Driving through East Prairie, Missouri offers travelers a chance to see pristine farmland that catches the eye. Then, suddenly as if looming up out of nowhere, a huge grove of giant oak trees appear. Majestic in their strength and surrounded by what appears to be a forest of lesser trees of different species.
Welcome to the Big Oak Tree State Park, over 1,029 acres of perfectly preserved beauty. A large island that stands out in an ocean of agriculture. The giant oaks that are nestled within the park are the biggest in the state, and are likely to please and awe any traveler that desires rest, relaxation, and lots of fun. Big Oak Tree State Park is no ordinary park. Beneath the giant oak behemoths that are surrounded with their forest like subjects, is a beautiful swamp environment that contains a superb undergrowth of woody vines, and colossal bald cypress trees. This cypress swamp is the only one in the entire state of Missouri.
Unique boardwalk transverses through the park. Bringing a camera along for fantastic pictures of this powerful landscape is a must. Before beginning the journey, stop in at the interpretive center near the boardwalk, to observe educational displays that will explain the parks natural history. The Big Oak Tree State park is a haven for bird watchers. Be prepared to watch over 150 species of birds, and some that are relatively rare. After a long hike through the forest, bird watchers and hikers can picnic at one of the many picnic tables located throughout the park. It is interesting to note that Big Oak Tree State Park is the last continuous hardwood bottom land forest that once covered the entire state.
Bottomland forest, swamp forest, and shrub swamp are the habitats dominated by the giant oaks and cypress trees that make up the environment. A variety of different species of animals lives in the park and can be readily observed. Take snapshots of raccoon, lizards, opossum, deer, snakes, and turtles. There are many water snakes in the park to observe and take snapshots of. None has ever been observed that are poisonous. Among the 150 species of birds in the park, two stand out in the crowd. The Mississippi Kite and the Bald Eagle can be observed in the park on a regular basis.
A picnic shelter is available at the park for use on a first come first serve basis. The shelter can also be reserved for a fee. Occupancy for the picnic shelter is 75 people and features include two grills, electricity, and water. In case the picnic shelter is not available, then 10 picnic sites scattered throughout the park can be used first come first served. There is nothing like boating on a pristine clear lake and Big Oak Lake certainly has that. Some 22 acres of the lake are reserved for boating and fishing. A convenient boat launch is available for those going boating, and there is no launch fee. Fishing at the park is allowed and has some of the finest fishing in the state. The lake contains an abundance of catfish, bluegill, crappie, and bass for some truly exciting fishing.
There is no hunting allowed in the park except for an occasional game management hunt conducted by the state fish and game department. During that time, the boat launch for the lake is closed. The park is open year around from 6am to 10pm, and there is no entry fee. There is no camping allowed in the park; however, there is food, gas, and accommodations located in East Prairie about 20 miles away. During the summer, a naturalist program is conducted at the park and provides interpretive programs on a variety of subjects. Living history day is held at the park the second Saturday of every September. Demonstrations of old world crafts and skills make living history day at the park fun for everyone.
For more information contact:
State Park information
13640 South Hwy. 102
East Prairie, Missouri 63845
Toll free: 800-334-6946