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Johnson Shut-Ins

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About Johnson Shut-Ins:

TopRope and trad routes.

Climbing at Johnson Shut-Ins State Park is on high quality volcanic rock with nice clean edges and smooth surfaces, perhaps the only place in Missouri where this rock comes to the surface. While the cliffs are short (approx. 40 feet at the tallest), the setting is spectacular. This is the place where a lot of beginning climbers start their real rock experience. Climbing is prohibited in the summer (busiest) months, and allowed only between the Labor Day and Memorial Day holidays. Climbers must register at an unattended sign-in at the offices, and must have (and USE) a helmet. Parking is convenient, as is the paved path to the river. (Climbing across the river is prohibited.) Continue along the well-worn, and sometimes wood-planked path to the clifftops. All climbing is either on trad lead or top-rope; no bolts are allowed at Johnson Shut-Ins State Park.

The typical setup is long webbing slings off trees behind the path, to form a top-rope anchor, from which climbers rap and then climb the route. Access to the base of the cliff line is also easy, by conitinuing along the path away from the river, where the cliffs get much shorter, and access scrambles become obvious.

There are two sets of cliffs, the second one probably having a little more to climb. The first one, though, has somewhat of a "classic" 5.7, at the river end of the cliffline. (Routes don't face the river, they are on the cliffs that are perpendicular to the river, so don't rap the 'front'; go over the side.) From the base, the routes are fairly obvious, and the climbing usually starts as close to the water's edge as the belayer can get. Again at the second set of cliffs, the climbs are tallest nearer the river, and work their way back up into the woods, getting a little shorter. There are obvious crack and chimney climbs, as well as some face climbs that offer no trad placements.

Everything is easy to TR, but be aware that hikers (with kids) abound, and some may be annoyed with your TR anchors going over their pathway. As with any onlookers, somebody might toss something over the top; most folks, however, are just curious, and will probably look upon you with awe. Rangers do walk around, too, patrolling, and checking that you're wearing your helmet (especially belayers).

Camping is available year-round (though climbing is not) and incurs a small state fee (about $6 or $7); water is available at the rangers house, and in the warmer months, there are restrooms with running water. There might be water in the campsite area, too, again that gets turned off around November. RV and tent camping is seperated. Warmer months can bring out the loud and annoying party campers. This is a state park; beer, wine, and liquor is apparently allowed in campsite areas, but not at the river, nor in the parking lots; dogs must be on a leash. About 30 -45 minutes north on Hwy 21 is Washington State Park. A little further south is Elephant Rocks State Park.

There are enough climbs to fill a weekend; most are in the moderate range, up to 5.9. There's a face climb or two that goes harder. A fun, beautiful, and convenient place to get accustomed to climbing on real rock outdoors.

Great setting; great rock; easy access; scenic drive.

Nearest town or city: Farmington/ Ironton
Directions: Relative to St. Louis: Interstate 55 south to highway 67 south; 67 south to N (just past the Farmington exit); stay on N as it meanders a bit, to the Johnson Shut-Ins entrance. Or, start on highway 21 in St. Louis, and take it all the way south to N, turn right (southwest), and take N to the Johnson Shut-Ins entrance. There are variations on these themes, too; just look at a map, find Farmington and I-55, and look west to find the park, and highway 21, and N, then plot your course. Other than I-55 and Hwy 67, it's all two-lane road, that winds and curves, so pay attention. Website

Latitude, Longitude: 37.53694, -90.83840
Access Issues:
Camping: Pay
When to Climb:
Quantity of Climbs: Day

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Forum Discussions (1 posts)

  Subject Author Replies Last Post
No Replies Johnson Shutins ryancey 0 Jan 06 2002, 3:15 PM