Bunker Hill Retreat Focuses on Life’s Simple Pleasures

Bunker Hill Retreat has been around for more than 70 years, but few people know about it. Hiding in plain sight, the resort on the Jacks Fork River is one of those places you hesitate to tell others about because you want to keep it for yourself.

It all started when E.T. Behrens, a retired newspaper editor and cigar maker from Sedalia, moved to Shannon County in 1929 after his doctor told him he had six months to live. He was 63.

Behrens ended up on the banks of the Jacks Fork, where a small settlement called Bunker Hill had once been. Declaring the spot “paradise,” he cleared a few acres, built a small fishing camp with a few cabins, and communed with nature while proving the doctors wrong. In 1947, at age 81 and in failing health, he deeded Bunker Hill Resort to the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) and died one month later.

The first projects for MSTA were improving the road to the resort and bringing in electricity. Over the years, the group added more cabins and other buildings. Today, there are 19 cabins of varying sizes, a dining hall, recreation hall, o˜ce and library, plus a red one-room schoolhouse and a tiny chapel.

In 2013, the property was transferred to Friends of Bunker Hill, a nonprofit organization created to support, protect, and improve Bunker Hill Retreat. The Friends opened the camp to the public.

Bunker Hill sits on 2,080 mostly undeveloped acres that serve as a buffer between the modern world and the camp experience. If you want rowdy parties and lots of drinking, Bunker Hill is not for you. If you want a wholesome atmosphere with down-home cooking and simple, back-to-basics pleasures, this place is just the ticket.

The Jacks Fork is the main attraction, and the gravel bar is busy most afternoons. Free canoes and kayaks are available for use at the resort, or you can book float trips on the Jacks Fork or Current Rivers with area outfitters.

Eating is another key activity. One of the main reasons Bunker Hill is so popular for family reunions is that no one in your party has to cook and clean. When the dinner bell rings, you just show up at the dining hall and dig in to family-style meals prepared by local cooks three times a day.

A miniature golf course, ring toss, tennis courts, horseshoe pit, volleyball court, putting green, children’s playground, and indoor and outdoor shufflœeboards are free to use. Hiking trails lead to a nearby spring.

Bunker Hill lies within the boundary of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Resort managers Greg and Mary Howell work closely with the National Park Service to maintain the property according to park guidelines. The Howells are the sixth couple since 1947 to manage the resort. Continuity is part of the tradition at Bunker Hill.

Visit BunkerHillRetreat.com for more information.