A beautiful place to spend some summer days

The Trail of Tears State Park near Jackson, Mo., is situated right at the edge of the Mississippi River.  

So if you’ve never been there before, you’ll probably going to be assuming to see some great views of the river and our neighboring state of Illinois just across the river.  

Bill Oder

Well… I’m sure you are aware of how “assuming” something can often get you in all kinds of predicaments, but I’m here to tell you that in this case you can easily slide by with “assuming” something because the scenic overlook in this park at the edge of a high cliff overlooking the Mississippi is absolutely breathtaking. 

Being there on a beautiful sunny, cloudless day under a blue sky also adds to the spectacle.

Standing at this lookout point reveals so much to see. The river itself (my wife and I were fortunate to see a barge going up the river on our visit) and miles and miles of our neighbor across the river awaits the visitor to this scenic overlook.  

It is worth a trip to this park just to stand on this lookout point and take in all the beauty offered, but the park offers so many other things to see and do, and a lengthy stay in the campground would be highly recommended.

The park itself consists of 3,415 acres in Cape Girardeau County in Missouri. It is a memorial to the Cherokee Native Americans who died on the infamous forced relocation to Oklahoma during a severe winter in 1838-1839.  

Their crossing of the Mississippi was at this point. This relocation from Georgia to the Indian Territory, which is now Oklahoma, involved an eight-hundred mile trip.  

Some were in wagons, some on horseback, and some on foot. The Native Americans had to deal with rain, snow, freezing cold, hunger and disease. 

The park is a certified site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.

Besides the scenic overlook, you will find a 20-acre lake called Lake Boutin inside the park. Fishing is allowed and the fish population consists of bass, channel catfish, bluegill and crappie.  

A sign at the lake states a daily limit of 30 for crappie, so evidently the crappie are plentiful. At one end of the lake, there is a sandy beach with a roped-off area where swimming is allowed.  
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There is no lifeguard available so swimming at your own risk is a warning highlighted on a nearby sign. We didn’t try any fishing while we were there but we saw several people with fishing gear along the banks of the lake enjoying the day.

The visitor’s center offers exhibits pertaining to the Cherokee’s forced move from Georgia to Oklahoma and also provides all the information you need regarding everything the park has to offer.

There is a short (0.6 mile) hiking trail near the visitor’s center that is rated MODERATE. There are three other trails that are all rated RUGGED.  

The Sheppard Point Trail is 1.3 miles. The Lake Trail is 2.5 miles and circles around the lake. The Peewah Trail is 9 miles long and also allows horseback riding. This trail also offers backpack camping at a designated spot along the trail.

The views along the river also provide opportunities to see migratory birds and eagles. The visitor will find numerous picnic sites for day excursions to this park but a large campground is available for extended stays.  

This would be an ideal place for a family to do some camping with plenty of things to do to keep the little ones happy.

The campground offers basic and electric sites. Reservations can be made online or by phone at (877) 422-6766.

The entrance of the park is about 10 miles east of Jackson, Mo. On Interstate 55, simply get off the interstate at Exit 105 and follow the signs.  

If you are southbound on 55, you will turn left after you exit; or if you’re going north, you will turn right. 

There are several turns to be made after you get off the highway but there are large, visible signs all along the way, so just watch the signs.

This park is an ideal place for campers looking for an interesting place to spend some summertime with their families, no matter if they are novice campers are seasoned campers.  

And when you do go to this place, by all means do not forget the scenic overlook. 

Like I said before, it is spectacular.

(Bill Oder can be reached at oderbill@yahoo.com.)

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