Stocking resumes at Roaring River State Park

Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Cameron Taylor, right, 6, of Supulpa, Okla., beams with pride as he reeled in a trout over the weekend at Roaring River State Park. Stocking has resumed and campgrounds are open for reservation again. Contributed photo

Fish-cleaning station torn down; campground open for reservation

Stocking has resumed at Roaring River State Park and campgrounds are available for reservation, but one change is more noticeable than others — the fish-cleaning station is no more.

Joel Topham, Roaring River State Park natural resources manager, said initially, staff were allowing anglers to use the station, so long as six-foot social distancing rules were observed. However, Topham said at times, there were still groups of more than 20 gathering at the small facility.

This led to staff closing and roping off the station, and once closed, staff removed the stainless steel tubs and discovered the wood underneath was in poor shape.

“When we removed the tubs, we discovered the structure was compromised, as the wood had rotted out,” Topham said. “After years of cleaning and weathering, the structure’s integrity was compromised, so we removed it for public safety, as well as for COVID-19 concerns.”

Topham said Missouri State Parks is facing budget cuts, but a new fish-cleaning station is on their radar.

“We will have to do an environmental study to determine where it will be feasible to put another fish-cleaning station in a different location,” Topham said.

In the meantime, Topham said anglers will have to find other places to clean their fish.

“We would love it if people would put their fish in a cooler and take them home for cleaning,” he said. “Fish entrails make a great compost for home gardens. [If they do not want to take fish home], we recommend people clean their fish at the river and throw the guts into the deep part of the river. Avoid throwing entrails into the shallows, and also avoid cleaning in Dry Hollow, as that area dries up and could cause us problems.

“We do not want people to throw entrails in the trash bins or dumpsters, but if they absolutely must, they should put the guts in a sealed bag. But, we would still rather they not do that, as it could attract wildlife to the trash bins, especially if the guts are not in a sealed bag.”

Paul Spurgeon, Roaring River Hatchery manager, said weekend tag sales were down from the norm, with 436 on Saturday and 554 on Sunday.

“That’s lower than normal, but the weather wasn’t great and the river is way up,” Spurgeon said. “We actually stocked for 700-800, and we are stocking at the normal rate of 2.25 fish per anticipated tag sale.”

Because of the spring project still at a stand-still, fish are being delivered from Montauk State Park for about another month, then they will come from Shepherd of the Hills.

Spurgeon said the spring project is still struggling to finish up due to frequent rains keeping the river higher than needed to complete the project.

As of Monday, the campgrounds at the park have been reopened, but by reservation only.

“There will be a learning curve when it comes to camping,” Topham said. “People are used to seeing the yellow and blue cards that say a site is available for one or two nights. Now, there are red cards that say the site is not available. The first-come, first-served sites are now available for reservation, and camping right now is only open for those who had existing reservations. You can make a reservation online, but you will not be able to book anything until May 26th.”

Topham said in accordance with state recommendations, Missouri State Parks hopes to keep the campgrounds at about 50 percent capacity through June 30.

“On Memorial Day weekend, we are already at 60 percent capacity,” Topham said. “So, we are not going to cancel previous reservations, but we will not be taking any new ones.”

Topham said when campers make a reservation online, they will be given a QR code that will allow them to check-in remotely. The camp fee office will also be open, and people may go inside and talk to a staff member if needed.

The Park Store is open, and social distancing markers have been placed on the floor to help people maintain the practice.

The restaurant at Emory Melton Inn is open for carry-out only. All cabins and lodging are available for reservation.

Camp Smokey is open for groups that had not already canceled scheduled events.

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