If you’re looking to get away this summer, but you don’t have a lot of time or money to go very far, a trip to Klondike Park in Augusta — whether for just a few hours, a whole day, a weekend or longer — can provide you with that vacation feeling just minutes from home.
Located off of Highway 94 between Augusta and Defiance, Klondike Park features a beautiful white sand beach around a large fishing lake, bluffs and trails for both hiking and biking, campsites and cabins, all surrounded by epic views of the Missouri River Valley.
“It is kind of a tourist attraction,” said Nancy Lee Gomer, marketing coordinator and public information officer for St. Charles County Parks. “We get guests from all over the United States, especially with the Katy Trail running right through it.
“We get a lot of campers, a lot of outdoor enthusiasts, people just wanting to stop in and enjoy the scenes.”
Last year alone more than 167,242 people visited the park (based on car counts only), said Gomer, noting that number doesn’t include all the hiking and biking enthusiasts who come in right off Katy Trail.
“Whenever I’m at Klondike, I feel like I’m at a different place in the world, because of all the terrain and the white silica sand beaches,” said Gomer. “It is just stellar.
“You’d be surprised how many people go out there just to relax and take in the scenery.”
If you aren’t that familiar with Klondike or haven’t made it there yet, don’t knock yourself. The park isn’t really that old.
St. Charles County Parks purchased the 250-acre site less than 20 years ago, in November 1999, from Dr. Henry and Jean Macler, and opened it to the public in 2004, said Gomer. But the story of the land goes back to the 1800s.
Was Once a Quarry
The property was originally owned by Wilhelm/William Engelage, a farmer from Prussia. In 1898, the Tavern Rock Sand Company purchased the land to open a quarry.
Klondike Quarry was the source of silica sand produced by quarrying and crushing the St. Peters Sandstone formation, which was 120 to 130 feet deep, said Gomer.
The sand was shipped to Owens-Illinois Inc., in Alton, Ill., where it was mixed with soda and limestone to create glass products, as well as cement, brick, steel, soap, roofing and other industrial materials.
Production reached an all-time high in 1945, with 233,240 tons of sand exported to meet war demands, said Gomer.
The quarry was shut down in 1983 and the land sat unused until 1992 when Dr. and Mrs. Macler purchased it and opened Klondike Stone Company, selling boulders for landscaping material and quarry sand for area golf courses.
The couple also built a home on the property, which was later turned in to a bed and breakfast and currently is used as the Klondike Meeting Facility. Today it is available to rent for parties, reunions, weddings and more. It is closed to the public outside of those private events, said Gomer.
After purchasing the property in 1999, St. Charles County Parks began developing the land for a park in December 2001, said Gomer. Supplemental funding was provided by the Land and Water Conservation Fund ($116,981), National Recreation Trails Grants ($100,000) and a Lewis and Clark Conservation Grant ($11,800).
The lake, which is one of the most popular sites in the park for photos, was the quarry location.
“That is where they dug the silica sand. And when we got it, we filled it with water,” said Gomer.
Hiking, Biking, Fishing
Hiking, biking, fishing and camping are some of the top activities at Klondike. The park features nearly 4 miles of hiking/biking trails and several bike skills areas.
The shorter trails on the western side of the park are generally rockier and more technical. These are not recommended for beginning bike handlers.
The Donkey Kong Loop trail is less than half a mile, but the trail zigs and zags, exactly like the video game for which it’s named, said Gomer.
On the eastern side of the park, Hogsback Trail is just over 1 mile long and very popular, but also very steep in places, Gomer noted.
The trails are always open to foot traffic, but some may be closed to bicycles after rain, said Gomer.
Horseback riding is not allowed at Klondike Park.
Fishing is allowed in the lake, which is stocked annually, but at this point swimming is prohibited, along with any type of boats, including kayaks or canoes. Although that may change in the future, Gomer noted.
Tent Sites and Cabins
For people wanting to camp at Klondike, the park features six cabins (one ADA accessible) and 43 tent sites, as well as three large picnic pavilions.
The cabins do have one electrical outlet and a ceiling fan. There is no central air or heat, but the windows do open, and there’s also a nice table. Cabins sleep up to eight guests with two bunk beds, a loft and pull-out futon couch.
Each cabin has an outdoor picnic table, grill and fire ring.
Cabins cost $65 per night to rent, and they must be reserved in advance by using the online reservation system or by contacting the St. Charles County Parks Administrative Offices during business hours (8 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday) at 636-949-7535.
For cabins, check-in is at 3 p.m. and check-out at noon the next day.
Tent camping sites are limited to two tents with a maximum of five guests. Each site features its own picnic table and fire ring. Cost is $10 per night.
Online reservations may be booked at least four days prior to reservation date. Phone reservations may be booked at least one day prior to reservation date.
Many campers use the online reservations option merely to check availability, to see which cabins are available, and then they call to book the cabin they want, said Gomer. They do that because there is a small third-party booking fee to make reservations online.
There are some “walk-in” tent camp sites available off the Katy Trail. To rent those, campers should retrieve a campsite fee envelope from the black “iron ranger” mailbox located at the information kiosk near the shower house, fill out the manila envelope and place exact fee amount inside.
For people in need of assistance, St. Charles County Parks Rangers do check on campers daily, said Gomer.
Campers do have access to the camp kitchen, which features a large stainless steel countertop, many electrical outlets, a hot plate for cooking and a deep basin sink.
“That is open to everybody on a first-come, first-served basis, but there is a lot of space in there,” said Gomer.
Anyone wanting to camp, either in a tent or a cabin, should make their reservation early since during camping season the availability can be quite limited.
“People love to camp at Klondike. It’s a prime camping location,” Gomer remarked.
For more information on Klondike Park or to check the availability of renting a tent site or cabin, visit https://www.sccmo.org.
Klondike Park is located at 4600 Highway 94 South, Augusta, Mo.