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Trout Fishing Hiking Canoeing

Nature Center Feed the Trout Playground

Restaurant Dining Picknicking

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Bennett Spring State Park 26248 Hwy 64A • Lebanon, MO 65536 For information or reservations: (417) 532-4307 or (800) 334-6946 • email: •

The Place To Be On The Niangua River

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Welcome to Bennett Spring State Park! You’re sure to find something here to make your stay memorable. We have fishing, floating, hiking, shopping and much, much more. No matter what time of year you visit, we’re certain you’ll find Bennett Spring to your liking. The people are friendly, and the fishing is always good. We’re glad you’re here!


Something for Everyone

Bennett Spring State Park offers a little something for everyone in the family ......................................... Page 5

From the Beginning Bennett Spring State Park is rich in history. It was once a milling community known as Brice, but it's now known for its lunkers, camping and canoeing ......................................... Page 6

Fishing opportunities for all

Lebanon, MO: We're Just Up The Road

A new fishing platform gives new opportunities to anglers of all abilities ...........................................Page 10

Just a few miles up the road, Lebanon, Mo., offers unique shopping and entertainment opportunities ........................................PAGE 15

Opening Day: It's kind of special March 1 opens the trout season at Bennett Spring State Park ......................................... Page 13

Hooking the future One day a year is set aside for the youngest anglers at the park ......................................... Page 16

Singing the praises Governor says the state's parks are an important part of the state's economy ......................................... Page 20

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Bennett Spring State Park From picturesque scenery to rugged trails, fabulous fishing to cozy cabins — we've got it all! enturies ago, the “Eye of the Sacred One” first drew the Osage Indians to its banks. The clear blue waters are now known as Bennett Spring, the centerpiece of one of Missouri’s oldest state parks. Bennett Spring continues to entice nature lovers of every description. Situated in the Niangua River valley, the park offers many opportunities for trout fishing, camping, hiking, bird watching, swimming and picnicking. Not only are the recreational options diverse and intriguing, but the scenery is enchanting and breathtaking — no matter what the season might be. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) completed many of the improvements and additions to the park during the 1930s. The rustic hiking trails carved out of the woods, the old stone bridge that arches over the waters of the spring, and the cozy park cabins welcoming weary fishermen all resulted from their efforts. The serenity of the park, however, was perfect from the beginning. See ‘Something for everyone’/ page 31


Opening Day — 2013


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From Brice to Bennett

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ennett Spring State Park is one of Missouri’s first and most popular state parks, attracting a growing number of tourists every year. The third largest natural spring in the state of Missouri pumps one million gallons of water each and every day. Anglers from around the nation wade in the spring’s waters in search of lunker-sized trout, and those looking for adventures in camping and canoeing come in droves each year, but there was once a time when Bennett Spring State Park was simply known as Brice, Mo. During the 1920s, when America was enjoying prosperity following World War I, Bennett Spring (then known as Brice) was one of many areas considered by state planners to be preserved as a state park. A Dec. 12, 1924, article in the Laclede County Republican stated that Lebanon Chamber of Commerce President O.A. Mayfield requested that the state consider Bennett Spring as a possible park site. It said the first parcel of land, 8 1/2 acres that belonged to Josie Bennett Smith, would become a part of Bennett Spring State Park. The land was purchased from Mrs. Smith on Dec. 27, 1924.

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Several weeks later, another contract was signed between William Sherman Bennett, Mrs. Smith’s brother, and the state for the sale of 565.33 acres. Of that land, 427 acres can be traced as belonging to James Brice, who settled there in 1837. The land where today’s park store, office, dining lodge and hatchery buildings stand once belonged to the Bennett family. James Brice first came here while traveling in Missouri from Illinois in search of productive land and a healthful climate. He decided to stay at the beautiful spring area, which reportedly teemed with wildlife. Elk, deer, wild turkeys, buffalo and even panthers were said to drink from the enormous spring. Brice homesteaded 160 acres, which included the spring, and eventually homesteaded additional acreage A full-service book store featuring books, magazines, children’s books, toys and games for all ages.




