When it comes to Missouri state parks, I'll admit I'm partial to Roaring River State Park. I didn't grow up visiting Roaring River like so many other Barry County residents. Instead, I've grown to love the park since moving to Cassville in 1986. This will not be the first time I've written about my love for Roaring River and it won't be my last.
I drove down to the park on Monday for a scheduled photo and then took the opportunity to make a trip through the campgrounds and up around the hatchery to witness the calm before the storm of visitors arrived for Opening Day. Already, there was a line of people waiting for the park store to open so they could buy the first trout tags of the season. A little less than a third of the campgrounds were full with campers, and the comforting woody smell of campfires filled the morning air. As I drove by the empty riverbanks, I pictured what the park would look like in less than 24 hours time.
On Tuesday, thousands made the trip to the park for Opening Day. Some anglers were there for the first time, and others claimed the same spot on the riverbank that they've fished from for decades. Others just come to Opening Day for the atmosphere. I, myself, enjoy watching all the action and then going to the Inn for breakfast.
Roaring River is a special place that conjures up memories of family outings and school trips. For me, the park is where I go to get away from the busyness of life. The minute I drive down the hill into the valley that cradles Roaring River, I feel the stress slip away. I love to walk the trails or just stroll along the river. It's always cooler at the park, and quieter.
Those who arrived at Roaring River for the start of the 2011 trout season this week found the park in excellent condition, thanks to a dedicated park staff and the additional help of members of the State Parks Youth Corps this past summer. Park Superintendent Dusty Reid has done a fantastic job of managing his staff, and I think the park has never looked better.
Opening Day is also a day of celebration for Cassville and surrounding communities, because it marks the official start of another tourist season for the area. Cassville in particular benefits from its proximity to one of the state's most popular parks. Roaring River State Park is vital to the growth and prosperity of Barry County, and local residents and businesses should treasure that relationship. The Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce has been wise to play a very prominent role in Opening Day tradition by serving coffee to anglers in the early morning hours on March 1 and manning a weigh-in station at the CCC Lodge. Cassville has been referred to as the gateway to Roaring River State Park, and we are grateful for that designation.