The new Echo Bluff State Park opens on Saturday, July 30, and offers the opportunity to explore all the scenic wonders of the Missouri Ozarks.
Gov. Jay Nixon will welcome visitors with remarks at 10 a.m., and is familiar with the area. His mother was a counselor at the old Camp Zoe, a children’s summer camp that operated in the secluded valley from 1929 to the 1980s.
The picturesque spot along Sinking Creek, which runs below the concave bluff that is the park’s namesake on its way to the Current River, has been drawing visitors for decades, but now is open to the public as Missouri’s 88th state park.
Nixon said visitors to the park will find “an immense treasure in Echo Bluff that will be preserved for generations to come.”
The park is off Highway 19, about halfway between Salem and Eminence. It is in the heart of the Ozarks, with conservation areas, national forest and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways nearby. The latter is a national park that preserves the Current and Jacks Fork rivers, two of America’s premier float streams.
Bill Bryan, director of Missouri State Parks, said Echo Bluff is the perfect spot for a family vacation with Rocky Falls, Alley Spring Mill, Blue Spring and Peck Ranch Conservation Area among the many destinations within an hour’s drive of the park.
“They will find a peaceful escape where they can have as big an Ozark adventure as they want to make,” Bryan said. “This is a base camp for the unchartered Ozarks.
“Families and couples will have a great place to stay while they explore Rocky Falls, Peck Ranch, the mills and everything that up to now has been hard to reach.”
The Ozarks, with its bounty of spring-fed rivers, has long been a popular spot for floating on summer weekends. Echo Bluff, which will be open year round, encourages visitors to enjoy the other seasons, especially spring, when the redbuds and dogwoods are blooming, and fall, when the forests glow in autumn colors.
“Echo Bluff was designed and built for people to enjoy the Ozarks every day of the year,” Bryan said. “Our guests will find that there’s a lot more to see and do than simply float the Current on a Saturday in July.”
Decks and Fireplaces in the Lodging
The centerpiece of the park is a two-story lodge with 20 guest rooms, a restaurant, a general store and four meeting rooms for special events.
Visitors entering the lodge are greeted by a stone fireplace that soars to the ceiling. Doors open out onto the spacious rear deck, which overlooks Sinking Creek and Echo Bluff.
Rooms in the lodge have gas fireplaces and outdoor decks. All have king beds with a sleeper sofa, and there are two-bedroom suites. Prices vary by the season and day of the week, going from $89 for a single room during the week to $99 on the weekend.
There also are five detached cabins next to the lodge, four with two bedrooms and one with four bedrooms. All have wood-burning fireplaces with gas starters and decks.
Four “stacked cabins” stand on the hillside opposite the lodge. The bottom and top floors both have three bedrooms; large families and group can rent both floors.
The park’s campground features 60 RV sites with 50 amp electric and water and most include sewer hookups. There are 12 “walk-in” campsites where visitors hike a short distance on trails leading into the woods to camping decks and fire rings.
A Day of Activities
A small lake is next to the lodge and, eventually, will be stocked with fish for young anglers. An amphitheater, for nature programs and entertainment, is next to the lake.
 “Rooms will be open, and people will be able to tour the facilities,” Bryan said. “Wonders of Wildlife will present a demonstration of raptors and birds of prey. There will be activities for kids, like archery. People will be camping and staying in the lodge.”
Adventure Playground has nature-themed features for the kids, including water spouts, and there are two hiking trails, including one that is open to mountain bikes.
The Creekside Grill, which offers outside dining on the deck, will feature local foods, including fare from Missouri wineries and microbreweries. The restaurant offers alcoholic beverages.
The Sinkin’ Creek Mercantile, the general store in the lodge, has locally produced beers and wines, and arts and crafts from Ozark artists.
But the biggest attraction at the park is Sinking Creek, which usually is shallow and much warmer than the Ozark’s famous spring-fed rivers, making it perfect for swimming and wading.
The water is crystal clear and fun for snorkeling, and the creek has a reputation for fine smallmouth bass fishing.
Or visitors may prefer to simply sit on the gravel bar and listen to the rippling of Sinking Creek through the riffles at the base of the bluff.
But bring your water shoes, just in case.
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