Even a familar place can seem new, with a bit of exploring.

To find Meramec State Park, go west in I-44 to the Oak Grove Village/state highway 185 exit. I-44 has signage for the park, and it's nearly impossible to miss the exit. Go south on 185 to the park. All roads and parking lots in the park are paved.

Google has the park correctly located, although its outlines aren't quite right:

See the Missouri Deparment of Natural Resources' web site for more information about the park.

At one point not too long ago, much of the Meramec River was slated for impoundment. For more information, see Connor Watkin's excellent page on the history of the successful effort to stop the dam.

The dam is just part of the story about the Meramec, however. It has a long set of associations with St. Louis. On one hand, it was (and still is) prime country for recreation. Part of the reason is due to its course being largely parallel with route 66 and later I-44; it's still the easiest part of the Ozarks to get to. And consequently there's been a lot of recreational development--parks, canoe liveries, resorts, fishing destinations. And for a time, a lot of people seemed to keep weekend cabins and clubhouses on the river. But on the other hand, the Meramec also had the reputation--especially closer to St. Louis--of being an open sewer. When I was a kid, people turned their noses up at the idea of actually swimming it in.

Meramec State Park is a big (6,800 acres), old, and well developed park. It has a set of well-developed trails, and big sections that are not accessible by official trails. There's plenty to do there, and lots of options for camping and lodging, either in the park or in nearby Sullivan. The river is too big to wade, but I think that someone willing to work the shoreline and backwaters (not exactly an easy thing--more of a hiking than a fishing adventure) could find good fish. And if the park isn't enough, right across the river off 185 is the Meramec Conservation Area, a unit of the Conservation Department, which offers another 4,000 acres up public land.

Honestly, I could see myself spending a week there, camping and fishing, hiking the trails, exploring trailless areas, maybe spending a day in a canoe. And I don't think I'd run out of stuff to do.