As is the case on most of our trips, we sought out places and activities in Cape Girardeau that would allow us to spend time outdoors. Aside from our first day in town when it was super hot, the weather cooperated the rest of our days in Cape so we tried to be outside as much as possible. Here are three spots that are worth checking out.
Trail of Tears State Park
The story behind Trail of Tears is quite a sad one but it is a significant part of American history. It is the site where nine of thirteen Cherokee groups perished while crossing the Mississippi River on the forced march to Oklahoma during the winter of 1838 and 1839. A visit provides a meaningful history lesson for older kids in the family but it might be a bit heavy for the younger ones. Thankfully, there are plenty of happier things going on at Trail of Tears today, such as hiking, camping, fishing, and picnicking. Then there is one of my all-time favorite things to do: spend time with the Mississippi River. I don’t know what it is, but I always get so excited whenever I get to see or cross the great river. Perhaps it is all the history and the lore that the river carries with it… Luckily for me, Trail of Tears is home to one of THE most stunning views of the Mississippi anywhere. We enjoyed our short visit to the park so much that there already is talk of returning next year with our RV to camp at one of the riverside sites.
Bollinger Mill State Historic Site
The town of Burfordville, home of Bollinger Mill, is approximately twenty miles northwest of downtown Cape Girardeau. The drive out from Cape is quite lovely and well worth it. Pick up lunch before heading out and have a family picnic beside the mill along the Whitewater River. Visitors may have a look around inside the four-story mill that dates back to the Civil War era. Entrance to the main level of the mill is free; if visitors would like a guided tour of the upper levels, there is an admission fee of $4. While you’re there, take a leisurely stroll across the Burfordville Covered Bridge, one of only four covered bridges remaining in Missouri.
Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center
This place is just phenomenal. It should be on the list of every family visiting the Cape Girardeau area. Operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation, the nature center offers a whole host of interactive activities, a couple of which are actually outdoors (this place practices what it preaches). There are two miles of walking trails on the nature center’s campus. Guests can check out a Discover Nature backpack from the reception desk to take along on their hike. There are two to choose from: Discover Nature – Trees, and Discover Nature – Birds. Lucia chose trees and we all were excited to find the backpack chock-full of tools to help identify the different trees on our walk. Included in the discovery kit are a magnifying glass, a tree field guide, pencils and paper to draw or sketch, a field journal to record the findings, and so much more. While on our nature walk, Lucia stopped numerous times to examine leaves and tree nuts on the trail and she kept repeating, “We’re on an adventure!” Her excitement alone was well worth the time we spent. By the way, we stayed on the main trail leading from the nature center building. It is paved and completely navigable with a stroller (Baby Anthony went along on the hike, too). We capped off our visit by casting a line into the “Kids Only” fishing pond. Again, guests can check out a fishing pole that comes with bait, a bobber, and a bucket, and also a guide to help identify the different species of fish in the pond. Kids can opt for a cane fishing pole or the traditional rod and reel. We chose the cane pole for Lucia since she’s used a rod and reel before. She actually got a few bites!
When you do visit the nature center, plan to spend a good part of one full day there to take advantage of all the indoor exhibits and the outdoor adventures. The best part of all? It is completely free. Everything. Even the backpacks and fishing gear. All that’s required to check out the items is an adult’s picture ID that’s held at reception until the equipment is returned. I told you this place is phenomenal.
My family’s trip to Cape Girardeau was provided by Cape Girardeau CVB and its partners. All words and opinions, as always, are my own.