Big Oak Tree State Park in East Prairie, MO

 

In the far reaches of our state lies a little known gem of a state park – Big Oak Tree. This state park features the largest concentration of champion trees anywhere in Missouri. A few of these giants are even national champion trees. It’s an old growth forest and one of the only original forested areas left untouched in the area known as “Swampeast Missouri.”

IMG_0195Some of the champion trees include a 142′ Bur Oak, a 131′ Persimmon tree, a 132′ Sweetgum, and a 104′ Pumpkin Ash. Some of the signage is missing, and several other champion trees are indicated on the trail map at the park. I’m thinking the signage has been removed because some of those trees are no longer state champions and have been outgrown by others.

The state park had two trails, one an easy 0.7 mile swamp boardwalk (level metal grating), and the other a more adventurous 1.5 mile swamp / mud trek through the woods. If you do the longer trail, be prepared with dry clothes and some way of cleaning up after. I would strongly recommend bug spray on either trail. We did both, then dried off at the playground between the two trailheads before moving on.

This was one of my favorite state parks we visited so far this year. This patch of forest gives such a stark contrast to the surrounding agriculture. In any past drives through the bootheel, I’ve only experienced the small farms and flat, rural scenery as we made our way into Kentucky or Tennessee. If this state park were even remotely on our route, I wouldn’t hesitate to stop here again in the future.

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