Camping Road Trip From Chicago to Ozark, Missouri

Why Ozark?
Go for the scenic imagery and activities of Ozark National Scenic Riverways, it boasts of 2 spring fed rivers – Jacks Fork and the Current. Both have highly acclaimed for River Tubing. If the act of floating aimlessly in a spring-fed, cold and clear water via canoe, boat or the river tubes seems blissful to you, this is it! Besides these, the park is home to hundreds of freshwater springs, caves, trails and historic sites such as Alley Mill.

Panorama (1)
River Tubing at Jack’s Fork

For the detail oriented folks, here are more details about The Ozark.

How to Plan your visit?

•  For accommodation, I would highly recommend the camp sites at the banks of the two floating rivers – Jacks Fork and Current. We stayed at Circle B campgrounds nestled at the shores of Jacks Fork river. We had a log cabin and an electric camp-site. You can book their campsites and know about other amenities here. You can google for plenty of other lodging options around the area. I can certainly vet the Circle B campground through with my own pleasant personal experience.

Curious to see how the backyard of our tent looked and felt like –

Tip: Plan and reserve really early to get the campsite of your choice. I booked in April for an August trip and still didn’t get the weekend dates. The cancellation policy is liberal (you can cancel up to a month prior to your trip with full refund) so no reasons to not book early. They start taking reservations starting Jan 2. 

• Run through this indispensable emergency checklist.

• Run though these tech essentials to turbo-charge your road trips.

•  Choose your activities, besides camping of course. We did camping and river floating trip from Alley Springs to Eminence and cliff jumping at the Button Rock. There are loads of other outdoorsy things to see in Ozark – bluffs, caves, streams, old mills, Rocky Falls but we kept it simple. Here is the official guide.

Our Trip from Naperville

Aug 14 – 16, 2021 (That’s Saturday – Monday)

Road Trip
Naperville to Eminence, MO.
487 miles, took around 8 hours with multiple breaks.

Once you reach Mark Twain National Forest, you would see a ton of roller coaster rides like these. Goes without saying: kids had a blast.

Rolling hills of  Mark Twain National Forest,
Courtesy: Richard Ricciardi under Creative Commons.

Circle B Campground at Eminence.


Day 1 – The Drive and the Campsite

The 3 cars in our posse fled Naperville on a hot summer day flush at 8 AM. A long sun-kissed road-trip day awaited us.

After few hours of driving on I55, we hit a snag while trying to find our first rest area at Funks Grove. It was a blessing in disguise since we inadvertently ventured on the historic Route 66 highway which runs right by I55.


An photo-ops on the Historic Route-66 cannot go abegging so..



For the last stretch of the trip, we navigated through the scenic Mark Twain National Forest, eponymously named after the acclaimed writer.

The mix of winding and undulating roads gave our stomachs few more turns that we would have liked but the kids had a blast, unsurprisingly.

The ups and downs certainly gave the famed Tulsa Roller Coaster Highway a run for their money.

We made it to the CircleB campgrounds around 5 PM finally.


The cabin was diminutive but well equipped.


The kids wasted no time to lunge into the Jacks Fork river, which was just aft of our campsite.


The sun bid adieu ..


and the camping festivities continued through the night..


Day 2 – The River Float and Cliff Jump

After a filling continental breakfast, we were all geared up for the river float trip. We choose to do a 7 mile float trip from Alley Springs to Eminence which culminated right at our campsite.

Alley Springs Mill, courtesy Chris Friese under Creative Commons

We got 2 rafts rented from Windy’s store and kickstarted our 3 hour floating campaign from Alley Springs.


The river had several spots where we could bank the rafts and kids and adults would go for a swim. The river had a couple of Class 1 rapids but anyone could navigate through them. Life jackets were required since it ran deep at certain areas.


It was time for cliff jumping from the famed Button Rock, a few minute walk from our campsite.


Day 3 – The Drive Back

Post the packing ceremonies, we started our 7 our trip back to home.

We took the ‘suggested’ Waze route via Highway 19 instead of Highway 106, which was a poor decision in hindsight. The winding roads of Highway 19 were much worse than 106 and I would certainly recommend taking the Highway 106 back any day.



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