Echo Bluff State Park

August, 2018 – Eminence, MO We had plans to meet our friends at Round Spring Campground the weekend before Labor Day. We realized we didn’t have anything going on the week before that required us to stay in Springfield so we left town on Monday. We had a tough time deciding where to go but finally landed on spending a few days at Missouri’s newest state park, Echo Bluff.

Echo Bluff was only a few miles from our weekend destination. It wasn’t quite open the last time we ventured this way in July of 2016 so we had never been there. And it is said to be frequented by the wild horses of Shannon County which I have always wanted to see.

We didn’t have to wait long. Soon after we got set up Jim spotted some horses near an old barn across the road from the campground. I grabbed my camera and headed that way.

I stayed on the sidewalk with a guardrail between them and myself, quite a distance from where they were, hoping not to spook them.

I was afraid they would leave when they noticed me. I was totally unprepared for what actually happened. They spotted me and started galloping toward me! Doesn’t the one on the left look a little maniacal with that hair?!

I hurriedly walked back to Jim who was coming to join me. I didn’t know what protection he could offer me from three crazy horses but I was pretty sure my old farm boy would know what to do. Thankfully we didn’t have to do anything. The horses reached the road, stopped running, and calmly walked past us. They must enjoy messing with the newcomers!

It turns out that these three horses, though part of the wild herd, choose to stay in and around the state park. In fact they appear to be a bit of a nuisance. We saw them being shooed out of many a campsite while we were there.

The pony especially seems to have no fear of humans and, of course, no training. This combination can make him quite the pest. One day he tried to eat our welcome mat. We put it away after that.

The park turned out to be a delight. Sinking Creek runs through the park. It is clear and warmer than the many spring fed creeks and rivers in the area. There are many places along its banks to wade and there are a few decent swimming holes to enjoy.

The park includes cabins and a lovely lodge, both of which had fairly reasonable rates.

The lodge’s back deck looks out on the park’s namesake, Echo Bluff.

The campground was beautiful each morning with mist rising from the creek and the sun rising behind the hills.

It was the perfect park for my morning walks. It was far from crowded in the middle of a week after local schools had started. There were exactly three miles of pavement between the campground, the lodge, the cabins, and their fabulous playground.

On Friday we made the big 3 mile move to Round Spring Campground. I shared the details of Round Spring Camp and Cavern with you on our last visit two years ago. I kept telling my family and friends that they had to make this float with us but it was so hard to get an RV site at the campground. I looked in May and this particular weekend, the one before Labor Day, was the only one they had any RV sites left. They happened to have three and we snapped them up.

As the date approached I started to worry that this group was not going to enjoy the float. The water was a little low in August so it wasn’t moving as fast as it does in the spring and a 9 mile float was longer than they usually like. Jim suggested that we look into putting in at Current River State Park which is around halfway.

This park does not have an official launch but when we visited several years ago they said they were working on one. Their website and everything else we could find on the internet suggested there was not one but we decided to drive over early Saturday morning to see what we could find out.

Several of us arrived soon after 8 am Saturday assuming they would be open. The gate actually said they did not open until 9 am so we parked at a nearby trailhead and walked past the gates. Soon after we began our walk to the river the gates were opened a couple times by employees arriving to work.

About the time we got to the main area of the park a gentleman pulled up and introduced himself as the park’s superintendent. It was still well before 9 but he offered to open the buildings for us and proceeded to give us an outstanding tour. Having been to the park before, we were most interested in showing our friends the gymnasium.

We were impressed with the diamond patterned ceiling which doesn’t have any boards more than a few feet in length. According to our guide this is one of only two examples of this construction still standing in the US.

We had never had the opportunity to tour the rest of the buildings before. Our guide opened each of them and gave us a ton of information on each. The whole property was a corporate retreat for a box company in its heyday.

There was a main lodge which included men’s quarters. Later they added a ladies dorm. And this building on the right was the pool hall.

One of the more interesting features of the buildings was the fireplaces which were all built with formations from a nearby cave, now closed. I realize from a conservation standpoint this is an atrocity, but it was done a really long time ago so we might as well appreciate how unique it is and how much craftsmanship it took.

After an hour tour we asked him what we came there for “Could we launch our kayaks from the park?” He informed us that yes we could but the best place to launch was pretty muddy at the moment and he wouldn’t recommend driving down there. Also he said we would have to have our vehicles gone by the park’s closing at 6 pm.

We headed to camp to load up our boats and get the rest of our group. We then drove back and put in. The place we chose was a bit of a haul and not terribly easy to launch but I think with a little more investigation we could have found a better launch in the park.

We had a great float. This launch cut the 9 mile float to less than 4 which was much more to our group’s liking. There was no need to paddle and plenty of time to fish. We stopped at practically every gravel bar and then spent almost an hour at our favorite spot, the confluence of Sinking Creek and the Current River not far above our takeout.

We enjoyed our time in this area very much. This visit cemented our opinion that this is one of our favorite areas of Missouri. It is nice to know that visitors now have additional options for camping and lodging in the area and another option for starting or stopping a float on the beautiful Current River. FYI: the local outfitters will pick visitors up and return them to their lodging in either Round Spring Campground or Echo Bluff State Park and they offer several great floats on the Current, most of which are around 9 miles long.

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