Best places to stargaze in the Midwest US?
July 25, 2007 12:41 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to organize a short camping trip with a friend. We would like to go somewhere in Southeastern Missouri, Southern Illinois or Southwestern Kentucky where there is little to no light pollution. Our plan is to spend some time photographing the stars, particularly the band of the Milky Way that's visible here on Earth when skies are clear.

We are not locked in to those locations. I live in Columbia, MO and he lives in Bowling Green, KY, and we are trying to split the difference in terms of driving. However, if a place in this general region strikes you as particularly suitable, please suggest it anyway.
posted by scooterdman to Science & Nature (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Forgive my possible overall geographic/climatic ignorance, but will the humidity I associate with summers in that region of the country affect your night-time photography?

Here's a forested state park that looks pretty far from any major city that's between you. There's also this one.
posted by mdonley at 12:49 AM on July 25, 2007

There's also this big region of forest in what appear to be the Missouri Ozarks, but it doesn't seem like there are any state parks there.
posted by mdonley at 12:53 AM on July 25, 2007

OK. Me first, Mr Cotter.:

Highway 72. Between Ironton and Fredrickton. Silver Mines State Park. Far From St Louis, far from Nashville, far from Columbia, far from Springfield.

Silver Mines State Park is what you want. Take the trail in the middle of the night to Turkey Creek. Look For the 100+year old lava flow with the basalt vein in it the runs into the 100 year old dam. The absolute best wide-open-beaver-shot-of-the-universe in Missouri.

From a short (<1 hour) drive you get elephant rocks and johnson shut-ins. br>
Seriously. The most magical place in all the Midwest (especially if you're the type to make a distinction between Karst topography and granite topography.
posted by sourwookie at 1:04 AM on July 25, 2007

The place is specific, the camping is perfect. Email me if you want particulars.
posted by sourwookie at 1:18 AM on July 25, 2007

If you are willing to do southeastern Missouri, you should push it into North Western Arkansas. I am convinced that some of the areas around the Buffalo National River is the most beautiful camping/backpacking in the world.

I wholeheartedly recommend going just a tad south of that and checking out the Richland Creek Wilderness Area. Imagine taking a short 1.5 mile hike along a river, to an amazing set of twin waterfalls. There is so much else to see as well, but the best part is that you are almost guaranteed never to encounter another soul in that area. I've stayed in Richland Creek Wildnerness for a solid week and never encountered another person. All that area is far away from metropolitan areas, so you wont have to worry about light pollution.

Feel free to email me for more specifics about the area.
posted by jlowen at 7:28 AM on July 25, 2007

Ditto to the Richland Creek area. But, if you want to stay in Missouri, I'd suggest the Jack's Fork River. The water is usually fairly low this time of year, but there are lots of places where you can easily get on top of the bluffs (200' and up). This was the river of my youth, and there is no light pollution.

However, if you want to talk to a company that would probably be able to give you the best information for finding a place (or info about the Jack's Fork). Contact: Discovery Ministries. My family has used them several times, and they are experts on the area. L
posted by peripatew at 8:06 AM on July 25, 2007

Wow. Thanks for all these wonderful suggestions. I have a lot of research to do...
posted by scooterdman at 9:41 AM on July 25, 2007

Dark Sky Finder from

Their ratings go from

Milky Way and zodiacal light invisible. Conditions typical of those in suburban areas of many major cities. Clouds are easily seen due to illumination from city lights.


Incredible! The Milky Way's tremendous structure is visible all the way to the horizon. Its light is enough to walk about safely without artificial light. The Zodiacal light now encircles the entire ecliptic. There are no sources of skyglow along any part of the horizon. Many meteors are visible.
posted by jjj606 at 10:18 AM on July 25, 2007

Oh, PS , scooterdman - welcome to our little corner of the web. Nice to have you aboard the good ship AskMe!
posted by mdonley at 11:03 AM on July 25, 2007

Southern Missouri is full of wonderful places to go camping. Back when I lived in MO, I spent quite a bit of time in the Mark Twain National Forest. It's quite large - one of the largest in the country, I believe. The area known as the Irish Wilderness is stunning in its beauty, but be careful - it really is wilderness, and if you're not careful, you may get lost! The Huzzah State Park near Leasburg, MO is also a great place for camping. MO has lots of great rivers, so you may want to look along the Jack's Fork, 11 Point, Black, and Current rivers for campgrounds.

As far as Southern Illinois goes, the only forest I'm familiar with there is the Shawnee National Forest, which is breathtaking in its beauty.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:14 AM on July 25, 2007

Also, you may want to check out the Trail of Tears State Park, which is a bit closer to the bootheel area.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:15 AM on July 25, 2007

You might want to check into the Red River Gorge in KY (though I think it's more north-central, so it might not be convenient).
posted by salvia at 4:20 PM on July 25, 2007

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