Sometimes hunters and anglers would like to have a decent place to hang their hats at the end of a long day in the woods or on the water. A tent or a camper is nice, but sometimes we like to treat ourselves to a place that's a little nicer than a basic campground. The problem is that finding a lodge or cabin at a private operation often can be pricey.
Problem solved! Missouri's state parks offer some great lodging opportunities around the state and their rates won't break the bank.
The lodging accommodations at these locations are far better than a basic campground. Don't get me wrong; sometimes a basic campground where you pitch a tent or park a popup camper is just what the doctor ordered for a great hunting adventure. But sometimes you just want a nicer place to call your base camp. And that's just what the three locations in this article are for — to be the base camps for your outdoor adventures in 2018.
STOCKTON STATE PARK
Stockton State Park is 2,176 acres overlooking Stockton Lake that offers hunters and anglers an excellent base camp for some of the hottest spring turkey hunting and crappie fishing anywhere.
You will find log camper cabins, duplexes and quadraplexes that can be used as your base camp this spring.
The big duplexes offer two bedrooms and a kitchen and sleep up to six people. The small duplexes offer just one bedroom and can sleep up to four people.
The log cabins can accommodate up to four adults and two kids. The cabins include electricity, heating and cooling but no water or restrooms.
Each unit has its own designated parking for up to two vehicles and a boat trailer. Drinking water is nearby. A central restroom and showers are within walking distance.
These units are open April thru October. You can make your reservation with a Visa, Discover or MasterCard.
The Missouri Department of Conservation manages 16,000 acres of prime Ozark habitat for spring turkey hunters to chase gobblers. This land is located on the arms of the Little and Big Sac rivers of Stockton Lake itself. The MDC reports the area has a good population of wild turkeys. The land the MDC manages is a mix of habitat including open grasslands, timber, glades and old fields. Be prepared to walk steep, rugged hillsides for turkeys.
If your trip allows you to scout before spring turkey season, go listen for gobblers sounding off from the roost at dawn. They often use the same roost sites daily. Also, listen to where they go and gobble from in the mid-morning hours. Knowing the location of roosted birds is a huge advantage in increasing your chances of success, as is knowing which direction they go after they fly off the roost. Having a good locator call and several different turkey calls helps to entice those gobblers into gobbling and coming into shotgun range.
Crappie anglers can expect awesome fishing opportunities in the spring of 2018. The 2016 crappie trap-netting surveys revealed the highest white crappie catch-rate seen over nearly a quarter century! The large population of 9- to 9 1/2-inch fish should carry over into 2018 and provide good amounts of fish in the 11- to 12-inch range. Crappie fishermen can expect this white crappie bonanza to last another two or three seasons. Black crappie numbers also were higher than usual with plenty in the 10- to 12-inch range. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, along with the MDC, have created and restored many fish attractors around Stockton Lake. Fishing success is very good around them. Visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZJL for an online map of the locations of the attractors. Many of these structures are marked with signs on the shore of the lake. Or you can find them using sonar in 20 feet of water in front of the signs.
Stockton State Park includes a public marina that offers all the amenities. You can get everything from ice for coolers to a juicy burger for lunch. Plus, the marina offers boat rentals including pontoons, fishing boats, kayaks, canoes, wave-runners and sailboats. You can also buy tackle and live bait!
19100 MO-215, Dadeville, MO 65635 - 417-276-5329
Lodging: 5 camper cabins; 9 Duplexes/Quadraplexes
On-Site: Marina, Park Store
Nearby: 16,000 acres of hunting land on the arms of the Little and Big Sac River of Stockton Lake. Stockton Lake itself offers 24,960 acres of water on which to fish and boat.
MONTAUK STATE PARK
If wading a clear, cold river with riffles and pools that is chock-full of rainbow and brown trout sounds like fun to you, then a staycation at Montauk State Park just might be what the doctor ordered. This 1,396-acre state park is situated on the headwaters of the pristine Current River. The area's natural springs and Pigeon Creek add over 40 million gallons of ice-cold water to the river every day, making it ideal habitat for trout.
Montauk State Park offers single, duplex, quadraplex and one- to three-bedroom cabins as well as an 18-room motel as lodging, but also offers a campground for those wanting to pitch a tent or pull a camper.
The cabins offer a variety of features including kitchens, fireplaces and TVs. Laundry facilities are available Feb. 25 through Oct. 31. No smoking is allowed in any of the units. Lodging is open all year.
Trout anglers can expect good fishing at Montauk because trout are stocked daily on the river inside the park at a rate of 2.25 trout per expected angler.
The river is divided into three fishing sections at Montauk State Park. The Catch-And-Release zone includes Montauk Lake and the section of river below the lake raceways to the CCC spillway. The Flies-Only zone includes the section of river from Montauk Springs to the CCC Mill Dam on the main channel. The Natural and Artificial Bait area includes all the river branch below the CCC Spillway and the main channel below the CCC Mill Dam to the lower park boundary.
