Mark Twain National Forest provided an update for Memorial Day Weekend as many of the recreation facilities are beginning to open; however, access to campgrounds, group sites, restroom facilities, trash services and portable water vary due to impacts from the coronavirus.

Recent flooding and a recent windstorm, which downed many trees, may affect the availability of some sites. Trees may still be blocking roads and trails across the southern portion of Mark Twain National Forest, and visitors are urged to plan trips accordingly. Visit www.fs.usda.gov/goto/mtnf/status or www.facebook.com/marktwainnationalforest to find the most up-to-date information.

Some campgrounds accept reservations and some are first come first served. Contact the local ranger district for more questions and check conditions such as roads, weather and fire restrictions often.  

Mark Twain National Forest has provided some things to keep in mind while planning a trip:

— Make a checklist and ensure you have all your gear.

— Get a first-aid kit that includes aspirin, bandages, and antibiotic ointment. 

— Be prepared for changing weather and cold conditions with elevation gain. Pack extra layers.  

— Scour your campsite. Look around camp for sharp objects left by previous occupants like fishhooks, jagged can lid edges, or anything that may injure someone.

— Pack for the kids. Let each child pack a box or duffel bag full of toys.  Add crayons or coloring books, playing cards, or anything else you know they will eventually want but didn’t pack. Bored kids make for a bad camping experience.

— Don't feed the wildlife. Store food items in airtight containers away from sleeping areas, to avoid nocturnal visitors.

— Make a final check and be sure to pack out all trash and gear so it’s clean for the next user.

—  Seven Leave No Trace principles. Plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors.

Visitors are asked to stay as local as possible when choosing a site to visit and to pack out everything they bring, especially trash. Visitors are also urged to take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with local health and safety guidance. For tips from the CDC on preventing illnesses like the coronavirus, go to: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html.

Responsible recreation will help expand access to facilities, services and other opportunities. Certain services may still be unavailable, so visitors are asked to plan accordingly and to remain flexible.

Contact information for the Mark Twain National Forest is available online at www.fs.usda.gov/mtnf. 

In view of Memorial Day Weekend, the forest service notes: "As we prepare for this upcoming Memorial Day weekend’s events, let’s not lose sight of the significance of Memorial Day itself. 

"This observance marks a day of remembrance for those who have died while serving in the United States armed forces.

“Though it dates to just after the Civil War, it wasn’t until after World War I that it expanded to recognize those who died in all American wars. In 1971 Congress designated it as an official national observance.”