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that included all of the land and the spring branch area. He built the first mill in the vicinity where early farmers brought their corn for grinding. The mill eventually was washed away during a violent rainstorm and flood. Brice, the first permanent settler in the Bennett Spring area, died in 1855 and is buried in the Bennett Cemetery. The Bennett family later settled at the spring area on land known as the Elmer Conn farm, site of the present Sand Spring Resort. The enterprising Peter Bennett built a mill at the spring outlet and Niangua River, which also was washed away in a rainstorm and flood. Bennett built a second mill, known as Bennett’s Mill, during the Civil War years. It became a center for tradesmen and farmers. The mill was too small to accommodate the increase in See ‘The history’/ page 8

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The history of Bennett Spring From Page 7 business, so Bennett built a third mill and included a carding machine that prepared wool for the spinning wheel. He also built a sawmill in one section of the mill. As business continued to grow, Bennett decided to construct a three-story building, and he purchased equipment for it in St. Louis. Since the railroad track went only to Rolla, Bennett and his employees had to meet the train there and haul the equipment to Brice in ox-driven wagons — a slow process over the rocky fords of that time. Peter Bennett married Anna Brice, the daughter of homesteader James Brice. After Brice’s death, Peter and Anna inherited the property. When Peter Bennett died in 1882, his son, William Sherman Bennett, continued to run the mill. Bennett’s daughter, Josie Bennett Smith, operated a hotel at Brice for many years. The Bennett Mill was destroyed by fire in 1895. Dr. John B. and Freeman Atchley built the last mill at Brice. Others who operated the mill in later years were J.E. Kelly, Mr. Runge and B.J. Usery. The mill stood as a landmark at Bennett Spring for sightseers and tradesmen alike. The Civilian Conservation Corps, which worked in the area during the 1930s, improved the mill. However, it later was destroyed by fire. The CCC also constructed a log dam, foot trails, a new bridge and many other buildings at the park. The spring valley already had become a popular camping site in the late 1800s as area farmers waited their turns at the mill. According to a Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) brochure, campers would fish, hunt or visit with local townspeople to pass the time. By the turn of the century, recreation was gaining in importance at Brice. According to the DNR brochure, in

1900 the Missouri fish commissioner introduced 40,000 mountain trout into the spring, and a privately owned fish hatchery was built in 1923, the year before the state bought the spring and some of the surrounding area for a state park. The Brice Post Office was originally built as a log building on the riverbank and named after James Brice. In later years, it was located in a general store operated by William Sherman Bennett and his wife, Louie. The name of the post office was changed to Bennett Spring in 1939 and finally was discontinued in 1965. Arlie Bramwell was the last postmaster at Bennett Spring. It was reported that in the early 1900s that William Sherman Bennett had a number of cans of young trout emptied into the spring. The trout thrived in the cold waters, attracting many fishermen. Brice was the location where famed author Harold Bell Wright completed work on his classic novel, “The Shepherd of the Hills.’’ Wright also wrote “The Calling of Dan Matthews,’’ while he lived in Lebanon. In that


book, Wright’s “Gordon’s Mill’’ actually was Bennett’s Mill. Today, one off the oldest original buildings at Bennett Spring in the Bennett Spring Church of God, organized in 1917 through the influence of William Sherman and Louie Boles Bennett, who donated land for the church site. In the 1950s, stone veneer was applied over the wooden structure. It is the only original building that was in old Brice. “Aunt Louie’’ Bennett was pastor of the church for many years. Today, Bennett Spring Church of God is a very active church and is visited by many fishermen staying at the park each trout season. In 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Project Administration (WPA) were two new programs implemented by the U.S. government to put people to work during the Great Depression. Much work was done at Bennett Spring starting in November of that year. The crews’ first tasks were to build barracks for themselves. They built a new dam, a bridge, a dining lodge, six cabins, a store and post office building, shelters, houses, roads and trails. They also renovated the old Atchley Mill. The men also constructed a second set of gravel-bottomed hatchery rearing pools and in 1935 built a new section onto the hatchery building. After the men left in 1938, they dismantled all but one of their barracks. Through the years most of the development at the park has taken place outside the park’s boundaries as private individuals built cabins, hotels, campgrounds and many other businesses. In 1969, Arlie Bramwell sold his wood and stone cabins to the state. Ralph Usery’s cabins were razed. Splan’s Resort was once a very busy place there. Vogel’s Resort was acquired by the state in 1980. In 1969, the Nature Interpretive Center opened at the park with George Kastler as the first naturalist, and in 1982 the park dedicated a new office and store building close to the dining lodge on the site of the original Brice. Later the park’s Niangua entrance was renamed the Bramwell Entrance in honor of Arlie Bramwell. An additional 1,650 acres of land to the south of the current state boundary was purchased in November 1988 to provide watershed protection for Bennett Spring itself as well as the park area. Each year has brought more improvements. Now, at 3,216 acres, the state park that arose around Peter Bennett’s spring continues to delight all comers.

