550,000 to visit Roaring River this year
Summer months are busiest for state park
Opening Day at Roaring River State Park may have been four months ago, but staff at the park are in the midst of the busiest time of the year.
Kerry Hays, superintendent of Roaring River State Park, said about 550,000 people are expected to visit Roaring River this year, and the summer months are the most busy.
"Roaring River State Park offers a variety of opportunities to enjoy and explore the great outdoors," Hays said. "There are three campgrounds with 179 campsites, seven hiking trails with over 10 miles of trails through the surrounding hills, a wonderful interpretive nature center, two shelters that groups and families can reserve for a picnic, Camp Smokey -- the park's group camp and a special use area primarily used by Scouts -- and, of course, the river, which is stocked with trout every night during the season by the Missouri Department of Conservation."
Paul Spurgeon, manager of the Roaring River Trout Hatchery, a part of the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the 12-1/2-inch trout used to stock the river have been growing at the hatchery for about two years, and the hatchery stocks 33 different areas of the river based on trout tag sales at the Park Store.
"We raise these fish year-round, so we have about 265,000 ready to go for this season," he said. "They range from about six inches to 12-1/2 inches, and the smaller ones will keep growing until they reach the goal size of 12-1/2 inches, and we'll stock those every month.
"We base our stocking on the anticipated number of tags sold. During the season, we stock about 2-1/4 fish per tag, and we've been pretty good with our estimations. Last year, we stocked at a rate of 2.35 fish per tag."
Hays said although fishing is one of the main attractions, it is not the only thing bringing over half a million people to the park this summer. Camping is another big draw, and Hays said campsites on the weekends are usually packed.
"There are 34 first-come, first-served campsites that are usually occupied by Thursday on any given week during the summer," he said. "The remaining 145 sites can be reserved by calling 1-877-422-6766 or by visiting www.mostateparks.com. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance of the arrival date.
"Usually from Sunday to Thursday, it is more likely to find a campsite to stay in at the park. Weekends are usually our busiest times, particularly when the weather's nice. We're not always filled every weekend, so it's good to call the park office at 417-847-2539 in advance and ask about current availability."
While visitors are casting their lines for trout or firing up a grill near the campsite, Hays said park staff are always at work keeping the park in shape.
"Each week, staff will mow the three campgrounds, picnic areas and other places in the park designated for use by the public," he said. "The trails are checked and cleared regularly, and a crew checks and cleans the restrooms and shower houses several times each day.
"We work hard to preserve the natural resources of the park for future generations while providing well-maintained areas for recreational activities such as camping, hiking and fishing."
Hays said the park also offers some activities throughout the summer, from Kids Fishing Days to Free Fishing Weekend to the Townball Roaring River Style event, held for the first time on June 28.
For more information about the park, people may visit its website at www.mostateparks.com, or call the park office at 417-847-2539.