See how the Mississippi River shaped the landscapes and culture of this Missouri city.
As the Mississippi River makes a slow roll from St. Louis to the Missouri Bootheel, it crosses through the historic town of Cape Girardeau. Once a trading post on the frontier, Cape, as locals call it, offers a relaxed travel experience. Take a stroll through Old Town Cape to find restaurants and shops in historic buildings, some covered with colorful murals, or ponder the grandness of the Mississippi at Riverfront Park. Campers will find private RV parks in Cape and the nearby town of Jackson. Full hookups, free wifi, and other amenities are available. Public campgrounds offer sites for both tents and RVs, with scenic views and varied hookups.
Trail of Tears State Park commemorates the solemn history of the forced relocation of the Cherokee tribe in the mid-1800s. The visitor center shares details of this piece of the park’s story, as well as the unique geology and geography. Prominent lookouts offer prime views of the Mississippi River. Hike trails through the woodlands and along the waters. Fish, boat, or paddle in “The Big Muddy” or the clearer waters of Lake Boutin. Or, camp alongside the lake or river. Basic, electric, and full hookup sites are available, some with water views.
West of Cape Girardeau, Shawnee National Forest offers outdoor recreation and camping in Illinois’s only national forest, which offers a 250,000-acre natural playground with woodlands, prairies, waterways, and waterfalls to explore. Nine campgrounds are found across Southern Illinois. Pine Hills Campground is the closest to Cape and has primitive sites for both tents and RVs.
Deep in Shawnee National Forest, Giant City State Park is just under an hour northeast of Cape Girardeau. Named for the massive sandstone bluffs that rise like skyscrapers over the woodlands, this state park is a recreational haven, offering hiking trails, horseback riding, archery, rock climbing, and more. The Giant City Campground has tent and RV sites nestled in the trees, offering partial hookups. Other accommodations include an onsite lodge and cabins, including rustic, historic cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
As the spring weather warms, the great outdoors begin to beckon, with peeping leaves and wildflowers, making this a pleasant time for camping in Cape Girardeau. The temperatures reach their peaks, sometimes in the 90s or above, in summer, as humidity seeps into the region. Fall is a scenic time to visit, with colorful leaves and pleasant temperatures. Missouri winters are generally cold, with bursts of freezing temps and snow and ice, meaning campers should be weather aware.