Mommy And Me Travels is on the hunt for fun outdoor activities that you and your kids can enjoy this summer.  We are excited to share with you a natural wonder in central MO, Johnson Shut Ins State Park.  Our family guide will you give all the information you need to plan your day, weekend, and entire week adventure to this amazing midwestern wonderland.

What Is Johnsons Shut Ins State Park?

What Is Johnsons Shut Ins State Park?

The Johnsons Shut In State Park MO is one of the most interesting naturally made swimming points along the Black River.  It is known by locals as an epic natural waterpark.  Here you and the kids will be able to slide down a natural waterslide, splash in the shallow water, swim in deep water, explore the little nooks and crannies with a path for hiking, or just lay along the beach areas soaking up the sun rays.

The term shut-ins in MO usually refers to places along Ozark streams where the river has carved a path and formed rapids, pools, plunge pools, and/or rivulets.  The Johnson Shut Ins are formed by the Black River cutting through granite stones that over the years have smoothed out and make for great swimming and sliding areas.

Where Is Johnson Shut Ins?

Where Is Johnson Shut Ins?

Johnson Shut Ins Address – 148 Taum Sauk Trail, Middle Brook, MO 63656

Johnson Shut Ins State Park is located in Middle Brook, MO which is about 10 minutes north of Leasburg, MO.  As a day trip from St Louis, MO, the drive is less than 2 hours south of St Louis in Central MO.  Once you get off the interstate you will weave through beautiful forest areas and you’ll start to feel like you’re really stepping into a wonderland.  This makes the Johnson Shut Ins day trip a great escape from busy city life.

Our Johnson Shut Ins Reviews

Our Johnson Shut Ins Reviews

For our Johnson Shut Ins reviews, I’m going to gear this towards our visit with young kids.  We were looking for an outdoor location that provided water and some fun for our little ones.  We definitely found that at the Johnson Shut Ins MO.  Johnson Shut Ins swimming is great for kids because the water is crystal clear which allows your little ones to feel secure when entering it.  However, it is a bit chilly so you might need to coax them in a little.

The best part of all is that it is free.  Free to park, free to play, free to hike, free free free.  This makes the Johnson Shut Ins a budget, fun family day trip if you are anywhere near central MO.  Make sure you check out all of our tips for day trip with kids to help plan your adventure.

Things Parents Should Know For A Visit To Johnson Shut Ins With Kids

Things Parents Should Know For A Visit To Johnson Shut Ins With Kids

There are a few things that you are likely not to find information on when you are doing your research for a visit to Johnson Shut Ins Missouri.  Or at least that was the case.  I’m going to give you those small little bits of information here that you need to know for a smoother visit with your kids.


Drive into the state park and go to the very end of the street.  You will pass the visitors center (definitely worth a stop if you have time), a gate shack, a large picnic area, then you will get to the end of the street and this is the best place to park.

Changing Clothes

Head up towards the river store / ranger station.  On the right hand side, you will see the restrooms and then a couple of rooms designated for changing.  Each room is large enough for you and your kids to fit in comfortably for getting into and out of swimsuits.


Know before you go and check the flag color for the day.  This represents the water level that is flowing in the swimming area.  The flags are Red Flag which means hazard and the access gates to the water are closed.  Yellow Flag is a medium hazard and while the access gates are open, definitely be cautious if you take kids.  Green Flag means low hazard and the gates are open.  These flags will help you make your decision on when/if you plan your visit to the Johnson Shut Ins with kids.

Getting To The Water

Once you park and change, you will find a marked paved path down to the water edge.  The walk is about .25 miles, so it is easily accomplished by kids.  When you get to the end of the path you will see steps leading into the water.  This is the first shallow swimming area that the kids could splash around in.  If you wish to reach the rapid/slide area or larger swimming area, then turn right on the path and walk down the trail further.

The second set of stairs will take you to the largest of the waterfalls and small pool areas.  Many families play here with their kids as there are lots of small waterslide areas due to this being the rapids portion of the Johnsons Shut In. 

If you keep on the path to the third set of stairs you will reach the large open swimming area.  This is not really a straight down the stairs shot like the others, it is an opening in the gate that has a few steps down to a dirt path that you can walk down to the water.  While it sounds more complicated it is easily navigated and you’ll find your way down to the water.

Josh in Johnson’s Shut Ins

What To Pack For Johnson’s Shut Ins?

