Forest General Rules

General Information
General Rules of Conduct
Camper Etiquette
For your safety

General Information

Welcome to Your National Forest

As a visitor to the Mark Twain National Forests you are asked to follow certain rules designed to protect the Forests, the natural environment, and to ensure the health, safety, and enjoyment of your and your fellow visitors.

For your information we have assembled a number of key rules for your consideration. Your cooperation will be greatly appreciated. Please remember to be careful. You are primarily responsible for your own safety. Look out for natural hazards and dangers when you visit your National Forests.

General Rules of Conduct


  • Throw all garbage and litter in containers provided for this purpose, or take it with you.
  • Garbage containers, when provided, are reserved for the use of visitors to the National Forest.
  • Wash food and personal items away from drinking water supplies. Use water faucets only for drawing water.
  • Prevent pollution--keep garbage, litter and foreign substances out of lakes, streams and other water.
  • Use toilets properly. Do not throw garbage, litter, fish cleanings or other foreign substances in toilets or plumbing fixtures

Operation of Vehicles

  • Obey all traffic signs. State traffic laws apply to the National Forests, unless otherwise specified.
  • When operating vehicles of any kind, do not damage the land or vegetation or disturb wildlife.
  • Avoid driving on unpaved roads or trails when they are wet or muddy.
  • Within campgrounds and other recreation sites, use cars, motorbikes, motorcycles or other motor vehicles only for entering or leaving, unless areas or trails are specifically marked for them. Park only in marked parking areas.
  • Do not block, restrict or interfere with others' use of roads or trails.
  • Obey area and trail restrictions on use of trail bikes and other off the road vehicles.
  • A printable brochure of ATV rules and regulations is available.


  • Do not carve, chop, cut or damage any live trees.
  • Preserve and protect your National Forests. Leave natural areas the way you find them.
  • Enter buildings, structures or enclosed areas in National Forests only when they are expressly opened to the public.
  • Indian sites, old cabins and other structures, along with objects and artifacts associated with them, have historic or archeological value. Do not damage or remove any such historic or archeological resource.


  • Obey restrictions on fires. Fires may be limited or prohibited at certain times. Check with the Forest Service during periods of dry or windy weather.
  • Within campgrounds and other recreation sites, build fires only in fire rings, or grills provided for that purpose.
  • Be sure your fire is completely extinguished before leaving. You are responsible for keeping your fire under control.


  • Use picnic sites, swimming areas and other day use areas only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
  • Campgrounds and other recreation sites can be used only for recreation purposes. Permanent use of a campsite or using a campsite as a principal residence is not allowed. Camping is limited to 14 days in a 21 day period unless otherwise posted.
  • In campgrounds, camp only in those places specifically marked or provided.
  • At least one person must occupy a camping area during the first night after camping equipment has been set up, unless permission has otherwise been granted by the Forest District Ranger.
  • Do not leave camping equipment unattended for more than 24 hours without permission from the Forest District Ranger. The Federal Government is not responsible for any loss or damage to personal property.
  • Remove all personal property and trash when leaving.

Fee Areas

  • You must pay a fee to use certain developed sites and facilities. Such areas are clearly signed or posted as requiring a fee.
  • Where fees are required, you must pay before using the site, facility, equipment or service furnished.

Public Behavior

  • No fighting or boisterous behavior
  • Keep noise at a reasonable level. Please be considerate of fellow visitors.

Pets and Animals

  • Pets must always be restrained or on a leash while in developed recreation sites.
  • Pets (except guide dogs) are not allowed in swimming areas.
  • Saddle or pack animals are allowed in recreation sites only where authorized by posted instructions.

Business Activities

Permits are required for any commercial activity.

Audio Devices

  • Operate any audio device, such as a radio or musical instrument, so that it does not disturb other visitors. Many campgrounds have "Quiet Time" hours posted.
  • A permit is required for operating a public address system in or near a campsite, developed recreation site, or over a body of water.

Fireworks and Firearms

  • Do not set off fireworks or other explosives within campgrounds and other recreation sites.
  • Firing a gun is not allowed:
    • in or within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site, or occupied area;
    • across or on a road or body of water;
    • in any circumstance whereby any person may be injured or property damaged.

