Outdoor Safety & Ethics

As a visitor to our National Forest, you will find many opportunities to explore nature and enjoy its many woodlands, river, lakes, and its endless recreational activities. To take full advantage of what this National Forest has to offer you; we ask that you prepare yourself in advance for each trip and adventure. It is important that you learn about the area, from its weather and terrain, to the rules and regulation that may govern the activity you will be participating in.

Visitors should be considerate of other forest users, nature, wildlife and the lands that make up this Forest.

We want each of your adventures to be safe and memorable so we have provided some general information links that you may find useful and helpful. We hope you will enjoy your time spent on the Mark Twain National Forest and that you will return again.

Don't forget to Tread Lightly and remember Leave No Trace.

The forest contains some natural hazards, and visitors to our national forest may also find unforeseen hazards and dangers that present unpredictable challenges. By being prepared, you can minimize those hazards and make your trip safer.  Remember that your safety is your responsibility.

  • If You Get Lost

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    • Pay attention.
    • Stay calm.
    • Stay put.
    • As a last resort, follow a drainage or stream downhill. This can be hard going but will often lead to a trail or road.
  • If There Is An Emergency

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    • Call 911.
    • Stay calm.
    • Don't rely on cell phones.
    • Know your location, the nature of the injury, and information about the injured person.
    • Remember response times can be lengthy in remote areas.


The following sections provide information about potential safety challenges and links that offer additional information on the topics.

Animal Hazards

Our national forests provide habitat for many wild animals. They can be upset by human presence and can unexpectedly become aggressive, or may be harmed by their efforts to avoid you. Always keep your distance, and avoid direct interaction with all wildlife. Following these tips will help protect you from a potentially unpleasant experience as well as protecting the wildlife.

  • You are responsible for your safety and the safety of wildlife.
  • Help keep wildlife "wild" by not feeding them. Animals that get food from people may become aggressive. Our foods may harm an animal's digestive system or even cause their death.
  • Help keep wildlife "wild" by not approaching them. All wild animals can be dangerous. Alter your route so that you will move away from animals without disturbing them. Do not block an animal's line of travel.
  • Photograph and watch wildlife from observation areas, or from a safe distance. Use binoculars, spotting scopes and telephoto lenses.
  • If an animal approaches you, it is your responsibility to move away and maintain a safe distance.


Camp & Trail Safety

Whether it’s your first time camping or your five thousandth mile hiking, biking or riding – take a glance at some of these safety tips to help make sure your trip is a fun memory.


Health Hazards

Always be careful of water, plants, weather and bugs. Here is some information on what to watch for.


Natural Hazards


Water Safety

Water is fun, but also very dangerous. Check out this section for information on being safe in, near and around water.

Be sure to bring the proper equipment: 

  • Sun Protection – hats, sunscreen, long sleeves and pants
  • First Aid Kit
  • Plenty of Food and Water
  • Life Vests
  • Map – be sure you know where you are so you do not get lost!


Winter Safety

Winter on the Mark Twain is often a mixed bag of weather options able to deceive even the most seasoned meteorologists. A sunny, 70 degree day may quickly transition to a blustery, cold snow storm in a matter of hours.


Other Safety Concerns

Abandoned Mines, vehicle safety, driving, and other people.


Learn More About Being Safe and Taking Care of Our Forests