The largest spring in the state, rainbow trout, a nature center, and a lodge with a restaurant are just a few of the fabulous things you will find at Bennett Spring State Park. Pack up the car and spend a weekend exploring this park.

The great spring at Bennett has always lured fishermen and women. It is the largest spring in any state park and gushes 100 million gallons a day. Its water holds steady at fifty-seven degrees Fahrenheit.
Photo Courtesy of Missouri State Parks

FIGURES GARBED IN WADERS stroke the waters of Bennett Spring lovingly with their lines and, with rods extended, twitch the tips from time to time— homage to the sacred trout. To get to Bennett Spring, approaching from Highway 64 west of Lebanon, you wind down an entrance road past several private cottages and a tackle shop, then emerge from the upland into the hill-cradled valley.

On your right, you pass a sandstone-buttressed nature center, and the road curves over the stream on a graceful bridge of concrete and native stone, a now historic structure built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Upstream to your left is a low dam, successor to earlier milldams.

Ten miles of loop trails take hikers through Spring Hollow woodlands ablaze with fall colors to a natural tunnel.
Photo by Scott Myers

Over the bridge, you enter the village-like heart of the park. The lodge, containing a restaurant and meeting room, is another architectural gem from CCC days, its decorative chandeliers featuring a trout motif. In the park store, the concessionaire sells tackle and supplies to visitors and rents cabins and canoes for use on the nearby Niangua River; there is also a classroom for fishing instruction.

This was once the territory of the Osage Indians and earlier native peoples, whose legends suggest a special reverence for the spring, but they had already ceded their lands in Missouri when an early settler built a small gristmill on the spring branch.

The Natural Tunnel and Savanna Ridge Trails, totaling some ten miles with several loops, provide access to Spring Hollow and its woodlands seasonally abloom with wildflowers. Part of the trail goes through a twisting valley with steep cliffs, which are remainders of a collapsed cave system; the natural tunnel carved through the dolomite strata by the stream over geologic ages is in fact a cave, one that has been cut off by erosion of deeper valleys at each end.

This 300-foot-long natural tunnel was created by the partial collapse of an ancient cave.
Photo by Diane Tucker

Anglers and their families predominate among the almost 800,000 visitors at Bennett annually, but many others come to relax in the lodge, cabins, and campgrounds, to float the Niangua River, or to hike the trails through the scenic woodlands, awash in dogwood blooms each April. Everyone who comes, though, senses that the park is here because of the spring. And so are the trout.

The spring was once known as Brice Spring. During the Civil War, Peter Bennett Jr. built a three-story mill with a timber dam and millrace.

Bennett Spring State Park offers: camping, fishing, hiking trails, dining, picnic area, lodging, swimming, playground, floating/kayaking, and visitors center, interpretive programs, or site tours.

3,339 acres
Dallas and Laclede Counties
Trails • Bridge Trail (0.7 mi) • Natural Tunnel Trail (7.5 mi) • Oak Hickory Trail (0.3 mi) • Savanna Ridge Trail (2.5 mi) • Spring Trail (0.6 mi) • Whistle Trail (1 mi)

Historic Structures • CCC bridge, dam, cabins, store, post office, shelter houses, hatchery, roads, trails, and more.

To purchase the Missouri State Parks book, click here.

Read about catching your own trout and eating it too. Click here.