UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS at WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY in ST. LOUIS

Summer in STL Adventures: Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

If you’re confused by the name “Johnson’s Shut-Ins,” don’t worry, I was confused at first too. Contrary to the image my mind conjured of enclosed rock tunnels, the shut-ins are basically nature’s water park. The river flows around hard rocks that it cannot erode, creating miniature waterfalls. It gets its name because the river valley becomes steep-banked and narrow, or “shut-in.”

About two hours away from campus, the State Park has camping and hiking opportunities in addition to enjoying the shut-ins and general beauty of the park. With a few friends, I went down for a day trip after hearing about a friend’s visit the week before. We first went to Elephant Rocks State Park, an area full of huge granite boulders that you can see by walking the trail, or climbing between and on top of the boulders. We chose the latter option and spent about 30 minutes exploring the area. Although a fun time, we were soon sweaty and ready to head to the shut-ins.

Just a short-30 minute drive connects Elephant Rocks and Johnson’s Shut-Ins, so we were quickly enjoying the cool water after our short hike. We spent about two hours scrambling through the shut-ins, relaxing in the sun, and cooling off in one of the larger parts of the river. Our favorite part ended up being towards the end of our afternoon, when we went up near the beginnings of the shut-ins and just sat in one of the waterfalls, chatting and enjoying the warm Missouri afternoon.

This definitely ended up being one of my favorite adventures thus far this summer. I’ve loved state parks and camping since I was young, so it was fun to explore some of the Missouri state parks and be able to catch up with friends during the drive and time at the parks. If you’ve never been to a shut-in before, this is a must-do experience, whether you make it a day trip or go camping and enjoy the nature and beauty for a little while longer!