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Thousand Hills State Park
Aerial view of Thousand Hills
swim beach & cabins area
Location Adair, Missouri, United States
Area 3,079.70 acres (12.4631 km2)
Elevation 814 ft (248 m)
Established 1952
Visitors 332,299 (in 2017)
Governing body Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Website Thousand Hills State Park
Thousand Hills State Park Petroglyphs Archeological Site
Thousand Hills Petroglyphs 1.jpg
Shelter protecting petroglyphs
at Thousand Hills State Park
Nearest city Kirksville, Missouri
Area 9.9 acres (4.0 ha)
NRHP reference No. 70000320
Added to NRHP January 23, 1970

Thousand Hills State Park is a public recreation area covering some 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) two miles (3.2 km) west of Kirksville in Adair County, Missouri. The state park features 703-acre (284 ha) Forrest Lake and Native American petroglyphs.


In 1950, the nearby city of Kirksville was in need of a larger and more reliable water supply than the Chariton River could provide. Following voter passage of a special bond issue, land was acquired to construct a dam across Big Creek, a tributary of the Chariton. Upon completion in summer 1952, the new body of water was named Forrest Lake in honor of Missouri Governor Forrest Smith. The family of local physician George Laughlin donated 1,100 acres (450 ha) surrounding the lake for the establishment of a recreation area. The city of Kirksville matched the donation by purchasing an additional 1,150 acres (470 ha). The lands were presented to the state of Missouri free of charge in return for the promise of establishing a state park. Upon its official dedication in July 1953, it was named Thousand Hills State Park, in honor of Doctor Laughlin's Thousand Hills Farm that had formerly occupied the land.


A series of Native American rock carvings, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are protected in an enclosed observation and interpretation center. The carvings are estimated to date back at least 1,500 years.

Activities and amenities

The park's lake is used for fishing, swimming, and both motorized and non-motorized boating. A marina offers boat and equipment rentals. Two campgrounds provide a total of 57 campsites. Overnight accommodations are also offered at seven duplex cabins. Trails are available for hiking and bicycling and include the Forest Lake Trail, which is being developed in cooperation with the community volunteer organization FLATS (Forest Lake Area Trail System).

Annual events

The park hosts an annual bass tournament in spring. The NEMO Triathlon formerly held in September was discontinued in 2017.

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