

“We pull a lot of people from Kansas City, St. Joseph and even Topeka,” said Ryan Harper of Clay County Parks and Recreation. “Our location makes it convenient for people who live in the city.

“They don’t have to plan a long vacation to go camping. They can spend the night and still get into the city the next day for what they have to do.”

Fishing is the big drawing card. But Smithville also has become a playground lake in the summer, attracting crowds of boaters.

**HILLSDALE LAKE: This reservoir, about 35 miles southwest of Kansas City, also features camping opportunities close to the big city.

It features seven campgrounds with just under 350 sites. The largest and most popular is the Russell Crites Area in Hillsdale State Park, which offers 200 campsites, 157 of them with hookups for water and electricity.

The state park features two beaches, an equestrian area with 32 miles of marked trails, and an area for model-airplane flying.

Wilderness camping

**PADDY CREEK WILDERNESS AREA: If you’re the adventurous type and strive to camp in the wilderness, Paddy Creek is the place for you.

Set in the desolate Mark Twain National Forest about 15 miles west of Licking, Mo., Paddy Creek features 7,019 acres of wilderness — beautiful creeks and rivers, towering bluffs, rocky outcroppings, caves and thick timber.

A 17-mile loop trail cuts through the heart of the wilderness area, and camping is allowed off the trail. However, the U.S. Forest Service emphasizes “Leave No Trace” camping — that is, what you take in, you take out. Rules and regulations apply.

There also is an established campground with 23 camp sites.

**IRISH WILDERNESS AREA: Another Ozarks gem, the Irish Wilderness also offers great opportunities for the backpack camper.

Located along the Eleven Point River halfway between the towns of Doniphan and Alton, Mo., it features steep limestone bluffs overlooking the river, springs, thick timber, sinkholes, caves and rock formations.

The main path in is the 18.6-mile Whites Creek Trail, which leads visitors to some of the Ozarks’ finest scenery.

As at Paddy Creek, camping is allowed off trail. But rules and regulations apply. No motor vehicles are allowed. You get to your campsite by foot or horseback.

To reach Brent Frazee, The Star’s outdoors editor, call 816-234-4319 or send e-mail to bfrazee@kcstar.com

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