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Serving: MO
Detail of rocks in Elephant Rocks State Park, Missouri, United States of America John Elk III/Getty Images
BIG BOULDERS: Large granite rocks greet visitors to Elephant Rocks State Park near Poplar Bluff, Mo. People can climb up the trail and take photos.

State parks offer relief from COVID-19 solitude

A virtual tour shares farming's history in Missouri.

Missourians are finding themselves looking for opportunities to get outside and still practice social distancing. There is no better place than rural communities. In searching for places to go, consider heading to one of Missouri’s state parks or historical sites.

There are 91 state parks and historic sites across Missouri, covering more than 160,000 acres. The state park system includes homes of famous Missourians, Civil War battlefields, and tributes to the past such as gristmills and covered bridges.

For a time during the coronavirus outbreak, some of the parks were shuttered. However, a few are now open for day use, offering those of us tired of being inside an escape.

Want to go big? Well, look no farther than to southeast Missouri north of Poplar Bluff to Elephant Rocks State Park. Just as the name implies, this park is stacked high with large boulders of granite placed there naturally over the course of time. The locals like to say these geological masterpieces are situated “end to end like a train of elephants.” This park shows the formation of our state right down to its rocks, land and water.

Want an agriculture history lesson? Weston Bend State Park north of Kansas City is home to five tobacco barns all within the park acres. These barns offer a glimpse into the tobacco industry that once thrived in this river community. One barn houses the history of tobacco production, while others can be used as a picnic shelter by park visitors.

This is just one state park with a nod to farming. There are others such as Watkins Woolen Mill State Park in Clay County, which pays tribute not only to the textile industry, but also the Watkins family farmstead.

From one end of the state to another, parks and historical sites offer us the chance to not only get out of our own homes, but also exercise and become more educated about our state in the process.

The Missouri State Parks website has great virtual tours of each park, so you can either plan before you go or just sit at home and enjoy the scenery on your computer screen. Be sure to check the website for a list of park closures because of COVID-19 before venturing out.

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