Forty minutes from where I live near Buffalo Missouri sits a trout hatchery park well worth a visit any time of year. Bennett Spring https://mostateparks.com/park/bennett-spring-state-park is more than just a great spot for fishing enthusiasts. Camping, hiking, swimming-all can be on the agenda for a day, weekend or longer. Cabins dot the area as well as sites made for any size RV or small tag along. During summer, a swimming pool sits overlooking the river and would be a great place for those uninterested in fishing. With Covid 19 ruling our lives this year, getting outside more than 6 feet apart and engaging in any activity is a welcome relief.
I set out on a Monday in early September, thinking I’d be one of the few in the park. Au contraire, the place was packed with anglers and campers hoping to snag a trout or two for dinner or for the shear exhilaration of winning the game known as fly fishing. As I hiked, I noted how unusually quiet it was. I knew there were at least 500 people in the general vicinity, but that didn’t matter. They were completely focused on their own pursuits and silently at that.
Hiking down Whistle trail, rated moderate, I met up with Bluff Trail without ever seeing the blaze changes (red blazes for Whistle-which can fade and orange for Bluff). This area was more rugged with the spring rains causing areas of concern where the trail had eroded away. I noted the trout in deeper waters and just out of reach of most anglers’ ability to cast. Smart fish. They numbered in the hundreds, all lazily swaying in the current and remaining in the same general area. Though not a very long hike, the terrain was steep and I decided to take the main road back to my vehicle instead of backtracking the way I had come. Passing the general store, now with less merchandise at the end of tourist season, though still well stocked as well as the dining lodge which was open for guests. Upon arriving I grabbed a few maps of the area from the store, one specifically for trails and one with general information. The staff was helpful and friendly, something state parks have in common here.
There are 5 trails here with Natural Tunnel Trail being the longest at 7 ½ miles. This is the trail I’d like to take next. The Alltrails app https://www.alltrails.com/ has some nice features and can give up to date information on the conditions of the trail from feedback given from other avid hikers. I’ve used this app before when hiking Hercules Glade. I may be able to convince my husband to take a short weekend trip there next year and hike while he scares fish away (he’s skunked every seasoned fisherman he’s ever fished with).
For me, this was a great half day trip and I was able to get in a quick though rugged hike in preparation for my goal of a longer and even more rugged hike next spring in Arkansas. I could have spent more time and of course, Lebanon is close by for shopping and other pursuits for those less likely to don hip waders and stand in cold streams waiting for a hit. But Lebanon is another adventure. So get out there, fall is calling.
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