It's been a long winter and a struggle for spring to arrive, but warm days are finally here and it is time to get outside and get active.
A great way to kick off the summer occurs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday (April 14) at Current River State Park, on Highway 19 between Salem and Eminence. A bevy of local and regional organizations, parks and vendors will be on hand to share information about their various programs, and there will be hands-on activities throughout the day.
"We want to show visitors what's in the area, and help them plan things to do while they're here," said Connie Webber, interpretive resource specialist for Echo Bluff State Park and Current River State Park. "One day they might float the river, the next day hike, and the next day take a driving tour of the springs."
Visitors will have a chance to meet local vendors and outdoor enthusiasts who can help them discover the many ways they can enjoy outdoor adventure and make memories in and around the park.
For example, if you are thinking about buying a kayak, experts from the Alpine Shop, of St. Louis, will have a variety of boats to try out on the lake at the park. Likewise, they will have backpacks and other outdoor gear available to try on and compare features.
National Park Service rangers from the Ozark National Scenic Riverways will be on hand to talk about the Current and Jacks Fork rivers and the many floating, hiking and camping options within the park.
Representatives from the Ozark Trail Association will discuss how to get involved with ongoing trail building projects, and will lead some mini hikes.
Mark Van Patten, nationally recognized fly fishing expert, will demonstrate fly casting. There will be an archery range, guided birding hikes, and tips on outdoor photography. You'll be able to learn about Missouri's elk herd at Peck Ranch, and how the Forest Service uses prescribed burns to improve native plants and habitats.
"We want people to know that there is more to do than floating the same section of the river each time they come," said Webber. They can float different sections, or switch floating with hiking, elk watching or other activities on alternate days. "We're promoting the entire tourist industry in the area," she said.
This is the second year for the Kick Off the Summer event, which gives locals and visitors a chance to connect and exchange ideas. Current River State Park(CRSP) is a day-use park right on the Current River, and across Highway 19 from Echo Bluff State Park. You can tour the historic buildings of the former Alton Box Club at CRSP, or hike one of the many trails.
For food service or lodging, head over to Echo Bluff, where the iconic lodge takes your state park experience to another level. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the Creekside Grill at the lodge. The day-use area at Echo Bluff offers hiking, picnic pavilions and great views of Sinking Creek.
At both parks, a roaming band from the herd of wild horses of Shannon County is quite likely to make an appearance. While seeing these horses is always a special treat, please remember that they are wild horses. Taking photos is fine, but keep your distance and do not feed or pet them.
"We look forward to seeing a lot of people this Saturday, and helping them get ready to make the most of the season," Webber said.
Upcoming events at Echo Bluff State Park include Earth Day activities on April 21; Moon Night Sky, also on April 21; and Dutch oven cooking on April 28.
Current River State Park is on the west side of Highway 19, about 23 miles south of Salem, and about 15 miles north of Eminence. Echo Bluff State Park is on the east side of the highway and a little south of CRSP.
For more information about this and other events at the parks, call Connie Webber at 573-751-1224. For more information on state parks and historic sites, visit mostateparks.com.