Bennett Spring State Park is one of our most favorite camping spots in the state of Missouri and we tend to make a yearly pilgrimage to visit the river stocked with fresh trout. Trout fishing season opens March 1 and goes until October 31 and fish are stocked daily throughout the season.
Bennett Spring State Park has a total of five campgrounds with a grand total of 189 camping sites available. The majority of their sites are basic, or electric sites but they do have 48 sites with full service hookups. This year we opted to stay in Campground 1, the full service campground located closest to the river. We selected our campsite and made our reservations online through the Missouri State Park Camping Reservation System six months ago.
The last time we stayed in Loop 1 was approximately 8 years ago in our vintage Argosy. The loop had more and bigger trees than I remembered. I did notice that the row we selected had our campers facing North, with the doors and awnings facing West and the slides to the East. I thought to myself, in the heat of the summer, the long hot afternoon and evening hours would effectively render our shade producing awnings useless. Luckily, spring is upon us and the temperature highs were in the mid-seventies and the lows in the upper forties. I did make a mental note to look at the orientation of the map the next time we select a campsite online. Each site came with a completely level concrete pad, a fire ring, a picnic table, and a post with a hook. Some of you might think that is for trash or even a lantern but we fisherman know that post is for our wet waders.
Our four night stay at Bennett was primary to let the trout fishermen release some stored up cabin fever. The river was slightly low due to the lack of rain in the area so far this spring, but was a welcome relief from the damaging floods that occurred this past Christmas season. The fishing was great! We had no problems meeting our daily limit. My dad, Allen and I all noticed that the average trout seemed much bigger this trip than in the past and most of them when caught, had some seriously full bellies. No doubt the trout were eating well this season. We discussed theories on why the trout were bigger and we were able to track down a hatchery employee who did confirm for us that in fact the trout are bigger this spring than normal. He informed us that three things were contributing to the larger trout:
- They had a surplus supply of trout that they held over from last year. This means there were fed in the beds all winter long.
- The superintendent of the park made the decision to feed the river all winter. In years past the fish left in the river at the conclusion of the season were left to fiend for themselves. This resulted in skinny, “snake” like trout.
- The fish are always a little bigger in the spring than the late summer/fall when we normally visit.
We did have a couple of interactions with the larger community during our stay. Allen had a small issue with his hot water and received quick and efficient service from Glynn’s Mobile RV Repair. Glynn came to our campsite and resolved his problem super fast. If you need emergency RV service while at Bennett, give Glynn a call.
We also visited our friends at Hidden Valley Outfitters, they are a full service campground literally right across the highway from the state park. Besides camping you can book float trips from HVO and they will take you up stream and you raft or canoe your way right back to the campsite. We stayed with them and took a canoe trip with them last summer. They also have a wedding chapel on sight.
We had a “quick” lunch at Hillbilly Burger which is located in the park. We had cheeseburgers, french fries, and their fried mushrooms. The fries are hand cut. Their mushrooms were good. The service was the slowest thing imaginable. We would have entertained the idea of ice cream but honestly we had to wait so long to order and for our food that by the time we were done with our meal, we were really done. I would also say it would have been nice for them to have at least given us our drinks while we waited for food.
Since Allen, my father, and I went down before our wives and daughters showed up, we visited The Lodge, a restaurant in the state park for several of our meals. As soon as you walk through the door, you’ll be greeted with a friendly face and we’ve always had great service. We visited The Lodge for breakfast once and supper a couple of times. The food off the menu is served hot and plenty of it. They always have a small fresh salad bar available as well. On the weekends they set up a buffet with more than enough choices including baked and fried chicken, catfish, baked pasta, fresh veggies, and mashed potatoes. Of course they have a selection of home made pies if you save some room.
The epicenter of the park is the general store. You can buy everything from daily fishing tags and waders to pork rinds and wind chimes. There is a full service fly shop, bait and tackle store as well. They sell Bennett Spring souvenir coffee cups and giant stuffed snakes. If you need it, they probably have it, if you don’t need it, they probably have it anyway. As always in the park you’ll get friendly service with a smile.
Be sure to walk around the rearing ponds at the hatchery. You can even take a tour, or do what we did, asked one of the park employees a bunch of questions. They seem more than happy to share their knowledge about the park with you. And brings some quarters with you so that you can buy some fish chow to feed the fish.
There also a Nature Center and several hiking tails you can visit as well. There is other lodging available in the form of cabins and hotel room and a swimming pool that’s open during the summer months.
Hopefully it is easy to see why Bennett Spring State Park is one of our favorites. We did enjoy our time at Campground 1 and will be making advanced plans to visit it again. I will leave you with this short video. The flat roads at Campground 1 allowed the girls to practice their bicycling skills, I am happy to say that soon both the girls will be wheelin’ around a campground near you!