by Heather B. Navarro and Emily Piontek                  September 30, 2016

Missouri opened its 88th state park with the unveiling of Echo Bluff State Park on July 30, 2016. The park is situated near Sinking Creek, a tributary of the Current River, on the site of the former Camp Zoe. It offers visitors a fun experience of all the Ozarks have to offer and is a wonderful addition to our award-winning state park system. Before you pack up the tent and head out for a quiet experience in nature, however, take note that the park offers only 12 tent sites and boasts “62 sites that cater to RVs and pull-behinds.” There’s also a lodge complete with suites, flat-screen TVs, and Wi-Fi. While Echo Bluff sets a new standard for state parks, we must not forget the values that made our park system great in the first place: standards that prioritize a deep knowledge of, genuine appreciation for, and the relentless preservation of our state’s natural, cultural, and historic treasures.

Missouri State Parks are celebrating their centennial this year and you can too by participating in the Mo Parks Challenge! The #MoParksChallenge melds the ubiquitous presence of technology in our lives with the many benefits of spending time in the great outdoors. By using Instagram as a social media platform to document visits to Missouri State Parks, we are reaching new audiences and introducing new generations to the wonders of our local environment. So far this year, MCE has registered nearly 100 Missourians to take the challenge, and they in turn have contributed 175 visits to our state parks system. Search #MoParksChallenge on Instagram for the photographic evidence! Popular parks so far have been Castlewood State Park, Hawn State Park, Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Graham Cave, and, of course, Katy Trail State Park. However, some of our lesser-known state parks have received a visitor or two as well! Prairie State Park in Barton County, for example, protects one of the last remaining tall-grass prairies in the state, supports a resident bison herd—and has had two visits from #MoParksChallenge takers!

The #MoParksChallenge runs until the election on November 8. Those who visit Missouri State Parks and post photos online will be eligible to win outdoor gear from Alpine Shop in Kirkwood, Mo. So far, the competition has been intense―a few of our participants are vying for the most visits at about 10 park visits apiece! However, the good news is that it’s not too late to join! Sign up by registering your name and email address with us at, then visit the parks, take a picture during your visit, and upload it to Instagram at your convenience. Make sure to use the tag #MoParksChallenge! See you in Missouri State Parks!