Visitors Guide to the
Trail of Tears State Park
429 Moccasin Springs
Jackson, Missouri

Accessible Parking Accessible Picnic Facilities Accessible Interpretive Exhibits Accessible Missouri Historic Site Hiking Trails Accessible Scenic View Wildlife Viewing Accessible Information Center
Horseback Riding Trail Fishing Opportunities Boat Ramp Swimming Opportunities Accessible Camping Facilities Accessible Gift Shop Accessible Restrooms Bald Eagle Viewing


Trail of Tears State Park is a memorial to the members of the Cherokee tribe that lost their lives during their forced relocation in the winter of 1838-39. The peaceful, serene setting and the abundance of recreational opportunities of the 3,415-acre park are in sharp contrast to the tragic history that gives the park its name. As a result of a 1791 treaty with the U.S. Government the Cherokee Nation was allocated land in Georgia. Because of the desire of European settlers for land the state legislature passed a series of laws abolishing the authority of the Cherokee in 1828. The pressure for the removal of the Cherokee and other Native Americans from the eastern United States increased with the discovery of gold in Georgia in 1829. After bitter debate the U.S. Congress passed and President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court striking down Georgia’s anti-Cherokee laws in 1832 both Georgia and President Jackson ignored the ruling. In 1838 Jackson called in federal troops to “escort” approximately 16,000 Cherokee to their new home in the Indian Territory located in present day Oklahoma.

In the winter 1838-39, an endless procession of wagons, horsemen, and people on foot traveled 800 miles west to Indian Territory. Others traveled by boat along river routes. Most of the Cherokee detachments made their way through Cape Girardeau County, home of Trail of Tears State Park. While here, the Cherokee endured brutal conditions where they dealt with rain, snow, freezing cold, hunger, and disease. Floating ice impeded the Mississippi River crossing, so the detachments had to set up camps on both sides of the river. It is estimated that over 4,000 Cherokees lost their lives on the march, nearly a fifth of the population. This event, known to the Cherokee as “The Trail Where They Cried”, is better known as the Trail of Tears in U.S. history textbooks. Legend says that Nancy Bushyhead Walker Hildebrand died and was buried within the park’s boundaries. She was the sister of Reverend Jesse Bushyhead, who led one of the detachments, and the wife of Lewis Hildebrand, who led another. Her two children traveled on and made it to Indian Territory. The Bushyhead Memorial in the park is a tribute to her and all the other Cherokee who died on the trail. Trail of Tears State Park is a certified site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. The park’s visitor center features exhibits that interpret the forced relocation, as well as the park’s many natural features.

The park preserves the native woodlands much as they appeared to the Cherokee. Mature forests cover much of the park, which is characterized by sharp ridges and steep ravines. Located directly on the Mississippi River, visitors can view the plentiful wildlife, including white-tailed deer, turkeys, hawks and foxes. The Indian Creek Wild Area features hardwood forests of white oak, black oak, tulip poplar and hickory. The floodplain forests along Indian Creek contain large sweet gums and willows. The 300-acre Vancill Hollow Natural Area contains a type of forest more typical of the Appalachian Mountains than the Ozarks. This rare forest is characterized by a larger growth of trees, a greater diversity of species, and its moist ground is covered with a rich growth of luxurious ferns and wildflowers. The park’s numerous trails offer opportunities for hiking, backpacking, primitive camping and equestrian pursuits.

For visitors wishing to spend a night or more, basic campsites are located in the heavily wooded area of the park. Campsites with electrical hookups and electricity and sewer hookups are located in a campground near the river. Anglers can fish in the Mississippi River, which offers catfish, perch and carp, or try the 20-acre Lake Boutin, which is stocked with bass, bluegill and catfish. The park offers popular lake activities, such as boating (electric motors only), canoeing and swimming. Its scattered picnic sites make Trail of Tears State Park an excellent place to come for a day of relaxation. The park’s numerous trails offer opportunities for hiking, backpacking, primitive camping and equestrian pursuits.

