Johnson’s Shut-Ins, one of Missouri’s most well-known state parks and a popular camping destination, often leaves visitors from outside state lines guessing about the origins of its name. Basically, the name references a narrow river channel where hard rocks restrict, or shut-in, the flow of water. Here among the wooded Ozark plateaus in southeast Missouri, volcanic rocks more than a billion years old shut-in the east fork of the Black River to create a natural waterpark of pools, chutes and cascades.
In December 2005, the reservoir of the Taum Sauk hydroelectric plant burst and unleashed a torrent of water that devastated much of the park. After an extensive clean-up, the park reopened with improved attractions like the Black River Center with museum-quality exhibits in a new building. The reservoir's juggernaut of water also carved a three-mile Scour Trail, exposing ancient igneous bedrock, and the Boulder Field Trail, scattering gigantic boulders like marbles along its path near the park entrance. An observation platform extends over the gorge to provide dazzling views of the shut-ins, which are accessible to visitors for swimming, wading and splashing.