A step into Thousand Hills State Park is a step back in history.

Scattered on rocks in the park near Kirksville are prehistoric rock carvings called petroglyphs. The ones in Thousand Hills State Park are more than 1,500 years old, said Ryan Persinger, the park superintendent.

“We’re one of two state parks that have a major petroglyph site in the state, and then we’re the farthest north,” Persinger said. “One is at Washington State Park, and they’re in the St. Louis area.”

The park is about 100 miles northwest of Columbia in Adair County, almost entirely accessible via U.S. 63.

In the park’s interpretive shelter, visitors can discover the history and meaning of these hieroglyphic-like carvings. But Persinger said most people visit the park for Forest Lake, which covers almost 600 acres.

The lake is available for most aquatic activities. Fishers can bring their rods and bait and expect to catch catfish, largemouth bass, crappie and walleye in the lake.

On site, Thousand Hills State Park has a fishing dock and cleaning station. For swimmers, the lake beach is open, although there are no lifeguards.

There’s also room for boats out on the lake . The park has a paved boat ramp and rentals for visitors interested in kayaking, canoeing, pontooning or paddle boarding on the water .

From the water to the shore, Thousand Hills also offers a number of land amenities. The park has over 12 miles of trails to hike or walk and a campground with cabins.

Persinger said Thousand Hills State Park brings together history and current happenings to make the “best of both worlds.”

“You’re able to get away and get out in nature, but at the same time, you’re not too far from purpose,” he said. “You can spend a lot of your time outdoors. If you need to get something from town, it’s not a two-hour drive. You’re right here.”

  • Feature reporter for The Columbia Missourian, Spring 2021. Reporter, Anchor and Producer at KOMU 8 News. Studying broadcast journalism and political science. Contact me at aemf82@mail.missouri.edu.

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