Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park

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Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park
Missouri State Park
Johnsons Shutins autumn panorama-panini 20130126.jpg
Country United States
State Missouri
County Reynolds County
Coordinates 37°32′31″N 90°50′31″W / 37.54194°N 90.84194°W / 37.54194; -90.84194
Area 13.36 sq mi (35 km2)
Founded 1955
Topographic map of the shut-ins and the Taum Sauk reservoir

Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park is a Missouri state park consisting of 8,550 acres (34.6 km2) in Reynolds County on the East Fork Black River. The park is jointly administered with adjoining Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, and together the two parks cover 16,050 acres (65.0 km2) in the St. Francois Mountains region of the Missouri Ozarks.

The term "shut-in" refers to a place where the river's breadth is limited by hard rock that is resistant to erosion. In these shut-ins the river cascades in many rivulets over and around igneous rocks worn smooth over many eons. It is used by park visitors as a natural water park when the water is not so high as to be dangerous.


One and a half billion years ago, hot volcanic ash and gases spewed into the air, then cooled, forming igneous rock. Later, shallow seas covered the rock, depositing sedimentary rock. The area was uplifted and erosion exposed the volcanic rock. Waters of the East Fork Black River became confined, or "shut-in," to a narrow channel. Water-borne sand and gravel cut deeply even into this erosion-resistant rock, carving potholes, chutes and canyon-like gorges.

History and description[edit]

The Johnson family cemetery is on the grounds of the park

Most of the park, including the shut-ins and two miles of river frontage, was assembled over the course of 17 years and donated to the state in 1955 by Joseph Desloge (1889–1971), a St. Louis civic leader and conservationist from a prominent lead mining Desloge Family in America. The family has continued over the years to donate funds for park improvements.

A one-fourth mile walkway takes visitors to an observation deck overlooking the shut-ins. Camping, hiking and swimming are popular pastimes, with rock climbing allowed by permit from Sept. 2 through the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend. Basic and electric campsites are available, along with a park store. All campsites are reservable. Total capacity in the day-use area is 100 vehicles. Pets are not allowed in the park.

The shut-ins serve as a natural water park. This picture was taken after the shut-ins reopened in 2009.

An extension to the park provides an auto tour that passes by the ongoing recovery effort, as well as the recovered endangered fens area, terminating at a shaded overlook of the flood path accessible from the park entrance. From this one can walk a path through the boulder field created by the flood. The boulder field contains many examples of the minerals and rocks that make up the St. Francois Mountains of the Ozarks.

A popular section of the Ozark trail crosses the park.


The "scour", eight years after the flood, through what had been dense forest below the since-rebuilt reservoir.

On December 14, 2005 the park was devastated by a catastrophic flood caused by the failure of the Taum Sauk pumped storage plant reservoir atop a neighboring mountain. Part of the damage was the eradication of the park's campground, but being a weeknight in December, the campground was unoccupied; the only people at the park were the park's superintendent and his family; the family survived, sustaining some injuries. The park was closed because of the extent of the damage it received.

The park partly reopened in the summer of 2006 for limited day use, but due to dangerous conditions, swimming in the river and exploring the rock formations was prohibited. In 2009 the river and shut-ins were reopened for recreation in the water. A new campground opened April 30, 2010.[1] Park restoration and improvements are funded with $52 million of a $180 million settlement to the state from AmerenUE, the owner and operator of the failed reservoir.[2]

Some areas of forest in the park and the surrounding region were severely damaged by the May 2009 derecho windstorm. Straight-line wind speeds in this part of Reynolds County reached 60 to 70 mi/h (97 to 113 km/h) with microbursts estimated up to 100 mi/h (161 km/h).[3]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Mo. set to reopen Johnson's Shut-Ins Park in May". The Southeast Missourian. 2010-04-15. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  2. ^ "Gov. Nixon announces partial reopening of Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park on Saturday". Office of Missouri Governor. 2009-06-05. Retrieved 2009-08-29. 
  3. ^ "May 8th 2009 Derecho". National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office St. Louis, MO. 2009-05-12. Retrieved 2009-08-29. 
  • Beveridge, T. R., Geologic Wonders and Curiosities of Missouri, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, 2nd ed. 1990

External links[edit]