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Fishing opportunities for all abilities Fishing is a sport that is enjoyed by countless men and women of all ages and walks of life. But it is also a sport that some have been unable to enjoy

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because physical disabilities have made it difficult for them to make their way to a stream. Thanks to donations from people from around the state, as well as efforts from the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation and the Missouri departments of Conservation and Natural Resources, those with disabilities have a new, handicappedaccessible place to cast their lines at Bennett Spring State Park. A formal dedication for the new ramp and fishing platform, which was ready for the March 1, 2013 Opening Day, was held on May 4, 2013. For some donors and state officials, it was the first time they had seen the platform, prompting reactions of joy and satisfaction, knowing

that their efforts and donations have, and will continue to have, a positive impact on the lives of anglers with physical limitations. The MCHF actually began a fundraising effort to construct a fishing and viewing platform below the dam near the hatchery office in 2011. The goal of $45,000 for the project was surpassed with more than $60,000 being raised, prompting an effort to construct the handicapped accessible ramp and platform, which is across the stream from the hatchery office, just below the dam. David Reynolds, president of the MCHF board, was among those on hand for the event and was quick to call the ramp and platform a “dream come true.”

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Donors gather for a formal dedication of the handicapped fishing platform at Bennett Spring State Park in May 2013 “It is wonderful and turned out even better than we expected,” he said. “It’s great to be able to come over on this side (of the stream). It’s great to be able to see people fish off of it. I was up here the other day and there was a man in a wheelchair who was out there fishing from it. That’s what its all about.” While there are other handicappedaccessible areas for anglers at Bennett Spring, Reynolds said the new area gives anglers an opportunity to fish at the dam, perhaps for the first time. “It is probably the best area to fish,” he explained. “They can throw (their lines) up, and roll off the water coming off the dam and catch a lot of fish.” He added that the platform will also allow other anglers, not just those who may have physical disabilities, to fish in an area that he considered nearly inaccessible. “It makes it more accessible for everybody,” he said. “I think it is a winwin, and I have had a lot of comments about it.” Reynolds added that if it weren’t for the donations of those who love Bennett

who loved this park. We have a family who donated in the name of their father and a trout club in Columbia that raised $5,000 in recognition of two members.” Projects such as this, Reynolds added, show how important the outdoors and Bennett Spring State Park are to the people of Missouri. “People from all over the state donated to this,” he said. “People from St. Louis, (Mo.); Kansas City, (Mo.); See ‘Platform’/ page 28

Spring State Park, the ramp would not have been possible. “In my opinion, Bennett Spring State Park is the crown jewel of all of our state parks,” he said. “This really just shows the partnership of the citizens and the DNR, the Department of Conservation and the Heritage Foundation. They all came together for this and that is what is really wonderful. “The neat thing is that a lot of people donated in dedication to loved ones



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Clarence Holland

Annual fishing derby honors late hatchery manager's battle


longstanding tradition takes place the second weekend in October at Bennett Spring State Park to honor a long-time hatchery manager who lost a battle against cancer. The annual Clarence Holland Memorial Trout Fishing Derby draws over 1,000 hopeful anglers to the park to win a wide-variety of prizes while raising money for the American Cancer Society. The derby began more than 30 years ago and has raised more than $50,000. There is no entry fee, but anglers are asked to make a small donation. Clarence Holland was the Bennett Spring Hatchery Manager for many years and died in April 1977. The Holland Dam, just down the stream from the spring head also bears Holland’s name. Bennett Spring State Park Concessionaire Jim Rogers said in an effort to honor Holland and his work at Bennett, the idea of a fishing derby was born.