  The Lewis and Clark Connection
After the Corps of Discovery party pushed off early on the morning of November 24, 1803, and Captain Meriwether Lewis soon noticed “some high clifts the summits of which are crowned with pitch-pine & seader, these rocks are nearly perpendicular in many places sixty feet, and the hight of the hills apear to be about 120 feet above the bank…” The Corps camped for the evening near what has become Trail of Tears State Park.
Visit our special Lewis and Clark Section to learn more about the Corps of Discovery’s experience during their stay in the Middle Mississippi River Valley.’s special coverage includes information on all of the region’s sites and events as well as supplemental articles relating to the expedition’s experience during the winter of 1803-04.
  Bird Watching
Trail of Tears State Park
is listed on the National Audubon Society's Great River Birding Trail. The park attracts numerous migrant and nesting neo-tropical forest songbirds. Mississippi kites can also be seen. The Missouri Audubon Society maintains a checklist for birds that can be seen in the park.
  Visiting Trail of Tears State Park
     Park Grounds open daily all year round
     Visit the official website below for Visitor Center information

There is no charge to visit Trail of Tears State Park.
Directions: From the US-61/I-55 Business Loop north of Jackson take State Hwy Y approximately 7.5 miles to State Hwy V. Turn right on  State Hwy V approximately 3 miles to MO-177. Take a left (south) on MO-177 and proceed to the entrance of the park..
  GPS Coordinates
37° 26.313'
W 89° 28.805'
  Learn more about the Jackson area.  
  Trail of Tears State Park
The official website of Trail of Tears State Park
Hiking at Trail of Tears State Park 
Lake Trail
2.25 miles
This trail is rated Moderately Strenuous  This picturesque trail runs along the shoreline of Lake Boutin and then loops around the basic campground, crossing valleys and ridges. Remnants of old homesteads may be seen along with evidence of clearings, old roadbeds, a man-made pond and barbed wire fencing through trees. In some places, you may detect the rows of tulip poplars that were planted by park staff in the 1960s in an effort to reforest old farm fields. A rare plant, the pennywort, may be found on this trail early in the spring. A short section of the Lake Boutin Campground road is used as you travel the trail loop.
Nature Trail
0.5 miles
This trail is rated Moderate  This is the shortest trail in the park. You may spot white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbits, gray squirrels and box turtles on this trail. The trail starts next to the visitor center and loops up on the ridge. Follow the boardwalk around the building and through the amphitheater then across the bridge. There are lots of tulip poplar and pawpaw trees located along the trail. There is an abundance of spring wildflowers on this trail including the pennywort and large areas covered by ferns.. 
Peewah Trail
10 miles
This trail is rated Strenuous This trail explores Indian Creek Wild Area, one of the most remote parts of the park. It consists of two loops (5.75 miles and 3 miles) with a connector linking both loops. In general, Peewah Trail is moderately difficult and offers a wide range of possibilities for both day use and overnight stays. The east loop traverses the ridges of the area and runs atop the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River before dropping down into a valley with several creek crossings. The bottomland along the creek is full of wild flowers in the spring and also contains giant cane. This west loop traverses several valleys and ridges. Hikers will notice a significant amount of damage and opened areas caused by a tornado in 2003. These areas are slowly regenerating with new plants and trees. A variety of forest types may be encountered on this trail. On the west loop there is a connector that leads to a a primitive backpack camp.
Sheppard Point Trail
3 miles
This trail is rated Strenuous This trail traverses the area of the park that highlights the sharp ridges, steep ravines and a distinctive forest type with an Appalachian flavor. Trees such as American beech, cucumber magnolia and tulip poplars envelop the hollows and valleys, while oaks and hickories line the ridges. The trail ascends to the top of a ridge, loops down to a valley and back up a steep incline to Sheppard Point. This spot is on top of a beautiful bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. This is a great place to view eagles, especially in the winter.
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