Johnson Shut-Ins is located about 1.5 hours west of my hometown and it’s one of those places we went growing up. It’s the perfect place to spend the day playing in the water and camping, if that’s your thing. While my sister and I were planning things to do while we were home a couple weeks ago, this came up. I kept seeing it pop up on lists of the country’s best swimming holes (see here and here), so we figured a trip was in order. I hadn’t been there in years. I honestly can’t remember the last time we were there. My parents were amazed at how much it had changed. At the park entrance, there was a store with bathrooms and showers and the path to the river was paved. It used to be just a trail and basically a shack with the kind of bathrooms that make you question if just going in the bushes wouldn’t be better.
The shut-ins are narrow channels following the fractures and joints in the rock. These make perfect pools to swim in and water flowing down the rocks makes teeny waterfalls. It’s truly a kid’s playground.
In 2005, the Taum Sauk Reservoir broke and dumped 1.3 million gallons of water on the valley, essentially destroying the landscape and the park. The rocks in the area are granite and the water moved them like they were nothing. It took 5 years until the park was completely reopened. It’s amazing what all went into the cleanup. The cleaned smaller rocks out by hand, vacuumed up sediment, and lived larger rocks out by helicopter.