Early Autumn Trip to Bennett Spring, MO
Though I sometimes dream of moving to the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains, I’ll settle for the simple beauty of where we live. We have a beautiful lake about an hour south of us, and about an hour north, we have a lovely trout park, Bennett Spring State Park.
Bennett Spring State Park in Lebanon, MO, was establish as a state park in the 1920s, but people had been visiting the area and trout fishing from the spring for decades before then. In the 1930s, the CCC built several structures, including the dining lodge, which give Bennett Spring some of the character that remains to this day. You may feel you are taking a step back in time when you visit.
As fall approached, we decided we wanted to take Birdy out for one more trip before we winterized her. Bennett Spring is a favorite of my husband since he is an avid fly fisherman, and we knew fall would be a beautiful time to visit. Though most of the trees weren’t showing their fall colors yet, a few were already bursting forth with the bright golds and oranges that would fill the forest a few weeks after our visit.
Though we hadn’t even hit the true heart of fall yet, the forecast for the weekend called for temperatures hovering around freezing. We would get to test Birdy’s ability to handle the cold!
For this trip, we add two necessities: a down-filled blanket and a mini-heater. Our friend gave us a great tip: Using an electric heater saves you from burning up your propane. Grand advice! As the temperatures dropped, we cranked up the heat and crawled under our quilt.
There’s something to be said about the coziness of our little camper. It is pretty small, but I like having us all so close. One take away I’ll always remember from this trip is the memory of feeling as snug as a bug as we all tucked in.
On any trip, our family tradition is to called out, “G’night, John Boy,” right after lights out. I know my sons have no idea why I do this, but I keep trying to train them to say, “G’night, Elizabeth.” Someday, we will dig up an episode of the Waltons.
Bennett Spring Campgrounds
At Bennett Spring, campers have a big decision to make. Should they stay in the full hookup area, which is lacking in trees but within walking distance to the creek that flows from the spring? Or should they stay up the hill in the campground with the canopy of trees? This campground, while much prettier, doesn’t have sewer or water hookup (though, electricity is available), and campers cannot access any of the park’s amenities without driving down a hill, a really big hill. We had taken our bikes on this trip, but once we saw the campground situation, we realized we could use them to ride TO the creek, but we would not want to take them back up that massive hill. So, alas, the bicycles we had so carefully packed would not get used. However, we did get a chance to test the bike rack we had purchased after the disaster on our previous trip.
This is a view heading into Campground #4:
We were glad we chose the less-convenient campground. It was so much prettier than the area with full hookups. The leaves hadn’t yet began to change, but I’m hoping to return to Bennett Springs some spectacular fall weekend.
Trout Fishing at Bennett Spring
On this trip, we made some wonderful memories. We spent a lot of time by the spring and creek while our older son learned how to fly fish. Look at the color of the water coming out of that spring!
And, of course, my husband had the chance to catch a few of his own, including this lunker.
Our younger son doesn’t like fishing, but he did have fun watching some of the wildlife in and around the park. We checked out the hatchery, where the trout are raised and fattened before being stocked in the creek each night.
The thing our younger son found the most fascinating was a snake munching on a dead fish in the water. You never know what the kids will enjoy!
Hiking at Bennett Spring
We took a walk on a nice trail that runs along the creek. Bennett Spring State Park has several miles of trails. I wanted to do the 7-mile Natural Tunnel Trail but couldn’t motivate my troops to join me.
We enjoyed the Spring Trail (.6 miles) that starts at the spring and runs along the creek up on the hillside. It was a nice way to see the park from a different vantage point. We hope to explore more of the trails on future visits. Maybe I’ll get my family out to the natural tunnel eventually!
Bennett Spring is a great place for a “classic” camping trip. You can kick back and relax, with no pressure to keep busy. Set up your chairs around the campfire in the evening, rest on the banks of the creek, or hop up before opening bell to catch those beautiful rainbow trout. Let the stress leave your body as you enjoy this lovely state park. There’s something special about Bennett Spring that brings our family back year after year.
Bennett Spring is close enough to be one of those places we’ll visit again and again. I’m looking forward to making more memories here.
P.S. Listen to a full review of the Bennett Spring campground, state park, and local attractions on the Campground of the Week podcast, episode 17.
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