Big Bay Recreation Area, Shell Knob, Missouri

Unfortunately the Big Bay Campground on Table Rock Lake is now closed. You can read on to find out what Big Bay was like and see what future campers will be missing.

Caption: Closed.

On the shore of Table Rock Lake, near the town of Shell Knob, Missouri, lies the Big Bay Recreation Area. Unique on Table Rock, it’s the only campground owned by Mark Twain National Forest. It’s a primitive campground, meaning there is no electricity, no drinking water or showers, though there are flush toilets. But most of the 35 campsites are along the shore of the lake which can be accessed by a short path. Screening between the campsites is quite good, so it’s a great place to have your own little private summer lake holiday.

Big Bay Recreation Area – Campground Summary

Official site Mark Twain National Forest
Reservations Recreation.gov
Facebook Page Big Bay Recreation Area
No. Campsites 35
Loops 2
Our favorite sites #27, #28, #35.
Electric hook-up No
Toilets Flush
Potable Water No
Showers No
Payment Cash or check in an envelope provided at the self serve pay station. $10 per night 2012.
Open year-round No – see official site for availability
Camp host Yes
Amenities Most sites have a path to Table Rock Lake. All sites have a fire ring, picnic table and lantern post. Near-by boat put-in at the day use area.
A man and woman relax and fish while sitting on the shore of Table Rock Lake at Big Bay Recreation Area.

Ginger sat in the shade and read, while I threw lures at non-existent fish, stood up to my chest in the warm water of the lake throwing lures at non-existent fish, and just floated around on the lake. It was a very nice way to spend time on a day when temperatures were in the upper nineties.

Most sites in this campground can be reserved on Recreation.gov and if you need this for a specific date I would recommend doing just that. We found that this campground fills completely during the peak season and weekends. However, we found it nearly deserted in a hot mid-week day in August.

The shore and water of Table Rock Lake as seen from a campsite at Big Bay Recreation Area near Shell Knob, Missouri

A Lazy Photo - taken from where I was sitting. We were there in August during a heat wave and it was too hot to be near the shore. We alternated between sitting in the shade and floating in the water.

Because you have your own piece of shoreline with most campsites, we like bringing our kayaks here. Whether floating in our kayaks or sitting along the shore or Gary can fish, I can relax, and when we get too hot we can just float lazily in the water.

Kayaking with feet up in the water of Table Rock Lake at Big Bay Recreation Area near Shell Knob, Missouri.

Taking a rest from paddling and fishing.

Mist on the water of Table Rock Lake as the sun rises at our campsite at Big Bay Recreation Area in the Mark Twain National Forest.

We were up early and ventured down to the lakeside to see the sunrise. Fortunately the water was still very warm as I had to wade in up to my waist to get these pictures.

Multicolored trees are seen across the water of Big Bay inlet on Table Rock Lake.

In the early morning the water was still and calm providing some excellent reflections.

A van and two tents at a family campsite at Big Bay Recreation Area on Table Rock Lake.

We picked this particular site because it has a small fine gravel beach and faces roughly North East. Ideal for watching the Perseids meteor shower. Which we did by laying in the warm lake water, watching the meteors streak overhead. A magical experience.

Getting to Big Bay Recreation Area from Shell Knob


View Route to Big Bay Recreation Area in a larger map


View Route to Big Bay Recreation Area in a larger map

Google street view showing the junction of State Highway YY at Shell Knob. For Big Bay Campground, turn left, and follow Highway YY for 2.4 Miles, then turn Left at the blue water tower – you won’t miss it! The campground is about .4 miles further on.

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