Fishermen are allowed up to four trout daily during the open season which runs March 1 through Oct. 31. However, catch-and-release fishing is allowed from the second Friday in November to the second Monday in February from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Mondays.
Small spinners like Rooster Tails (with a single hook) in the 1/16- to 1/8-ounce range and jigs are good bets for catching a lot of fish. Streamers, Woolly Buggers, leeches and Cracklebacks are good choices for fly-fishermen.The only thing that could make for a poor day of trout fishing at Montauk would be water conditions. Flooding or high, murky water can make angling challenging. For up-to-date stream conditions, check out the USGS water data Web site at waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?07064440.
If fishing on the wild side and not inside the park is more your style, then great trout fishing can be found on the Current River outside the park.
Where the Current River exits Montauk State park and flows into the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, trout fishing falls under Blue Ribbon Trout Area regulations for the next nine miles downstream to Cedar Grove Access. That area is managed for large brown trout but there is an abundance of rainbow trout there too. The first 2 1/2 miles of river below Montauk offers wade-fisherman a good chance at pristine fishing. The entire nine-mile Blue Ribbon Trout Area allows anglers to keep just one trout daily and it must be 18 inches or better. The brown trout population is estimated to be 317 fish per mile above Baptist Access. The rainbow trout population is estimated at 558 per mile in the same stretch of river.
345 County Road 6670, Salem, MO 65560 - 573-548-2434
Lodging: 4 cabins, 24 Single, Double and Quadraplexes; and an 18-room motel
On-Site: Dorman L. Steelman Lodge includes restaurant, snack bar, and bait and tackle store.
MARK TWAIN STATE PARK
This 2,775-acre state park is situated in the Salt River Hills in northeast Missouri's Monroe County. Deer hunters can use the lodging there as their base camp for excellent deer hunting around Mark Twain Lake itself, which offers approximately 55,000 acres of land and water for sportsmen. About 36,400 of those acres is land so deer hunters have a lot of area to escape other hunters.
Mark Twain State Park offers six camper cabins in Puma Campground. These cabins can accommodate up to four adults and two children. The cabins have heating, AC and electricity, but they have no water or restrooms. The cabins are available for rent all year. Visitors must make reservations. Full payment for your stay will be due at the time you make the reservation. There is a three-night minimum stay on holiday weekends and a two-night minimum for all other weekends.
Almost all the 36,000-plus acres of public land are open to hunting with the following exceptions: developed recreation areas and areas posted with government "No Hunting" signs.
Portable deer stands, waterfowl blinds, and waterfowl decoys are permitted, but must be removed each day after the hunt. No permanent or overnight stands/blinds are permitted.
Prospective hunters should know that region of Missouri has a very good deer population. There often is heavy hunting pressure, especially on opening weekend of firearms deer season. Hunters would be wise to scout the area ahead of time and strategize a way to access remote areas of this U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land to avoid the crowds. Hunting mid-week during all portions of the deer season is another way to beat the crowds. Many hunters use a boat to access remote areas around Mark Twain Lake.
A great tip is to visit the Army Corp link to where their food plots are located inside the area. mvs.usace.army.mil/Portals/54/docs/recreation/marktwain/2015_MTL_Hunting_Brochure.pdf
While deer hunting around Mark Twain Lake is open to everyone, each year there is a special hunt for handicapped hunters. This hunt is done in cooperation with the COE and other community organizations and volunteers. The hunt is limited to a certain number of permanently disabled (non-ambulatory, semi-ambulatory) individuals who must apply for the hunt usually by early September. Openings are limited. Participants must be hunter education certified. For further information, contact the Mark Twain Lake Project Office, 20642 Highway J, Monroe City, Missouri, 63456 or phone 573-735-4097.
If you decide to make Mark Twain State Park the hub of your hunting this season, make sure you bring plenty of supplies like ice, beverages and food. There are not many places nearby that you can get such amenities.
There is a shooting range at Mark Twain Lake if you need to sight-in your deer rifle. The David C. Berti Shooting Range is in the South Spillway Recreation Area and is open to the public, offering a 100-, 50- and 25-yard range. A $2/day or $25 Range Annual Permit is required per shooter. Range reservations are $30 per section or $50 for the entire range. Annual permit and reservations are available at the Mark Twain Lake Project Office. Park officials ask users not to use automatic weapons, shotguns, skeet, or glass targets and to please use paper targets and pick up after themselves. Call 573-565-2112 for more information.
37352 Shrine Road, Florida, MO 65283 - 877-422-6766
Lodging: 6 camper cabins
On-Site: David C. Berti Shooting Range