Clarence Holland

See ‘Fishing derby’/ page 24

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'... It's kind of special' he tradition continued on March 1, 2013, at Bennett Spring State Park when just over 1,000 anglers cast their lines into the stream for Opening Day 2013. The crowd was much less than nearly 2,000 that had been anticipated to greet the opening siren, perhaps because of the winter storm that blew through the area earlier in the week and dumped several inches of snow on the area, but for those who did brave below freezing temperatures, it was the dawn of a new year at the state park. For some, March 1 was their first Opening Day at Bennett Spring, while for others it is a time-honored tradition of camaraderie and family, with the fishing being almost secondary. See ‘Opening Day’/ page 14




Opening Day dawns at Bennett Spring Page 13 David Boedker of St. Charles, Mo., has been coming to Bennett Spring for 20 years. He and a group of friends were waiting near their usual spot behind the hatchery office at about 5:30 a.m. “It’s just a tradition,” he said. “I am a little late this morning getting here, so my friends are all down there in front, but it’s the same group of guys every year. They’ve been doing it for 30 years.” Wally Kolkmeier of St. Charles, Mo., and his son, also Wally Kolkmei-

er of Old Monroe, Mo., were actually fishing on Opening Day for the first time together. “It’s kind of special,” the senior Kolkmeier said. “There is actually another Kolkmeier here today — my dad. It’s the first time we have all been together (for Opening Day). This is actually only the second time I have been down on Opening Day to fish.” The group said they didn’t mind the cold for Opening Day and were actually excited about their prospects for the morning. “There’s not nearly as many people

here this year,” the younger Wally Kolkmeier said, adding that he opted to take advantage of Opening Day being on a Friday to have a three-day weekend. “That’s always good,” added Morgan Tucker of Wentzville, Mo. “This is actually my first time on Opening Day, so this is great.” When asked if a larger crowd would cause him to rethink Opening Day, Tucker said it wouldn’t. “Just coming out with these guys is great,” he said. See ‘Tradition’/ page 29

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We're just up the road! Lebanon, Mo., has a little something for everyone year round ome to Lebanon to relive the history of Route 66, the “Main Street of America." Historic Route 66 brings travelers from throughout the world to Lebanon, eager to "get their kicks on Route 66." You can learn more about this era with a visit to The Route 66 Museum and Research Center featured in Best of the Midwest Travel Magazine in 2012. This fascinating 3,500-square-feet museum is located in the Lebanon-Laclede County Library and has an extensive map collection and vignettes about the diners, gas stations, motels and communities built along Route 66. Come learn what travel was like in its heyday. Admission is absolutely free. Set aside a nice chunk of time to experience our shopping. Lebanon is home to the Shepherd Hills Factory Outlet, the world’s largest dealer of top-selling Case Knives. The huge store also offers so much more, including Ozark walnut bowls, Mikasa china and Denby pottery. There’s outstanding outlet shopping at the Factory Stores of America mall, which offers jeans, shoes, housewares and other must-have items. Visit one of our many family-owned antique shops and be sure to stop in at the Heartland Antique Mall, which has more than 250 dealers and 40,000 square feet of antiques, a Russell Stover Candy Outlet, cheese outlet and crafts mall. The Kenneth E. Cowan Civic Center is the pride of Lebanon, a state-of-theart, multipurpose facility with a 46,000square foot exhibition hall, meeting rooms, a 675-seat theater, outdoor arena and grand foyer. This facility has been home to diverse events such as rodeos, trade shows, concerts, demolition derbies, banquets, fairs, plays and weddings. In addition, we are extremely excited that NASCAR short-track racing has returned to the I-44 Speedway with racing every weekend from April through September. You can also be sure to catch some mudslinging fun at our premier dirt track, Lebanon Midway Speedway. Golf is available at our GreatLife Golf and Fitness Center, a


semi-private, 18-hole championship golf course located between Lebanon and Bennett Spring. The kids will love spending time at the beautiful parks and the Boswell Aquatic Center or visiting Whirlwind

Ranch, an alpaca ranch where you can purchase hand-knit items made of soft alpaca yarn. Stay at a comfortable national chain hotel, a family-owned motel, a neonSee ‘Lebanon’/ page 32

