Johnson Shut-Ins State Park – Missouri

It was supposed to be a beautiful day with a high of 73 degrees and a spot shower, so my friend Nicole and I hit the road and headed to Johnson Shut-Ins State Park. This park is about and hour and a half south of St. Louis. During the summer months, this park is very crowded and busy since the shut-ins on the Black River create a natural water park.

Johnson Shut Ins (32)

Since we arrived at the park before gate to the park opened, we first hit the Scour Trail. The trail head for this hike is located just outside of the park, off of Highway N. In 2005, the Taum Sauk Reservoir breached, draining over a billion gallons of water in less than a half hour. Water rushed down Proffit Mountain, stripping away everything in its’ path. The only thing left was exposed bedrock. Today, the park has embraced this unfortunate event and created a trail so that hikers can experience the Scour Channel.

This loop trail is about 2 miles long. After a short hike through the woods, you will come to the Scour Channel. From this point, you cross the intermittent stream and work you way north through the channel. The rocks are gorgeous!

Johnson Shut Ins (10)

Johnson Shut Ins (14)

Once you hike far enough up, you can see the newly rebuilt Taum Sauk Reservoir. From here, the trail makes a sharp left turn and heads up the rocks and back to the parking lot.

Johnson Shut Ins (23)

Next, we headed over to the main part of the park to hike the Shut-Ins Trail. I have always wanted to take pictures of the shut ins without people in the pictures. On this visit, we were lucky enough to be the only ones on the trail for a bit. A boardwalk leads to the shut-ins.

Johnson Shut Ins (28)

The shut-ins are a work of art. Large boulders clutter the East Fork of the Black River creating pools, chutes and small waterfalls.

Johnson Shut Ins (2)

Johnson Shut Ins (36)

Johnson Shut Ins (47)

Johnson Shut Ins (48)

There are several points to access the shut-ins along the trail. Each one leads to a view just as beautiful as the last.

Johnson Shut Ins (53)

The trail then climbs uphill to give you one more spectacular view.

Johnson Shut Ins (64)

Johnson Shut Ins (65)

The trail evens out to follow the river. The trail then loops back to the trail head creating a 2.25 mile loop. There are a few other neat features on this trail including a small waterfall and a nice overlook of the St. Francois Mountains.

Johnson Shut Ins (73)

Johnson Shut Ins (75)

As I mentioned earlier, it was supposed to be a beautiful day. About half way through the Shut-Ins Trail, the storm clouds opened up. A spot shower turned into an unrelenting thunderstorm. Even though we got soaked, this trail was beautiful and the hike was worth it!

A couple things to keep in mind about this park. If you plan on visiting during the summer months, keep in mind that the Rangers only let so many cars into the parking lot so that the shut-ins do not become too crowded. Also, please be careful! Climbing around and swimming at the shut-ins can be very dangerous. The rocks are very slick and currents are strong. Also, pets are not allowed on the Shut-Ins Trail so El had to sit this one out.

Be sure to check this park out! It is stunning!

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  1. Nice! Love the waterfall photo!


  2. I’m so thankful I found your blog! I live in Southern Illinois and travel often to Missouri for weekends away in the woods! Familiar with lots of your posts so far and plan to take on some of them myself!


  3. Very pretty – love all the rock formations!


  4. I really liked this one…kind of a Nordic beauty, very austere. Take me here next twinsie trip! 🙂


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