Stargazing in Missouri: A Heavenly Show (2024)

Take in the breathtaking beauty of one of nature’s inspiring sights – the night sky. Missouri is an ideal spot for stargazing, offering the perfect combination of open skies, an abundance of public land and – of course – darkness. The darker it is, the more you can see. And the more you can see, the more you can experience a connection with the cosmos.

Where to Stargaze

Wide Open Spaces

For the darkest skies, head to the more rural parts of Missouri. Look for locations that are fairly isolated but do not have too much forest cover.

State parks, conservation areas, national parks and national forests provide access to thousands of acres of public land in the Show-Me State. Some areas close at dusk while others close later in the evening, so be sure to check the hours of operation when planning a stargazing trip. Areas that offer overnight accommodations are a good option because you have access to view the sky all night long.

Dan Zarlenga, a staff member at the Missouri Department of Conservation and an amateur astronomer, recommends spending the night when stargazing so you don’t have to drive home in the wee hours of the morning.

You can find dark skies and a variety of overnight accommodations at dozens of Missouri State Parks. Echo Bluff State Park near the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in south central Missouri and Roaring River State Park in southwest Missouri offer a lodge, cabins and a campground.

In addition to traditional campsites, Table Rock State Park near Branson and Pomme De Terre State Park in central Missouri have yurts, and Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park in southeast Missouri and Mark Twain State Park in the northeast part of the state have camper cabins available.

For a more remote and rustic experience, set up camp in the Mark Twain National Forest in the southeastern part of Missouri or at one of the 300 Conservation Areas located throughout the state that offer camping.

Find more information about the darkest spots in Missouri on theInternational Dark-Sky Association – Missouri Chapter website.

Stargazing Near Kansas City and St. Louis

While Missouri has plenty of wilderness for viewing the night sky, you don’t have to venture far from the state’s biggest cities to find stargazing opportunities.

Dark sky locations located less than an hour north of Kansas City include Big Lake State Park, Weston Bend State Park, and Lewis and Clark State Park. All three parks have campgrounds. Big Lake State Park also offers camper cabins, including two that are handicap accessible.

Take in the stars just an hour from St. Louis at Hawn State Park, Cuivre River State Park and Meramec State Park. Camping is available at all three parks. Meramec State Park also has cabins. In Wentzville, Broemmelsiek Park offers a designated astronomy viewing area with special viewing platforms designed for telescopes.

Best Time to Stargaze

A bright moon can wash out the stars even in remote areas, so when planning your trip you’ll want to take into consideration the moonrise and moonset as well as the phases of the moon. The best time to view the stars is from an hour after sunset to an hour before dawn on a day that is close to the new moon.

The best time of year to catch the splendor of the Milky Way is a moon-free summer night. The hazy mass of light is created by the combined glow of millions of stars outlining the Milky Way galaxy.

Gear Up

When heading out to gaze at the stars, bring a flashlight to help you find your away around in the dark, and make sure your phone is fully charged. (Keep in mind that cell service can be spotty in some of the more remote areas of the state.) Wear sturdy shoes in case you need to hike a bit, and dress for the weather. During cooler months, wearing layers can help ward off the night chill.

If you are planning to camp, be sure to pack a tent, sleeping bag and other camping gear.

Stargazing in Missouri: A Heavenly Show (1)

Stargazing Events

Missouri State Parks and local astronomy organizations – including the St. Louis Astronomical Society, the Kansas City Astronomical Society and the Astronomical Society of Eastern Missouri – host special stargazing events throughout the year at locations across the state. Attending an event is a great way to learn more about the stars and how to use a telescope. Check out the organizations’ websites for upcoming events.

Starscape Photography

If you’re planning to photograph the stars, Missouri Division of Tourism photographer Aaron Fuhrman offers these basic tips:

  • Set your camera to the lowest number F-stop.
  • Use a shutter speed close to 10 seconds if you don’t want the stars to trail. At 30 seconds, the movement of the earth makes the stars begin to appear blurry in photos.
  • Use a tripod.

For more detailed tips on photographing stars, clickhere. Be sure to share your photographs using #ThatsMyMO.

Best Stargazing Spots in Missouri

Some of the best places in the Show-Me State to see the stars include:

Northeast

Northwest

Southeast

  • Montauk State Park
  • Echo Bluff State Park
  • Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

Southwest

  • Prairie State Park
  • Stockton Lake State Park
  • Table Rock State Park

Central

More Star-Studded Adventures

Expand on your stargazing experiences at Missouri’s planetariums and space-themed museums. Learn more about the stars and solar system as well as the history and future of space exploration.

Total Eclipse in Missouri

Experience the ultimate celestial phenomenon during the total solar eclipse April 8, 2024. The path of totality will run through the southeast corner of Missouri for nearly 200 miles. Read more about this rare event here.

Stargazing in Missouri: A Heavenly Show (2024)
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