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Hooking the future Kids Fishing Day annually draws hundreds of young anglers to Bennett Spring


hile the March 1 Opening Day is a long-standing tradition of many anglers who fish the banks of Bennett Spring State Park, Kids Fishing Day is a tradition for hundreds of young anglers and their families. The event is held the first Saturday of May each year and offers a day filled with free fishing, lunch and loads of fun, including exhibits from the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Bennett Spring Nature Center and the World Bird Sanctuary. Volunteers also walk the banks to offer a little advice to the youngsters or help clean a fish. For some children, the annual event is an early start to summer, while others are after only one thing — a lunker. Families from as far away as Kansas, Arkansas and Illinois travel to the park for the event, which features a

kid-only zone from the hatchery outlet through Zone 2 and past the Suzy Hole in Zone 3. The area is also specially stocked for the young anglers with about 1,800 fish and 40 lunkers. The rest of the park is also stocked for the day. “It is really just a good day,” Julie Caffee of the Missouri Department of Conservation and organizer of the 2013 event said. “The best part about it is that it is all free. We hope that this

event will really get kids and their families interested in the outdoors and just keep coming back to Bennett Spring for many years to come. We want to get them interested in fishing, the outdoors and just seeing what the park has to offer.” The event is held rain or shine, and the 2013 event was held despite an unseasonable snowstorm just days before. While the cold, wet weather may have kept some families away, an estimated 600 kids flocked to the park. Down by the stream, the young anglers didn’t appear to be fazed by the weather. They kept casting their lines, hoping to feel the tug of a trout. For some, the fishing was good. For others, not so much, but it didn’t appear to bother them if they weren’t catching anything. As for the parents and grandparents along the stream, the drops of rain


were insignificant compared to the smiles on the faces of their youngsters. Mary Jean Spry of Raymore, Mo., was at Bennett with her grandchildren. While they try to come to the park during the summer months, the 2013 event was their first trip for Kids Fishing Day. “So far, they love it,” she said. “We haven’t caught anything, but that’s OK. We’ve had a lot of fun, despite the weather. It was really cold first thing this morning, but it is warming up now. I am really glad they have their hip waders on, that has made a difference.” Just downstream, Mark Wildt of Pacific, Mo., was helping his children, 5-year-old Kara and 9-year-old Alex, get their flies ready. The family comes to Bennett Spring annually, usually in August, but this is only the second time they have come for Kids Fishing Day. “We really like it,” the elder Wildt said. “It is good just to focus on the kids and be with them. We really enjoy it.” When asked what the best part of the day was, he again said simply spending time with his children. “You can just focus on making sure they get fish,” Wildt said. “It’s all about the kids and not the adults. That’s why we come down here. I don’t even plan on fishing unless they


don’t want to fish anymore.” Meanwhile, Kara and Alex were sorting through their fly boxes. Kara was on the hunt for an orange fly. When asked why she liked orange, her reply was simple. “Because (the fish) can see it,” she said shyly. For the Evers family of Marys Home, Mo., Bennett Spring State Park is part of their family heritage. Dozens of family members gather at the park each summer to camp and fish, and Kids Fishing Day is no exception. “I think this is great,” Paula Evers said as her son Austin gathered his stringer of rainbows. “It is great to get out and enjoy the outdoors, and it is teaching (the kids) about the outdoors.” Why does her family keep coming back to Bennett? She said the answer is right before her eyes. “It is just beautiful here,” she said. “It is close to home, we love the camping too. There’s about 50 or 75 of us who come every year. We have brought our kids here since they were babies, so it is really a tradition now.” Evers encouraged other families to discover Bennett Spring State Park, and Kids Fishing Day. “We tell everyone we know about

this day,” she said. “It’s great and I’m really glad they do this. I think this allows a lot of kids the opportunity to fish for the first time. They might not have a place to fish, so this provides the opportunity to do it and it is the perfect place to come.” For the Briscoe family, which hails from the Kansas City area, Kids Fishing Day was a tradition that started about five years ago, just by chance. Family matriarch Doris Briscoe said she and her husband came to Bennett with a friend years ago and were quickly hooked. One weekend, they ventured to the park, not knowing that it was Kids Fishing Day. After seeing all of the fun and activities, Doris said she called her daughter. “I called her and told her ‘Get them boys dressed and get down here now. You aren’t going to believe what all they are doing down here.’ We’ve been doing it ever since.” Jeffery Briscoe said his daughter, Kaylee, loves fishing at Bennett for Kids Fishing Day. He added that the whole family knows not to plan anything on the first Saturday in May because Kids Fishing Day is already on the calendar. “The kids really look forward to it every year,” he said.

