The outdoors is open.

Museums are closed. Theaters are closed. Events of all kinds are canceled.

But outdoors remains open, at least for now. There are no shelter-in-place orders in the region yet, although the number of those is growing around the country.

However, many parks that remain open are modifying operations.

Donna Stokes, infection preventionist at Mercy Hospital Joplin, recommended people follow commonsense guidelines when outdoors: avoiding large groups, engaging in social distancing, staying home if feeling sick and avoiding people who are sick.

"As long as it is not in a big group, that is fine," she said, referring to outdoor activity.

Over the weekend, people around Missouri hit the trails and parks, and Carol Comer, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which oversees state parks, tweeted a photo while hiking advising although the state is keeping its parks open, services may be limited because of COVID-19. Campgrounds were closed Monday night. Visitor centers and park offices are closed, and events have been canceled. Comer, in her tweet Saturday, advised visitors to bring their own water.

"People are coming here, they are feeling comfortable coming here," Paul Spurgeon, manager of the hatchery at Roaring River State Park, south of Cassville, said recently. Last week — spring break for many schools — they were getting up to 1,000 anglers on some days, but there was still plenty of opportunity to fish the stream with appropriate social distancing.

Buy your license online and the only contact you need to have with anyone is a brief moment of interaction when you buy your trout tag at the park store.

If the river looks a little too crowded for your comfort level, the park has more than 4,800 acres and miles and miles of interconnected trails.

North of Joplin, Prairie State Park has a similar amount of elbow room — nearly 4,000 acres — that is coming alive this spring. And you don't have to worry too much about exposure. On a recent Saturday, Dana Hoisington, naturalist at Prairie State Park, said they did not have any visitors.

The park is home to hundreds of species of prairie plants, many of them endangered or threatened, as well as a herd of bison.

"The bluets are starting to poke through," Hoisington said. "Rose verbena will be starting here before too much longer. There are some spring beauties up now," referring to some of the prairie wildflowers. Indian paintbrush blooms in April.

"There are 16 miles of trail they can go on, relieve some stress," Hoisington added.

Joplin's Frisco Trail and the Ruby Jack in northern Jasper County also are both open for bike riding and walking.

George Washington Carver National Monument has closed its visitor center and all indoor programs are canceled, but the site remains open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. At this time, the 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. outdoor ranger-led tours are being offered daily.

Silver Dollar City is planning to open sometime in May, but many other Branson attractions remain closed. However, Table Rock State Park has numerous outdoor alternatives, including mountain biking, hiking, boating, fishing and kayaking.

Carl Bonnell, park superintendent, said, "The White River Valley Trail system is 11.75 miles long. We get quite a few trail runners."

There are four loops and three trailheads.

"We've got a boat launch ramp and a picnic area," he said, and a nearby marina.

There is a 2.5-mile Lakeshore Trail that is paved.

"It's a good way to get out of the house," Bonnell added.

Like state parks, the Missouri Department of Conservation has closed its visitor centers, including the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center in Joplin's Wildcat Park, and canceled its programs, at least through April 15, but its conservation areas remain open, including:

• Bushwhacker Lake Conservation Area, at nearly 4,800 acres on the Barton-Vernon county line, includes the 157-acre Bushwhacker Lake, as well as numerous smaller ponds and lakes.

• Shawnee Trail Conservation Area — 3,635 acres in Barton County — also offers 14-acre Pin Oak Lake and numerous strip pits for fishing.

• Huckleberry Ridge Conservation Area — more than 2,000 acres east of Pineville — offers trails for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.

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