View of Waterfall in Johnsons Shut ins State Park Missouri

Where is Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is located on the East Fork of the Black River in Reynolds County, Missouri. Lesterville is the closest town just an 11-minute drive south. Pilot Knob and Arcadia are close towns offering more services located a 20-minute drive north east. 

St. Louis, Missouri is the closest major city and airport located about 1.5-hours north of the state park. The park is surrounded by the St. Francois Mountains of  Missouri offering tons of recreation from hiking trails to swimming and fishing in the Black River. 

How Big is Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

Johnson’s Shut-Ins US State Park is 8,781 acres. Adjoining to the park is Taum Sauk Mountain State Park encompassing 8,732 acres, combining the two parks to have over 16,000 acres to explore. Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is at 1,106 feet elevation. 

Shut-Ins are a rock formation in a river found in narrow valleys or canyons where the river is wide above and below the canyon or valley, forming pools, chutes, and plunges through large rocks smoothing their surfaces making for great natural swimming areas. 

The state park has many trails including a paved ¼ mile walkway to an observation deck, a 10-mile equestrian trail loop, and part of the Ozark Trail. The Ozark Trail is a 350+ mile hiking trail reaching from St. Louis, Missouri, to Arkansas. 

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park Weather

The most popular time to visit the park and enjoy the river is during the warm summer months where temperatures are warm to enjoy swimming in the river. 

From May through September the average high temperature is in 85 degrees and an average low of 60 degrees. From October to November temperatures cool down into the 50’s as winter approaches. From December through March the average high temperature is 45 degrees and an average low of 20 degrees. 

Average precipitation in the winter is around 3 inches a month, compared to summer at around 4 inches a month. May receives the most rain with an average of 5.6 inches making the river water flow the highest and most dangerous to swim in. 

View of Sunny Day in Johnsons Shut-ins State Park Missouri

When did Johnson’s Shut-Ins Become a State Park

In the mid 1800’s an Irish immigrant family, the Jonhston Family, moved and lived in the land of Johnson’s Shut-Ins around the Black River. The family owned the land through three generations, then sold it to Joseph Desloge who was a civic leader and conservationist in the 1900’s.

Desloge began creating the state park land trails along the Shut-Ins and river front over the next 17 years. Desloge then donated it to the state in 1955. The park is named after the Jonhston family.

Things to do in Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

The state park has over 10 miles of hiking trails, an equestrian loop trail, the Black River Center, a large campground, and the Shut-Ins in the Black River. The park also has an ADA paved path to a platform overlooking the unique geological feature of the Shut-Ins. Our State Park Visitors Guide outlines a list of activities for you to enjoy.

Visit the Black River Center

The Black River Center has exhibits and videos explaining the history, geology, and landscape of the area. Stop in at the entrance from April through October when it is open.

Hike or Ride on the Goggins Mountain Equestrian Trail

This 10-mile loop is a moderate hike that can be done on foot or on horseback. The trail loops through the Goggins Mountain Wild Area free of any development with plenty of solitude.

Hike the Black River Trail

A 2-mile easy trail leads you through the day-use area of the park, to the Black River Shut-Ins overlook, boulder field, and fen area with pavilions and interpretive signs explaining the natural features found in the park.

Hike the Shut-Ins Trail

The Shut-Ins is a 2.25-mile easy hike that takes you to the main feature of the state park, the Shut-Ins.

Swim at the Shut-Ins

The water flow is best to swim in during the late summer months. When the flow is too high and powerful, it is very dangerous to get near or into the water. Check with the visitor center and the park rangers to see if the water is safe to swim in at any time of the year.


The Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park Campground has a store offering bike rentals during the summer to bike around the park roads.


Camping is by reservation only from April through October during busy summer months but is open year-round.

View of Waterfall on Autumn Day in Johnsons Shut-ins State Park Missouri

When to go to Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

The state park is best enjoyed when the temperatures are warmer in the summer to swim and camp comfortably. The park is also busiest during the summer. The fall and spring offer more solitude, but it will be too cold to swim in the Shut-Ins.   

The river flow dictates whether or not the Shut-Ins are open and safe enough to swim in. When the flow gets above 75 cfs, it is considered too dangerous to swim in and the access gates to the river are closed. 

Typically, the Shut-Ins and water flow are safe to swim in during the summer months from June through October. From December through May, the water flow is too high and dangerous to swim in. Check with the local park rangers before swimming to see if it is safe. 

Must-Have things to bring to Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

Open up with how below we’ll quickly discuss the various things someone will want to make sure they have to bring to Yellowstone.  From equipment and gear to food and safety supplies.  We will then list out some things below and quickly discuss them. 


The park has a campground store and a river store offering refreshing drinks.  List of Parks highly advises to pack your own water to stay hydrated during the hot summer months.


Stop at the local town of Lesterville grocery store to bring all of your own food to camp. The campground store and river store in the park only offers snacks.

Park Map

With 10+ miles of hiking trails, bring a map as to not get lost in the forest.

Proper Hiking Boots

The rough terrain and steep stairs leading down to the water edge are best approached with solid hiking boots. The rocks can get slippery as well.

Water Shoes

If you plan on swimming, you may want to bring water shoes.

Swimsuit and Towel

On a hot summer day, jumping into the river is the best way to enjoy the park and the Shut-Ins. The water temperature can be chilly.  

Rain Jacket

Rain is possibly anytime of the year so be prepared with a rain jacket.


Swimming during the hot, sunny, summer months mean you need sunscreen to protect your skin.

Where to stay in Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

The state park offers basic campsites, electric, full hook-up, walk-in, and equestrian electric/water campsites available by reservation year-round. Reservations are required from April through October. 

10-minutes south in the town of Lesterville there are several hotels and lodges to stay at such as Fort Davidson Hotel, Shepherd Mountain Inn & suites, or Black River Lodge.   

Food Nearby Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park Campground Store offers basic camping supplies, groceries, snacks, and other souvenirs. The campground store is open from April to October.

There is another store located in the park at the valley day-use area in the park offering snacks, candy, ice cream, coffee, and drinks. 

If you plan on camping in the campground and spending a few days enjoying the Shut-Ins, it is recommended to bring in all of your own food and meals. The nearest grocery store is in Lesterville town about a 10-minute drive south, or Pilot-Knob about a 20-minute drive north. Both towns offer restaurants as well.

Airports near Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

The closest major airport is St. Louis Lambert International Airport located about a 2-hour drive north of the state park. The closest regional airport is the Farmington Regional Airport-Fam located about a 40-minute drive east of the state park. Renting a car and driving to the state park is the best way to get there and explore the area.

Johnson’s shut-ins state parkState parkState park guide