Roaring River State Park, Missouri: An In-Depth Family Adventure Guide

Roaring River State Park, Missouri: An In-Depth Family Adventure Guide

Whether it’s a few nights away or a weekend fishing trip, family vacations are an awesome way to curate lifetime memories with your loved ones. Finding an itinerary that suits the entire family can be a challenging feat especially if your kids have divergent interests.

To keep everyone entertained, you must pick a location that caters to everyone if you’re to have a pleasant outing as a family. We can’t think of a better destination than Roaring River State Park.

Nestled in the heart of the Ozarks, Roaring River State Park is a hidden gem that promises not only breathtaking natural beauty but also a family experience that will be etched into your memory like that catchy pop song you can’t stop humming.

Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by the distinctive sound of, you guessed it, roaring water! The park’s centerpiece is a stunning spring-fed river that flows with a force that’ll make you question why you ever settled for those sad neighborhood fountains. In this article, we delve into what makes Roaring River State Park a cherished destination for adventurous families;

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History of Roaring River State Park

Perched in the Ozark Mountains in southeastern Missouri, Roaring River State Park sprawls across 4,293 acres, unveiling the breathtaking and rugged beauty of the region. Embraced by a deep, narrow valley and surrounded by stunning landscapes, the park is a magnetic draw for both outdoor enthusiasts and admirers of nature alike.

During the early 1800s, the Roaring River became a sought-after resort destination, attracting travelers enchanted by its natural beauty. The gushing water from Roaring Spring has been pivotal to the establishment of several mills at this location over the years.

The spring derives its name from the thunderous sound created by the 20 million gallons of water that bubbled up from beneath the rock shelter where the spring emerges. In 1865, a dam was constructed, covering the spring with a mill pond and silencing its once boisterous “roar.”

A St. Louis-based businessman, Dr. Thomas Sayman, acquired 2,400 acres of property surrounding the spring and generously donated it to the state in 1928 to be developed into a park. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) undertook significant projects at the park, leaving a lasting impact. They constructed a fish hatchery, picnic shelters, trails, and cabins, many of which continue to serve visitors to this day.

Roaring River State Park on Google Maps:

When to visit Roaring River State Park

As the most visited Missouri state park, Roaring River effortlessly lures in millions of visitors each year. Families, lovebirds, and fishing enthusiasts all find solace in the park’s picturesque landscapes throughout the year. In spring, anglers skillfully wield fly rods along the banks of their favorite pools, while a short jaunt downstream reveals parents imparting the sacred art of fishing to their budding young apprentices.

Roaring River State Park hatches over 250,000 trout, diligently restocking the river daily during the peak fishing season. From March 1 to Oct. 31, the park accommodates anglers at varying intervals between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. However, to niche Roaring River State Park as merely a fish hatchery hub would be a colossal oversight.

The park unfolds a tapestry of wonders, boasting outstanding hiking trails that weave through breathtaking scenery, poised to elicit gasps of awe from your entourage. The fall season unveils a different kind of magic, where cool winds carry whispers of tranquility and the trees create a kaleidoscope of colors, casting a spellbinding allure over hikers treading the trails.

What to do at Roaring River State Park

Whether you’re accompanied by an ardent angler, a hiking aficionado yearning for scenic trails, or a nature enthusiast in search of a day filled with recreation, Roaring River State Park boasts an enticing array of offerings to capture the interest of every member in your group. Here are some activities to do on your visit to the park;

1. Fishing

Renowned for its exceptional trout fishing opportunities, Roaring River State Park is a haven for anglers. The Roaring River is consistently stocked with rainbow and brown trout, luring enthusiasts from both near and far.

The park caters to anglers of all ages and skill levels with designated catch-and-release as well as catch-and-keep areas, ensuring a tailored fishing experience for everyone. Fly fishing is a also popular activity within the park.

You can acquire fishing licenses and tags at the Park Store, situated at the junction of Missouri 112 and State Highway F. The store also offers a range of fishing equipment, tackle, camping supplies, groceries, and souvenirs.

2. Visit the Chinquapin Nature Center

The Ozark Chinquapin Nature Center is located within the historic shower house constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s. Despite its size, this small museum is a treasure trove of knowledge, offering insights into park landscapes, geology, fossils, and human history.

