Above photo: Echo Bluff State Park is named for the concave bluff that hangs over Sinking Creek.
Story and photos by Tom Uhlenbrock
During his career as a travel writer, Tom has won top awards in competitions sponsored by the Society of American Travel Writers and the North American Travel Journalists Association.
Missouri’s newest state park has a lodge that makes a great base for exploring.
The new Echo Bluff State Park in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks serves as a great base camp for exploring the area’s rivers, springs, caves and other scenic wonders.
Opened in 2016, the park is located halfway between Salem and Eminence on Highway 19, in the midst of state conservation areas, a national forest and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
Long the site of a summer youth camp, the tract sits in a deep wooded valley along Sinking Creek, the second largest tributary on the Current River. The park’s namesake is a concave bluff that hangs out over the creek. Stand at the right place and give it a shout, and Echo Bluff answers back.
The centerpiece is a stone-and-timber lodge that has a restaurant, general store and 20 guest rooms, each with a gas fireplace and outside deck. There also are nine cabins with 13 units, equipped with wood-burning fireplaces and spacious decks that offer views of the bluff.
Visitors could spend their time in the park, hiking the two trails and wading in the creek, known for its smallmouth bass fishing. The creek is shallow and warmer than the other Ozark streams, making it a perfect playground for the kids.
But the beauty of the park is its location within a short drive to all the family-friendly attractions that make the Ozarks worthy of a week-long vacation. The drive through the rolling hills of the surrounding forest is half the fun.
Here are a few of the prime destinations, with mileage from the Echo Bluff entrance:
Current and Jacks Fork rivers (Current River is a mile away, Jacks Fork is 18 miles): Outfitters can pick you up at the park and deliver you back after a day’s float on the best stretches of these two pristine rivers.
Alley Spring (21 miles): A three-story, barn-red mill building stands next to the spring and its spillway, creating a setting that is one of the most photographed in the Ozarks. If you only visit one spring, make it this one. There is a short trail, a one-room schoolhouse and a general store.
Round Spring Cave (2.4 miles): Ranger-led tours take you into the cave, which features all the fantastic formations that make underground exploring a special treat.
Blue Spring (30 miles): The Native American word for the spring translates to “Spring of the Summer Sky.” Dissolved minerals give the spring its azure color, which is said to be the bluest of all Ozark springs.
Welch Spring (15 miles): The rock ruins of an old sanitarium for asthma patients stand next to the spring on the Current River.
Montauk and Current River state parks (Current River State Park is a mile away, Montauk is 38 miles): Montauk State Park features trout fishing and has a restaurant. Current River State Park has two small fishing lakes and offers tours of its historic buildings, which were built in the 1930s and 1940s as a corporate retreat for Alton Box Board Co. of Alton, Ill.