at Mark Twain State Park

Preamble for the Conceptual Development Plan

Significance and History

Mark Twain State Park was created as a memorial to Samuel Langhorn Clemens and provides recreational opportunities in a landscape that represents the transition from the prairies of the northern states and the woodlands of southern Missouri.

In 1924, Mark Twain State Park became Missouri's third state park and the first north of the Missouri River. The park was created through the efforts of the local Mark Twain Memorial Park Association in honor of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, near his birthplace in Florida, Missouri. M.A. "Dad" Violette played a vital role in the creation of the park and preserving Twain's birthplace, which is now a state historic site. Since that time the park has evolved its own history including projects by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1940's and creation of Mark Twain Lake in 1983.

The park is located in the Salt River Hills of northeast Missouri. Receiving its name from the numerous salt springs or "licks" in the area, the Salt River carved a channel through the glaciated plains to the Mississippi River. Much of the terrain and flora is reminiscent of southern parts of the state with rocky woodlands of oak, hickory, ash and maple atop towering limestone bluffs. In contrast, Big bluestem, Indian grass, lead plant, and blazing star are just a few of the many tallgrass prairie species found in the park that are characteristic of the central plains. Bordered by nearly 50,000 acres of heavily hunted public land, the park serves as a refuge for game species as well as a multitude of other native wildlife.

The Salt River corridor has a long history of Native American occupation. There are 37 prehistoric archaeological sites recorded in the park. Two are on the National Register of Historic Places, three are eligible, and 24 have not been evaluated for eligibility. Features of these sites include villages, mounds, and campsites. In addition, eight historic archaeological sites from the 1900's are within park boundaries.

With the completion of the Clarence Cannon Dam in 1983, part of the Salt River was transformed into the vast 18,000-acre Mark Twain Lake. The lake offers visitors numerous water recreation opportunities and a chance to view migratory waterfowl and wintering bald eagles. A tradition of close and friendly cooperation has evolved between the various agencies involved with public contact and assistance in the lake area.

In 2001, Mark Twain State Park encompassed 2775 acres and hosted nearly 250,000 visitors. The vast majority of visitors take advantage of the recreational opportunities afforded by the park and lake. The park features camping, picnicking, hiking, swimming, nature study, boating, and fishing.

Mission Statement

The mission of Mark Twain State Park is to provide recreational opportunities associated with Mark Twain Lake and the surrounding landscape while preserving, protecting and interpreting the natural and cultural resources. 

Approved by

Douglas K. Eiken, Director, Division of State Parks, 10/27/04
Frank St. Clair, Field Operations Supervisor, Northern Parks District, 10/22/04
Charles D. Hesse, Park Superintendent, Mark Twain State Park, 10/19/04
Benjamin Sapp, Assistant Park Superintendent, Mark Twain State Park, 10/20/04