The rugged and scenic landscape of Roaring River State Park paints a colorful setting for much of the intriguing history and folklore associated with the Ozark hills. With its deep, narrow valley, mountainlike terrain and deep blue spring, the park's natural beauty is breathtaking.
Over thousands of years, the White River cut into the flat plateau, creating deep, steep-walled valleys and exposing an unusual variety of rock formations for such a small area. The area's geology and rugged landscape influence the growth of more than 600 species of plants in Roaring River State Park, many of which cannot be found in any other region of the state.
In the early 1800s, settlers discovered the beauty of the Ozarks and cabins began to dot the hills. By the outbreak of the Civil War, the Roaring River valley was an established community. The canyonlike gorges near the river provided excellent hideouts for Civil War bushwhackers.
By the early 1900s, Roaring River had been discovered as an ideal place for fishing retreats. In 1928, Thomas Sayman, a St. Louis businessman, bought 2,400 acres surrounding the river and, within a month, donated the land to the state. Many of the park's existing facilities were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, including some of the buildings that make up Camp Smokey, the park's organized group camp. Today, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources administers the park.
Roaring River Spring originates in a deep canyonlike gorge beneath a high cliff. A trickling flow of water falls from the bluff into a deep blue pool below, and an average of 20 million gallons of water gush from the spring daily. Young and old alike enjoy feeding and watching the fish in the spring pool.
Some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the park can be accessed by trails that lead to hardwood forests, small Ozark streams, and scenic views atop open dolomite glades. Fire Tower Trail offers access to the 2,075-acre Roaring River Hills Wild Area, where you can find rare Ozark chinquapin trees on chert-covered ridges. Deep hollows nurture spicebush and ninebark bushes and feature spring-fed pools. Devil's Kitchen Trail takes hikers to the rock shelter known as Devil's Kitchen and gives them a chance to see the unusual geologic history of the park.
Ozark Chinquapin Nature Center exhibits interpretive displays that inform visitors on the park's natural history. Park naturalists present nature programs and slide shows and conduct nature hikes.
Roaring River, stocked regularly by the park's hatchery, which is managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation, is known for its premier trout fishing. Fishing licenses and tags are available in the park store, which also sells fishing equipment, tackle, camping supplies and groceries. Take your catch-of-the-day to the park's cleaning and filet station and enjoy fresh fish for your next meal.
The park offers campsites ranging from basic to electric hookups, some of which can be reserved. The camping areas feature hot showers, modern restrooms, laundry facilities and sanitary dumping stations. Twenty-six secluded, rustic cabins with kitchens are located throughout the park. Emory Melton Inn and Conference Center houses 26 guest rooms and kitchenette suites, a restaurant, gift shop and meeting rooms. Reservations are required for inn and cabin rentals.