National Forest Wilderness

  • Motor vehicles and motorized equipment are not allowed in wilderness areas.
  • Preserve the wilderness--"Leave only footprints, take only pictures".

Camper Etiquette


Campers and picnickers are encouraged to use charcoal or camp stoves for cooking. If an open fire is necessary, "dead and down" wood may be gathered. Do not cut living trees or standing dead trees. Never leave a fire unattended. Check for any fire danger restrictions before starting a campfire.

Quiet Time

Be courteous to your neighbors. Please observe quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Generators should not be operated after dark. Keep music and voices low. Listen and enjoy the natural sounds.


To avoid creating potential sources of disease, dispose of sewer water (black water) only in sanitary dump stations. Collect kitchen and bath water (gray water) in a bucket or holding tank and empty in dump station. Please do not use a drain hose for direct disposal. Wash personal items away from campground water faucets or pumps. Help keep the area clean for all to enjoy.

Canine Courtesy

  • The most common nuisance in campgrounds is a loose dog. A usually obedient and innocent dog is often noisy when its owner is away. An unrestrained dog can harm campers, other pets and wild animals.
  • Always keep your pet on a leash in the campground, and never leave your dog unattended. On trails, dogs can interfere with people, horses or bicycles. Keep your dog close to you and under control at all times.

For Your Safety


  • The climate is relatively mild in the spring and fall on the Mark Twain National Forests. Average daily temperatures range from a minimum of 20-26 degrees F in January to a maximum of 100 degrees F in July. The average rainfall is 40 inches per year, including an annual average snowfall of 15 to 20 inches per year.
  • Thunderstorms occur during the summer months. If you are caught in one, stay away from high, exposed places or solitary trees. Be aware of flash flooding of streams and rivers, and don't try to cross flooded roadways.


Unless you are in a developed campsite where the water is regularly tested, it is recommended that all water be purified before drinking. An intestinal parasite, Giardia, is in most of the water in the Forests, but can be removed with purification techniques. If you must drink the water from streams or lakes, use an appropriate filter or bring water to a sustained boil to eliminate harmful bacteria.

Ticks/Chiggers and Lyme Disease

Lyme disease has been noted in Missouri. Lyme disease is tick borne bacterium transmitted by the tiny deer tick. When hiking or exploring the forest, dress appropriately to prevent tick bites. Wearing a hat, long sleeves and long pants may make it more difficult for ticks/chiggers to attach themselves to a host. Light color clothing can help you spot the reddish brown ticks easier. Treating clothing and shoes with a repellant may also help prevent tick and chigger bites. A periodic "tick check" is a good safety measure as ticks must spend some time on the body before transmitting the bacterium. It is very important to seek medical treatment after being bitten by a tick. Have your doctor check for Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick fever.

Snakes Alive!

  • A wide variety of snakes live in the forest. Most snakes are harmless and all snakes fill an important role in the forest animal food chain. If you should see a snake, please give it the right of way and treat it as you would any other forest animal--a subject to observe, but not to disturb.
  • There are three poisonous snakes you will want to watch for: Copperheads, Cotton Mouths and Rattlesnakes.
  • Be careful and watch your step to avoid a surprise encounter with a snake.

Poison Ivy

Remembering the saying "shiny leaves of three" will help you avoid an exposure to poison ivy. Washing with soap and water after an exposure may help reduce the rash that can develop.

Unattended Vehicles

The incidence of theft from vehicles on the Forests is low. However, if you leave your vehicle unattended, all valuables should be locked out of sight; better yet, left at home.!ut/p/z1/04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfIjo8zijQwgwNHCwN_DI8zPyBcqYKAfjlVBmA9cQRQx-g1wAEci9eNREIXf-HD9KKxWIPuAkBle-lHpOflJkOByzEsytkjXjypKTUstSi3SKy0CCmeUlBQUW6kaqBqUl5frpefnp-ek6iXn56oaYNOSkV9coh-BqlK_IDc0NMIgyzSnzMcRAIRE-zk!/dz/d5/L2dBISEvZ0FBIS9nQSEh/?position=Feature&navtype=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&ss=110905&navid=360000000000000&cid=FSM8_045650