Gorgeous Labor Day weekend weather ahead; lots of outdoor social distancing to be had
You couldn't ask for a better Labor Day holiday weekend forecast.
After days of rain, the National Weather Service says the sun will return Saturday through Monday, with highs of 86, 88 and 89 predicted.
For many, Labor Day weekend is the last time to get that boat out on Table Rock Lake, Bull Shoals Lake or Stockton Lake before fall's chill sets in. That first temperature dip might arrive midweek, with some forecasts showing highs in the upper 60s, and nighttime temperatures dipping into the 50s.
The only dark cloud on the horizon on this Labor Day holiday weekend is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Missouri is experiencing a surge of new COVID-19 infections, so health officials remind people to be mindful of social distancing, wear a mask and wash hands frequently during the day.
That common-sense guidance applies around boat docks and ramps, too. And they'll likely be seeing heavy use this weekend.
Corps spokesman Jay Townsend said Table Rock Lake, Bull Shoals Lake and Norfork Lake in Arkansas have been high this summer. Recent heavy rains also could have washed debris into the water.
"Always, when the water's been high, be on the lookout for obstacles in the water, like trees or even cookout grills or picnic tables," Townsend said. "And if you're boating, don't just have your life jacket — wear it."
On Thursday, Table Rock Lake was at elevation 915.94 feet and falling slowly, with water being released through the power-generating turbines at the dam.
Bull Shoals Lake, which straddles the Missouri and Arkansas border, was at elevation 677.70 — about halfway into its flood storage pool — and holding steady.
With the great weather ahead, another way to keep socially distanced is to check out one of the dozens of hiking trails at Missouri state parks or MDC conservation areas. With COVID-19 still a threat, it would be wise to have a mask handy — and put it on — as you encounter and pass other people on the trails.
There are some great locations for an end-of-summer hike. Cedar Gap Conservation Area just south of U.S. 60 near Seymour offers a short but fairly steep trek.
Hercules Glade Wilderness Area south of Bradleyville offers 32 miles of trails and pools of clear water near the falls on Long Creek. It's true wilderness, so get a map and go prepared with hiking basics.
The Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area offers more than five miles of scenic hiking trails on the northwest edge of Branson. The Hennings, famous for "The Beverly Hillbillies," sold the land to the state of Missouri in 1981, then returned part of the purchase price to create a public nature park.
With over 390 miles of linked trails, Missouri's Ozark Trail offers the chance to do some longer treks or even just a short overnighter.
Paddlers will have a lot of choices this weekend, thanks to recent rains that brought some creeks and rivers up to good paddling levels. Before you go, check with a local outfitter that serves the river you want to float.
Springfield-based Ozark Mountain Paddlers has a good list of river gauges to see what's happening on the river you might want to float.
And don't forget Missouri’s more than 140 miles of Ozark Greenways trails for a quick and easy way to get outdoors. It's not just biking and walking paths. Ozark Greenways also has a 6-mile water trail for paddlers on the James River/Lake Springfield.
If you're driving to any of these great locations, gas prices in Missouri are at their lowest Labor Day price point since 2004, according to AAA Missouri Weekend Gas Watch.
The statewide gas price average in Missouri is $1.94 for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel, one cent more than this day last week, and is 34 cents less per gallon compared to this day last year.
Of the major metropolitan areas surveyed in Missouri, drivers in Kansas City are paying the most on average at $2.05 while drivers in Joplin are paying the least at $1.83 per gallon.
Phelps County is seeing gas prices of $1.87 to $1.89.
The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.23.
Missouri drivers have not seen gas prices this low heading into Labor Day Weekend since 2004, when the statewide average price was $1.72/gallon, according to historical AAA gas price data.