Apple of the Earth
Pomme de terre literally means "apple of the earth," and for outdoor enthusiasts, Pomme de Terre State Park is aptly named. Located on both the Hermitage and Pittsburg sides of Pomme de Terre Lake, the park offers an abundant array of recreation opportunities.
When settlement began in Polk and Hickory counties in the 1830s, the Pomme de Terre River was the dividing line between the Indians and settlers until 1835. Agriculture, lead and zinc mining, and lumbering played important roles in the economy during these early years of settlement.
Compliments of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the spring-fed waters of Pomme de Terre River were transformed into a 7,800-acre lake in the early 1960s. Forests and bluffs surround the clear-blue waters of Pomme de Terre Lake.
Pomme de Terre State Park is characterized by rugged hills deeply dissected by river drainages in a natural region of the Ozarks called the Springfield Plateau where gently rolling plains intermingle with the Ozark forests of the east. In presettlement times, much of the park's land was covered by savannas and natural grasslands called glades with heavier forests in the valleys.
Today, the park preserves some of the best regional examples of the open woodlands and savannas that existed at the edge of the Great Plains in historic times. These characteristics can be seen in the post oaks and chinquapin oaks that grow in the park. Although many are more than 200 years old, they are short and round instead of tall and slender, indicating dry conditions and shallow soil.
Visitors can view the natural areas of the park on two scenic hiking trails. On the Pittsburg side, Indian Point Trail meanders through a savanna woodland to a scenic platform overlooking the lake. Shorter hikes are possible using connector trails. Hikers along this trail, in season, may see large yellow Missouri evening primroses, purple coneflowers or rose verbena, plus native grasses such as big bluestem, little bluestem and Indian grass. On the Hermitage side, hikers will travel through a more heavily wooded area and follow the rocky bluffs along the lake on Cedar Bluff Trail. Visitors may get a glimpse of deer, turkey, squirrel, prairie warbler, bluebird, purple finch or cedar waxwing on either trail.
Visitors can also enjoy serenity from the lake. Boat launch facilities are available in both areas of the park. Fishermen will have little trouble finding a quiet cove to cast their lines for bass, walleye, catfish, crappie or even muskie. Pomme de Terre Lake is the only lake in Missouri that offers true muskellunge fishing. A fishing pier and marina, which rents boats, motors, equipment and dock spaces, are located on the Pittsburg side of the park.
The park offers a variety of other recreation opportunities to please everyone. Two public swimming beaches provide a great place to cool off or relax in the sun. Picnic areas are tucked in the forest and near the lake in both areas of the park. An open picnic shelter, located on the Pittsburg side, is perfect for family gatherings and can be reserved by calling the park office. Naturalist-led activities are scheduled on weekends during the summer months to entertain and inform visitors.
Overnight guests can choose from basic, electric and electric/water campsites scattered in both areas of the park. Camping areas feature modern restrooms, hot showers, laundry facilities and a dumping station. Several campsites, the showerhouse, marina and beach, all on the Pittsburg side of the park, are accessible to persons with disabilities.