Our 4th of July Visit To
Washington State Park, De Soto, MO
Living so near to Missouri, I have been pleasantly surprised by how beautiful the forests, hills, and wildlife of Missouri is. We are located in Southern Illinois, near St. Louis, and because my husband works at 5 different locations throughout the west of Missouri, we go camping just about every other week at various campsites near where he is working.
In between homeschooling, working, and just generally taking care of a family this makes for a very busy life, but it’s an adventurous one filled with lots of of laughter, learning, and explorations that we wouldn’t have if we didn’t adopt this unconventional life.
Check out more of our adventures here:
In June of 2018, we decided to spend a week at Washington State Park in DeSoto Missouri.
The park is within the Missouri State Parks System, a system of many different types of parts, ranging from primitive camping to full hookup sites in locations near St. Louis and that are very rural.
Why we choose state parks (often)
There are lots of different options for parks to camp at, with varying degrees of accessibility, amenities, and of course price point.
Here’s our short list of why we choose them:
- Variation of locations
- Site accessibility, hookups, etc
However, for our needs, Missouri State Parks really work well.
Here is our current setup: an extended cab truck with a regular bed and a 29-foot bumper pull camper with no slides.
We don’t have a huge camper, and our camper does not have slides. We are looking into upgrading into a bigger, 5th wheel camper in the spring, but for now this suits our needs.
I often hear complaints about state parks not having large enough sites or 50-amp service at the sites for bigger campers, but in our experience we’ve seen lots of big rigs and stayed in many campsites that have both 30 and 50-amp service.
But by far the biggest reason we stay at Missouri State Parks 90% of the time is the price point. With an average cost of $19/night for a site with electric, access to water and a dumpstation and bath houses, it is unbelievably cheap to stay.
Missouri State Parks don’t offer tons of amenities like, say a KOA or a private campground. However, since we often camp near a YMCA, city, or both, we really don’t feel the need for any of those things.
We are planning to stay at a KOA in October of this year, but for now I’m going to focus on Missouri State Parks. More specifically, Washington State Park in DeSoto, MO.
Campground Details: Washington State Park, DeSoto, MO
With easy access to Big River, hiking trails, a pool, and more, Washington State Park as been on our list for a while to visit.
It boasts one of the largest Petroglyph Sites in Missouri, and was constructed almost entirely by the African-American Civilian Construction Corps (CCC).
Amenities: Washington State Park, DeSoto, MO
Washington State Park is fairly basic in Amenities, but for our needs the park more than does the job:
- Tent Camping
- Camper Camping
- Cabins for rent
- River Access
- Nature Center
- Electric/Water/Dump Station
- Shower Houses
- Petroglyph Site (largest group of petroglyphs discovered in Missouri)
- Octagonal Lookout Shelter
- Swimming Pool
Adventures: Washington State Park, DeSoto, MO
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of amenities this park had.
It has way more than most we stay at and was a great way to kick of our homeschooling adventure with LOTS of outdoor exploring.
Park History Building
There is a small Historical Station/Building by the ranger station that gives a lot of history of the park as well as information about wildlife, nature, and many of the buildings, trails, and the river within the park.
One of the things that we try and find (it’s not very hard) at every park is that State Park’s stamp. Usually if you can find the gift shop or information station, you can find that particular park’s stamp by asking an employee.
In this case, we found the stamp at the unmanned Information Station!
We are collecting these from every park we visit and assembling them into a photo book of our adventure.
And, of course, we are making sure that Little Miss gets a stamp on her hand, food, or whatever she thinks is exciting that day.
Besides the historical building, there is a small information station where you can talk with an employee, see interesting artifacts that campers have found around the park, get pamphlets and brochures relating to the park and surround parks.
But the most fun thing you can get at this building is STICKERS. Between the normal stickers they have on hand, special stickers for events within the park, and random ones they have lying around, it is definintely worth asking if they have any stickers and you’ll most likely come away with some pretty cool stickers from the park!
Petroglyph Site Washington State Park DeSoto, MO
The absolute best adventure you can go on at Washington State park is the Petrogrlyph site, especially for kids that are young enough to understand a little bit of information about Native Americans, but young enough not to be bored by the history.
Washington State Park is home to a really cool Petroglyph site complete with education, information and a really cool boardwalk/nature walk.
This was a great learning experience for us, and also made for some amazing photographs.
We spent probably an hour at the petroglyph site between doing the quick nature walk, taking photos, and learning about the petroglyphs and how they were made.
Photo Sites: Washington State Park DeSoto, MO
Octagonal Lookout Site
Many, many hiking trails and Big River Overlook Sites
Regional Activities: Washington State Park, DeSoto, MO
Being so close to St. Louis, there are TONS of activities available around the park and further into St. Louis.
Within and 20-30 minute drive you have access to many attractions, including:
- Busch Stadium
- The Science Center
- City Museum
- St. Louis Zoo
- St. Louis Art Museum
- Forest Park
- The Magic House
There are many more activities than I could list here, so if you’re interesting in learning more about regional activities, head over to VisitMO.com
Our Experience: Washington State Park DeSoto, MO
Overall, we loved the campground, but there is one particular experience that I have to share.
I actually goofed when making this reservation, and instead of selecting a Saturday checkout, since my husband would still be at work on Friday at 2pm, checkout time. Instead, I accidently only made our reservation to only go through Friday.
So Friday rolls around, and I happened to look at our reservation sheet and realize my mistake.
Knowing that I cannot hook up the camper and find a place to park it by myself, I headed up to the host station to find out if we would be able to extend another night.
Unfortuantely, the site was booked for Friday night, so we couldn’t, but our very sweet and kind hosts offered to their (adult) sons’ help to assist me with hooking up and moving the camper.
Even kinder, they offered to let us use one of their ADA sites to chill in between the time when we had to vacate our site and when my husband got off work. So unbelievable nice and went above and beyond to help us out even thought the mistsake was entirely ours.
On that fact alone, if my husband is working near Washington State Park again, we will be definitely camping there again!
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