While here, explore informative exhibits showcasing the park’s rich natural history, featuring captivating displays of animals and nature. You can also peruse diverse books, guides, and Roaring River souvenirs. The nature center offers the unique opportunity to encounter live animals on display.

The dedicated staff at the Nature Center are readily available to field any inquiries about park resources or provide valuable suggestions regarding hiking trails and other engaging activities. It’s a little haven of information tucked away, waiting to surprise and educate those who take the time to explore its offerings.

Ozark Chinquapin Nature Center on Google Maps:

3. Swimming and picnicking

In summer, guests can take a plunge in the park’s inviting swimming pool or indulge in the nearby Beebe’s Roaring River Waterslide for a splash of excitement. This waterslide offers a lively and enjoyable means for kids to cool down following a day filled with park exploration.

Abounding with picnic tables scattered across its grounds, Roaring River State Park is also an ideal locale for a laid-back lunch or a convivial family get-together. Take a breather from your outdoor pursuits, recline beneath the cool canopy of trees, and bask in the serene ambiance.

Beebe’s Roaring River Waterslide on Google Maps:

4. Hiking

Explore the wonders of Roaring River State Park by scouring any of its seven hiking trails. The trails can accommodate a range of fitness levels and interests. Whether you prefer strolls through nature or crave more exhilarating treks, the trails offer breathtaking scenery and vibrant local wildlife, and enable you to discover the captivating beauty of the Ozark landscapes. Here are some family-friendly hiking trails in Roaring River State Park;

1. Deer Leap Trail

Embark on a delightful journey along the 2-mile out-and-back trail, accessible from either the parking area adjacent to the historic CCC lodge or the pathway near the spring. Opting for the spring-side entrance, ascend the trail by navigating the steps; brace yourself for a short yet steep and rugged climb.

Traverse along a charming wooden boardwalk, leading you to an impressive overlook boasting panoramic views of the spring pool and hatchery. As the trail descends, it meanders over the dam’s summit, guiding you on a scenic route toward the lodge. Marvel at the diverse landscapes and take in the natural beauty that unfolds with every step on this picturesque path.

2. River Trail

Embark on a scenic adventure with the 0.6-mile trail commencing near the CCC lodge and meandering alongside the river, eventually leading to the campground. Built by the CCC in the 1930s, this path initially maintains a gentle incline, offering a leisurely start before gradually ascending the hillside. As you climb, be prepared for panoramic views of the Roaring River, creating a breathtaking backdrop.

Spring unveils a picturesque display of beautiful wildflowers adorning the trail, adding a burst of color to your journey. The trail’s terrain evens out, guiding you past intriguing bluffs that beg exploration. Keep your eyes peeled for captivating sights as the path winds its way near these natural wonders.

3. Devil’s Kitchen Trail

Embark on the captivating Devil’s Kitchen trail, a delightful exploration that, while not overly lengthy, unveils the rugged beauty of the park’s features. Located in the picnic area across from the CCC Lodge, the trailhead is the gateway to an adventure waiting to unfold.

The journey kicks off with a brisk ascent, as the trail swiftly switchbacks up the hill above the valley. Devil’s Kitchen Trail derives its name from a peculiar rock outcrop that once formed a roomlike enclosure. Legend has it that this unique formation served as a hideout for Civil War guerrillas, though time has seen the collapse of this intriguing rock room.

As you continue along the trail, you’ll meander past these historic rocks, the path guiding you toward the road. Following a parallel course with the road and the river, the trail winds its way back to the trailhead. For those visiting in spring, keep an eye out for the vibrant hues of wildflowers, adding a touch of botanical beauty to your nature-filled journey.

Devil’s Kitchen Trailhead on Google Maps:

4. Spring House Trail

Start your adventure by parking at the base of the expansive lot in front of the Emory Melton Inn and Conference Center. Your journey kicks off with a jaunt across a charming wooden footbridge over the wet weather creek. Following a brief uphill stretch, you will have to choose whether to veer left or right.

Opting for the left trail sets you on an ascent, steering you uphill to complete the loop in a clockwise fashion. Alternatively, choosing the right trail guides you to a flatter section before introducing a brief incline leading to a petite cave.

