Stunning pink granite boulders and rushing clear cascades create one of the most beautiful views in all of Missouri. The Castor River Shut-Ins area is part of the Amidon Memorial Conservation Area near Fredericktown, Missouri. This spot is one of our absolute favorite places in Missouri and well worth the almost two hour drive. Water from the Castor River rushes over and through Missouri’s only pink granite shut-ins. The massive stones and gushing waterfalls present a scene of dramatic beauty no matter the season.
Shut-ins are formed as water erodes softer stone, until they encounter deeper and stronger igneous rock. The water can only cut narrow and deep channels in the igneous rock which leads to carved chutes and narrow channels. These channels form enchanting cascades and pools.
The shut ins are located about 90 minutes south of St. Louis. After driving down a well graded gravel road, you will see the sign for the conservation area along with an old millstone from one of the two mills that once stood nearby. Take a left at the sign and travel a short distance to the parking area and trail sign.
The trail to the shut ins is short and flat. You can easily carry rafts for a fun day of water play. The path is part of the Cedar Glade Trail. After leaving from the parking area, you will cross a small bridge and come to a fork. Stay to the left on the main trail to head to the shut ins. The right fork leads into the trees before circling back to the shut-ins to make a one mile loop.
After a short distance you will break out from the trees and catch your first glimpse of the water rushing through the rocks. The official trail leads along the banks above the river and rocks. We like to continue along downstream until we find a nice and shallow pool for the kids to play safely.
Use caution with the little ones over some of the rocks as they can be slick when wet and some taller rocks can have high drop offs. It can take a little climbing to find a good place and is not good for kids if the water is high. However, there are normally plenty of shallow spots perfect for wading and digging.
The water here is perfectly clear. While somewhat cool, it is not the deep cold of some of the Missouri’s spring fed rivers. You may spot some small fish or crayfish. (Or crawdads as we always called them as kids.)
While the spot was once more of a local secret and overshadowed by the more well known Johnson’s Shut-Ins, the secret is now out. By going early or on a weekday you can still escape the crowds. You can also just wander further downstream for your own natural stretch of serenity.
If you do continue more downstream, a taller waterfall can be found just before the river turns more calm.
Fall is amazing here as the swimming crowds are gone and the fall colors just add to the natural beauty.
If you ever happen to be here early or late, you can catch the dramatic colors of fading light on the pink rocks.
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 6 years since our oldest child first visited the shut-ins. Back then he was tucked in tight in a baby carrier and now he is climbing and splashing all over.
If you are looking for a good place to eat after exploring, we love the Depot Cafe in Fredericktown. Located in a historic former train station, they offer a varied menu and both indoor and outdoor seating.
Every good hike deserves ice cream and you can find some delicious options and quick bites at the Dairy Bar in town.
Have you visited this scenic jewel in Missouri? If not, add this area to your list. Happy Hiking!