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Governor sings the praises of Bennett Spring Nixon says Missouri's state parks are important for the state's economy


issouri’s Gov. Jay Nixon might not have made it to Bennett Spring State Park for the Opening Day siren in 2013, but he did stop by the park later that afternoon to check out the fishing, as well as some of the recent improvements at the park. Nixon was able to cast his line from the newly completed handicapped accessible ramp, making sure first that no persons with disabilities wished to fish from the structure, but his luck didn’t go as well at Bennett as it did at Montauk earlier, where the governor fired the ceremonial starting pistol and subsequently landed three trout. Although he didn’t catch fish while at Bennett Spring, he sang the praises of the park. “It is just really important to be here, plus to see this new ramp,” Nixon said. “While other states are backing up when it comes to parks and shutting them down, we’ve added a few parks over the last couple of years and are continuing to add infrastructure to make it more accessible for folks who want to access the outdoors.” The state park system brings millions of dollars into the state’s economy annually, and Nixon said continued support of parks like Bennett Spring are crucial for Missouri. “We had 36 million visitors to our state last year from out of state, and our parks had 19 million visitors,” he said. “We continue to believe that the outdoor world is focused on Missouri. It’s a great place to hunt, fish and (for recreation), and we think it is a real driver for our economy.” As the state, as well as the nation, continues to struggle financially, Nixon said funding for Missouri’s state parks continues to be a priority for his administration. “First of all, even though it’s tough budget times, we have kept our parks open and we make sure they are accessible to the public,” the second-term governor said, adding that there could be a bond issue to support parks in the future. “Just like we did in the 1980s; investing dollars for infrastructure. See this bridge?” he said pointing to the iconic bridge that carries traffic across the stream on Mo. 64A.

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Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon “The (Civilian Conservation Corp) built that bridge, as many of the buildings here were. ... You have good infrastructure, but aging infrastructure. In order to get the tourists, the fishermen and their families in the future, we have got to refresh and re-strengthen parts of our parks.”

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From sac fry to lunkers Bennett Spring Hatchery fuels anglers' fishing habit The Bennett Spring State Park Hatchery is a completely new and improved facility. The $2.375 million renovation of the hatchery’s many raceways (water canals that house the trout as they grow to a fishable size) and the building of a brand new facility wrapped up in 2013. The new facility, which was opened in September 2011, allows for an increased production of the park’s famous rainbow trout. With the much bigger building, hatchery manager Mike Mitchell believes that production of the trout can increase from 350,000 to between 450,000 and 500,000 per year. The increase isn’t just from the size of the facility. Unlike the old building, the new one allows for indoor spawning, which may help increase production by lowering trout deaths caused by outdoor spawning. The fish eggs and sperm, also called milt, will be protected from ultraviolet rays from the sun, which can kill them. The bigger facility also will help cut down on fish crowding, which can cause death from disease, bacteria and stress. In early October 2013, hatchery staff had spawned about 800,000



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eggs, and sac fry were beginning to hatch. The improvements were part of the state’s Trout Plan, which had a goal of increasing trout production by 20 percent, and was mostly paid for through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sport Fish Restoration Program, along with Missouri Department of Conservation tax dollars and trout tag fees. Fishermen shouldn’t get too excited yet when they see Mitchell’s estimates on the increased production. The hatchery tries to average a 12-inch fish. The trout are released into the spring nightly from March through October. Along with building a new facility, the hatchery’s raceways, which separate the trout by size, were given an upgrade. The canals used to have gravel beds, which Mitchell said caused problems for the hatchery process, and the concrete walls between the raceways were also beginning to erode at the bottom. All new concrete was poured for the raceways. One new feature that has proven popular with visitors of the Bennett Spring State Park Hatchery is the multiple viewing windows that were installed in the new facility. Because of the windows, the public can get an inside look at the spawning process year round. If looking through a window isn’t enough for some curious visitors, the hatchery also offers tours of the facility See ‘Park hatchery’/ page 24

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Fishing derby honors late hatchery manager From Page 12

“I really don’t know who started it, but someone wanted to have a derby to honor him,” he said. Hatchery staff release about 100 specially tagged trout into the waters of Bennett Spring, and to be entered into the drawing, an angler must land a fish with one

of the special tags. Tag numbers are drawn at the end of the event, and when an angler ’s number is drawn, they will have the opportunity at the prizes. “It’s really a good time for everybody,” Rogers said. “You really don’t have to be a skilled angler. If you catch a fish with a tag, you


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have just as much of a chance as everyone else. If you get a tag on a fish, you just bring the tag to the store and you know you are going to win a prize, which are always really nice.” Tags are attached to the fish on a gill and can be easily removed. Once the tag is removed, the angler can either keep the fish, as long as it is a legal catch, or turn it loose. “By not making it the biggest fish or the first fish, it really makes it fair for everyone,” Rogers said. “It’s fair for adults, kids, everybody.” Rogers said all fishing regulations apply during the derby. For more information contact the Bennett Spring Park Store at 417-532-4301.