Discover the Springhouse Cave, a natural haven with a touch of “free air conditioning.” Kneel towards the cave entrance, and relish the cool breeze that beckons, offering a refreshing respite.

Spring House Trail on Google Maps:

Where to eat around Roaring River State Park

Roaring River State Park is a haven for nature enthusiasts, anglers, and adventure seekers alike. But amidst the breathtaking landscapes and the exhilarating outdoor activities, one question often arises: Where does one go to satiate the appetite worked up by all that exploration?

Fear not, fellow foodies, for Roaring River State Park not only offers a feast for the eyes but also a delightful culinary journey that will leave your taste buds roaring for more.

1. Roaring River Restaurant

From 7:00 a.m. until the restaurant shuts its doors an hour after the night’s fishing frenzy, the restaurant delivers a delectable home-cooked feast! Whether you fancy your eggs over easy or scrambled, yearn for chicken fried steak with our homemade gravy, or crave the crisp perfection of their special recipe fried chicken, the restaurant is dedicated to ensuring you depart feeling thoroughly satiated.

As you step into the Emory Melton Inn, you will be greeted by the irresistible aroma of freshly cooked bacon or the sizzling allure of grilled burgers permeating the parking lot—depending on the time of day, of course.

Emory Melton Inn on Google Maps:

2. Grotto Wood Fired Grill & Wine Cave

Nestled in the enchanting downtown district, this hidden gem in Eureka Springs is a true marvel. The original structure stands proudly atop solid rock, with an active spring gracefully flowing through.

This distinctive rock formation creates an inviting and romantic ambiance, setting the stage for an exceptional dining experience. Whether you’re captivated by the beauty of the cave, the enticing aroma of the wood-fired grill, the delectable taste of their unique flavor combinations, the rhythmic vibes of custom music, or the overall enchanting atmosphere, prepare for a sensory extravaganza at this remarkable restaurant.

Grotto Wood Fired Grill & Wine Cave on Google Maps:

3. BBQ Station

Craving a barbecue feast? Look no further than BBQ Station, located just 6 miles from the park. Renowned for its delectable barbecue dishes, this spot isn’t just a one-trick pony – they also dish out mouth-watering American cuisine alongside their barbecue specialties.

BBQ Station on Google Maps:

Where to stay in Roaring River State Park

Roaring River State Park provides a variety of choices for overnight accommodations. You can opt for the campground, which features both basic sites and those with electric/sewer/water hookups, complete with a convenient showerhouse nearby. For your camping necessities, the park store has you covered.

There are also several cabin options, some of which boast picturesque river views. For those desiring a more refined stay, the Emory Melton Inn and Conference Center offers motel-style rooms and a full-service restaurant. The park truly caters to every taste and preference in the realm of overnight stays.

1. Emory Melton Inn and Conference Center

Perched atop a hill near the park entrance, the Emory Melton Inn and Conference Center is a remarkable stone and timber lodge. This establishment has exceptionally furnished guest rooms and an array of facilities, featuring a refreshing swimming pool and a comprehensive full-service restaurant.

Emory Melton Inn and Conference Center on Google Maps:

2. Camping

Experience a night beneath the celestial canvas at one of the park’s designated camping sites. Roaring River State Park caters to both tent enthusiasts and RV aficionados, providing a diverse range of camping options. Awaken to the melodic symphony of nature, cocooned within the tranquil embrace of the park’s serene atmosphere.

The campgrounds come equipped with essential amenities such as restrooms, showers, and electric hookups, ensuring a comfortable stay. Opting for a night of camping at Roaring River offers the chance to completely engage with the park’s natural splendor and relish a peaceful outdoor retreat.

3. Cabins

Roaring River State Park provides an array of cabins catering to those seeking a rustic and nature-immersed experience. Offering a diverse selection, the park features cabins that span from basic accommodations to more luxurious options, with some even boasting historical significance. Rates for these cabins vary, starting from $139 per night and reaching up to $199 per night.

A family trip to Roaring River State Park is more than just a vacation; it’s a rejuvenating escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. So, pack your sense of adventure, your love for nature, and your family, and embark on a journey to the Roaring River – where the river roars, the laughter echoes, and memories are made.

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