Lebanon, MO

Bennett Spring State Park includes two resources on the National Register of Historic Places

CJ Coombs

Trout fishing in Bennett Spring State Park in Missouri.rjones0856, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Located in the counties of Dallas and Laclede is a beautiful state park about 12 miles west of Lebanon, Missouri. The Bennett Spring flows into the Niangua River averaging 100 million gallons of daily flow. Other activities at the park include hiking, camping, canoeing, and fly fishing.

Brief history

Initially, the spring was called Brice Spring after the James Brice family built a mill at the stream in 1846. The Brices were from Illinois and were among the early settlers to the area. Brice also purchased over 400 acres of land. With other settlers arriving, this built up a village that was named Brice which would later become Bennett Spring State Park.

Then, Peter Bennett's family arrived and settled by the spring and built their own mill. In the beginning, the families were rivals. In time, they were connecting and marrying each other. Their mills ended up being destroyed by a flood. Peter Bennett was also Brice's son-in-law. Eventually, the spring and the park were later named after him.

During the years of the Civil War, Peter Bennett built another mill that was more successful than Brice's mill. In 1882, after Peter's death, his son, William Sherman Bennett, took over the mill. Unfortunately, the mill burned in 1895.

In 1923, a fish hatchery that was privately owned was built. In 1924-1925, the spring and surrounding area were purchased by the state to create one of the first state's park. During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) added some improvements to the park. They built shelters, roads, trails, a dining lodge, and cabins. They also built a stone bridge to go across the spring branch.

The CCC also built a dam upstream from the bridge. The dam also diverts water through the fish hatchery. It also continues to maintain a constant water level at Bennett Spring.

The park which contains over 3,000 acres is now owned and operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Conservation operates the trout hatchery.

Things to do at the park

Bennett Spring State Park offers Rainbow and brown trout fishing. There are three zones with their respective regulations in the fishing area. You can keep what you catch if you’re fishing during the regular season. During the winter months, however, you have to catch and release. The park also includes the following:

  • Hiking trails
  • Canoeing on the Niangua River
  • Camping and cabins
  • Dining Lodge
  • Nature Center and Park Store

As of 1985, two of the park's resources were listed on the National Register of Historic Places: the Bennett Spring State Park Hatchery-Lodge Area Historic District and the Bennett Spring State Park Shelter House and Water Gauge Station. Both are located in Dallas County, Missouri.

Bennett Spring State Park

The waters of Bennett Spring well up from an underground river through a large fissure in the floor of a beautiful valley. From the spring a trout stream tumbles over a dam, passes under a stone bridge and flows over a mile of rock ledges and gravel bars before emptying into the Niangua River. (Source; p. 65.)

This park contains the Hatchery-Lodge Area Historic District, and a shelter house and water gauge station, the latter two elements are also historical.

Bennett Spring State Park Hatchery-Lodge Area Historic District

Between 1933 and 1938, the CCC constructed buildings in this district, seven of which are historically significant. This includes two arched bridges. Even though the old mill was damaged by fire later, prior to that, there were improvements made to it. Cabins and service buildings were constructed as well as work for a dining lodge that opened in 1938.

With Bennett Spring becoming a popular park, elements such as parking lots were added. New accommodations such as a park office and residence for the hatchery superintendent were also added. "[T]wo service buildings have survived virtually unaltered from the CCC era." One of the officers' barracks still survives.

The work of the Civilian Conservation Corps transformed this valley from a rural enclave in the Ozarks to a highly popular state park, well known for its trout fishery. (Source.)
Historic water gauge station and shelter house.Cyote, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Bennett Spring State Park Shelter House and Water Gauge Station

The water gauge station is close to the entrance to Bennett Spring State Park. It's a small two-story tower constructed of random cut stone. There is an open picnic shelter made of wood and on the east end, there is a stone fireplace. The Civilian Conservation Corps built the shelter and water gauge station between 1933 and 1936.

From the time the first grist mill was established in this area by James Brice to a successful mill by Peter Bennett, a beautiful park and amenities were born. There are miles of hiking trails with memorable views. Click here for more information regarding Bennett Spring State Park.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

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