Park hatchery From Page 22

at 10 a.m. on the first and third Saturdays of every month. “They can come down anytime,” he said. “Tours on a regular basis will probably end at the end of October, but if you and your family want to come down on a weekend or during a weekday through November, December, January or February, just stop by and see what we are up to. We’ll be glad to tell you what we are doing and a little about the hatchery and how we do it.” Mitchell predicts that the hatchery has plenty of fish for anglers in 2014. “We really have a large amount of fish on hand,” he said. “As of the first of September, we had about 800,000 fish on our facility, and we will have about 400,000 to 500,000 for next year. The way that is looking is that they will be close to that 12-, 12 1/2-inch mark, hopefully all of next year, March through October.”

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Platform provides greater access to fishing for those with limited mobility From Page 11 Springfield, (Mo.); Cape Girardeau (Mo.) and local folks all donated to this. Hopefully, this is one of many projects to come. I think this park is near and dear to so many people. I have had people tell me that they came down here with their granddad, and this is where they caught their first fish. It’s the memories that they have.” The honor of cutting the ribbon was given to Sharyn Fry of Columbia. She and her late husband, Jerry Case, shared a love for the outdoors and fishing at Bennett Spring State Park as well as physical limitations that sometimes made it difficult to fish. Case died in 2012, so his friends and fishing buddies from his trout club, MidMissouri Trout Unlimited, raised $5,000 to honor him at his beloved Bennett Spring. “My husband and I loved to come down here,” Fry said. “We loved to fish all •Drive Thru •Delivery •Medical Supplies •Vitamins •Health & Beauty •All Major Insurance Accepted •Nursing Home Service •Computerized Prescription Service


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the time. We were totally independent and loved to fish, so it meant a lot to know that there was going to be another (accessible platform) down here and that there would be another area to fish. (Case) would be very happy about this. Being able to enjoy this area is wonderful, and being able to have a secure area to fish ... This area will be different to fish than any other area.” Bennett Spring State Park Superintendent J.D. Muschany said the ramp is a valuable addition to the park. “When you see people using it who are in a wheelchair or have mobility issues, it’s really nice to see that. It’s in a great location and has a good design. “It is really nice for all of the donors who stepped up and made the donations to make the project possible.” Being at the park daily, Muschany said he sees the platform in use daily by handicapped and able-bodied anglers. As the season progresses, he thinks there will be more and more people who will utilize the structure. “It’s a great place to fish,” he said. “It’s like the old saying, if you build it, they will come.” Among the state officials on hand for

the ceremony was MDC Director Bob Ziehmer. He said fishing in Missouri’s waterways is all about access, so providing citizens who might have limited mobility with another access point will only improve the area. “I think this is incredible,” he said. “I would encourage people to pause and look at Bennett Spring and this amazing resource that it is to the state of Missouri. It is one of the world-class outdoor resources that we have. ... When you look at a project like this platform, it all comes down to access. Missouri, today, has 6 million citizens, and we know that 1.6 million of those are anglers. They come in all sizes and ability levels. Through the gracious donations of many, be they businesses or individuals, they provided the resources to build this platform that will provide fishing access for many folks who might not get to enjoy fishing at Bennett Spring. That is very special.” He went on to say that the platform means many things, but most importantly, it means “many smiles.” “There will be memories made here that will last a lifetime,” he said.