Time to head to the Johnson’s Shut Ins State Park but you aren’t sure what to pack.  Don’t worry I have you covered with the must have items packing listed here:

*Water shoes – Everyone in your family will need a pair.  The Johnson Shut Ins Missouri is extra rocky compared to other shut ins.  To keep your feet from getting cut up, make sure everyone wears a pair of water shoes.

*Reusable Water Bottle – The park does not allow throwaway water bottles.  You can take your own reusable water bottle but I recommend taking a camelbak instead.  Shop camelbak sales so you can will leave your hands free to swim, slide, and to use for climbing around the rapid areas. 

*Sunblock – You should always wear sunblock when outside but it is double important here since the sun reflects off the rocks and water.

*Life jacket or floaters for kids – Some areas of the Johnson Shut Ins are deep water or the kids could just get away from you when they slide down a rock area.  These aren’t provided by the park so I recommend you bring your own.

*Bring water toys – We learned the hard way that water toys were allowed.  My kids felt left out not having something to play with during our visit.  We ended up having to spend extra money at the little shop there to buy them a toy for the water.

*Personal floating tubes are allowed – There are a few places to just float and hang out.  This is a great spot to use your floating devices, like a tube.  Many parents relaxed on these devices while the kids splashed around and had a great time in the water. 

*Pack your cooler for lunch – While there is no food allowed at the water edge, there are plenty of picnic tables right near the parking lot.  I’ve learned over the years that swimming makes my boys really hungry.  The Johnsons Shut Ins are in an isolated area so I’m glad I brought a cooler full of food for lunch. 

Places To Stay Near Johnson Shut Ins MO

Places To Stay Near Johnson Shut Ins MO

Are you looking for places to stay near Johnson Shut Ins MO?  You have probably started to realize that there are not many options of where to stay when you are planning your family trip to the Johnson Shut Ins State Park.  Your options mainly consist of camping or renting a cabins at Johnson Shut Ins, but you also have a few hotel options also.

Hotels Near Johnson Shut Ins

If your family is looking to kick back and relax at a hotel after your day swimming at the Johnson Shut Ins then I recommend looking in Farmington MO.  When we were starting our planning and looking for hotels near Johnson Shut Ins, Farmington did not even come on our radar.  In Farmington, MO you will find name brand hotels like Hampton, Holiday Inn Express, Quality Inn, and Super 8.  Closer hotels near Johnson Shut Ins include a few bed and breakfast or motels.  You can view those here on

Campgrounds Near Johnson Shut Ins And Cabins At Johnson Shut Ins

When looking for a place to stay near Johnson Shut Ins, your best bet is to camp.  There are many campgrounds near Johnson Shut Ins but I recommend trying to get one of the spots at the Johnson Shut In camping.  There are several different sites that span the range of basic to full hookup sites.  When planning your Johnson Shut In camping adventure, check out their maps and make sure you are securing the spot you want on the right loops.  Yes, there are different loops around the park and each have different amenities and ways to get to the campsites.  Some you have to walk in for and others you can drive up to.  If you want to rent an RV, there are many available here through RVShare

Would you prefer to have a cabin over a tent or rv?  Then you are in luck.  There are cabins at Johnson Shut Ins that you are able to rent.  They are located on loop 2.  There is one thing I want to mention about the cabins at Johnson Shut Ins though, they do not have water.  What that means is: you get electricity, air conditioning, heating, beds, tables, etc., but not a bathroom, shower, or sink.  You will need to use the shower houses located on your loop.  The cabins at Johnson Shut Ins will accommodate 4 adults and 2 kids.  These are great if you’d rather just show up with your stuff and be ready to enjoy the state park and fun water activities.

Family Guide For Visiting Johnson Shut Ins State Park MO

Final Thoughts On Family Guide For Visiting Johnson Shut Ins State Park MO

I hope this guide helps your family plan your next adventure to the Johnson Shut Ins State Park MO.  We had an absolute blast during our trip and will be visiting many times during these hot summer months.  As a reminder, the park is open year round.  Even if you don’t go for swimming in the crystal clear water, you can definitely visit for some beautiful hiking paths.

Make sure you check out our advice on how to save money on your next family vacation?  Or just looking to get family travel tips and tricks?  Join our private Facebook Group…. Little World Adventure Travelers.

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 Family Guide For Visiting Johnson Shut Ins State Park

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