Trout fishing at it’s finest
Bennett Spring State Park
With trout season just around the corner, Bennett Spring State Park is a great place for a weekend getaway to experience a change of scenery and enjoy the outdoors.
Bennett Springs is a destination for fishermen who wade into a stream feeding the Niangua River, hoping to land Brown trout or one of 400,000 Rainbow trout hatched at Bennett Spring annually. From November through February, fishermen must return their catch to the stream. The Catch-and-Keep season begins March 1 and ends October 31.
Fishermen need daily permits sold at the park and a working knowledge of lures permitted in specific zones. For dedicated veterans, these rules are low hurdles to overcome. The trout’s nature is the higher one, and veterans never tire of jumping it.
With an average of 100 million gallons of water flowing daily, the stream has always been a destination. In the 1800s, people used the stream to power grist mills. They camped while waiting for their flour.
Today, tourists can stay at Bennett Spring in one of the cabins constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. Some are stand-alone; others duplexes. In addition, Bennett Spring is home to five campgrounds, some rustic while others offer electric, water, and sewer services.
The Corps also built a dining lodge, now located next door to a convenience store. Open during the Catch-and-Keep season, the restaurant serves from 7:00 a.m. until one hour after horns signal the end of the fishing day. On Friday and Saturday nights, the restaurant offers a dinner buffet, and on Saturday and Sunday mornings, a breakfast buffet.
Another CCC building, the Gauge House, is still in use. It measures the spring’s output. The dam also still stands and dates from CCC days. Tourists often park to walk across and pose for pictures at this scenic spot.
Fishing is not the only sport or recreation available at Bennett Spring. The park has an Olympic-sized pool with a lifeguard on duty from Memorial Day to a closing in mid-August when children return to school. Pool hours are noon to 6:00 p.m. Admission is free for children 5 or younger. Others pay $4.00. The youngest and even the oldest may also enjoy a wading pool.
Those pools are an ideal cure for sweaty brows after canoeing the spring or hiking one of 7 trails. Serious hikers strike out on one 7.5 miles long, but another is a short ¼ mile. Some lead to a natural tunnel; others to open woodlands.
The Nature Center at Bennett Spring has maps for these trails as well as brochures about the region. Educational displays inside are as popular as the beautiful stream and woods outside. Children can see an exhibit about bats among stalactites and stalagmites, a feature of the many caves across the state. They will also see interpretive exhibits for water creatures too small to see with the naked eye as well as animals living and thriving along the stream. Both will help visitors appreciate the 3,216 acres of Bennett Spring State Park more fully.