Tradition From page 14 At about 6 a.m., honorary whistler blower Don Brown of Lebanon was getting instructions from the park’s hatchery manager, Mike Mitchell, about his duty of officially kicking off the season. Brown has been fishing at Bennett Spring State Park for more than five decades and was headed to the stream to do a little fishing of his own, as well as help his granddaughter. “This is real nice,” he said. “I’ve been coming here for 56 years now. Bennett Spring is home to us. It’s in the backyard of Lebanon (Mo.). There are lots of other state parks, but this one is the nicest.” After 56 years of coming to the park on Opening Day, Brown said he has found much more than fishing memories. “March 1 is the kickoff of trout season, and some years might be different than others, but they are all pretty much the same,” he said. “It’s really the camaraderie and the friendships.” The Brown family utilizes Bennett Spring all year, so the park has become a friend of the family. “We don’t use it enough,” he said. “We should be down here every weekend. We need to be outside more, not

inside.” Once Brown, whose family owned the E.L. Brown and Sons Sporting Goods on Commercial Street in Lebanon for many years, finished his honorary whistle blower duty, he was going to fish with his family, but he really didn’t care if he caught anything. “If I catch a lunker, it would tickle me to death,” he said. “If I just catch four fish it will tickle me to death. If I don’t catch anything, it will tickle me to death. Just being here is enough.” As the clock ticked closer to 6:30 a.m., more spectators gathered in the hatchery office to watch Brown kick off the festivities of Opening Day, including local law makers, officials from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Conservation. Just prior to the official start, Mitchell presented Brown with the traditional No. 0001 tag that is reserved for the honorary whistle blower each year. Brown said he planned to put that to good use later in the day. With only a few seconds left, those who crowded into the office began the countdown. “10, nine, eight, ... “ everyone said in unison, breaking into applause and cheers when Brown was given the signal to ring in the season. Brown said few words, but the smile on this face was eloquent enough.


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Something for everyone at Bennett Spring From Page 5 A leisurely walk along the shaded Stream Trail reveals a stunning view of the clear spring waters. Fitness enthusiasts can opt to brave the rigorous seven-mile hike to the Natural Tunnel, while less-determined hikers may tread the two-mile Savanna Ridge Trail, which winds through the woods and atop bluffs overlooking the picturesque Ozark mountains. Nature walks guided by park naturalists at the Nature Interpretive Center guarantee an authentic outdoor experience. The nature center also houses exhibits explaining the history of the spring and describing the natural environment of the park. A variety of free and interesting presentations and programs are available throughout the year. Bennett Spring’s most popular attraction is the fishing. Although the rainbow trout is not native to Missouri, it has become the state’s most popular sport fish since its introduction to the area.

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Until they are large enough to be released into the spring branch, the trout are raised at the hatchery in the park. The regular trout season extends from the beginning of March to the end of October. In November, the “catch-and-release” period begins and continues on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through

February. Year-round the rainbow trout beckon fisherman from the Midwest and beyond. Although Bennett Spring State Park is most widely known for its fishing, its other amenities are readily available to those living within a day’s drive. When local swimming pools become overcrowded, the park’s impressive swimming pool can serve as an ideal alternative. When dinner at the same old restaurants seems unappetizing, the park’s dining lodge can impress dinner guests with its “down home” cooking. When the town’s event calendar is less than full, Bennett Spring area outfitters can provide thrilling float trips on the Niangua River. A day trip to the nearby state park is also inexpensive and fun. Bennett Spring State Park is Lebanon’s very own Oz. Lebanon natives’ search for their hearts’ desire need not go any farther than their own backyard, Bennett Spring State Park. There truly is no place like home.

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Yea Rou r nd

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from page 15

lighted Route 66 landmark, or a charming bed and breakfast. Whatever lodging you choose, you can count on Lebanon’s famous, friendly hospitality. You won’t go hungry when you visit. Whether you’re into Ozark barbecue, pizza, ethnic offerings, down-home comfort food or upscale cuisine, we have you covered. Come experience Lebanon’s fun, friendliness, character and diversity. You’ll enjoy the visit and you’ll be glad you came. For more information, please contact City of Lebanon Tourism Department toll free at (866) LEBANON, or visit the website at www.

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Nixon from page 20 Nixon said he does not foresee any issues with Bennett Spring or the state’s other parks. “We are going to make sure our parks stay open and that they stay staffed," Nixon said. "Over the last four years, I have had to take $1.8 billion out of the state budget and downsize our state government by 4,500 positions, but even so we have our parks open and we continue to invest in them. We added two parks, one in Jefferson County and one down in the western side of the state during the same time period. That’s because we want to keep the outdoors open for folks, and we are going to continue to do that.”

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Bennett Spring State Park


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Welcome To Bennett Spring  

A visitor's guide to Bennett Spring State Park