Located in the core of the park, you will find the grand Betty Lea Lodge. Serving as the centerpiece of the park, the lodge, complete with guest rooms, dining, and more gives visitors their first view of the park’s namesake, Echo Bluff. Guests can enjoy the views of Echo Bluff and the sounds of Sinking Creek while relaxing in the rocking chairs lining the back porch of the lodge. Echo Bluff is the largest of several bluffs that are characteristic to the property.
As striking as Echo Bluff is, you won’t be able to steal your eyes from the crystal-clear turquoise waters of Sinking Creek running along its edge. The spring-fed stream serves as the second largest tributary of the Current River and is perfect for wading, fossil hunting, fishing, or just dipping your toes.
When you are ready to return to dry land, a visit to the park’s playground is a must. With a design that blends into the natural landscape, while paying tribute to the area’s river culture, the playground’s natural features and play structures serve as fun for all ages. Seconds after claiming they were too old for playgrounds, my own teen and pre-teen sons made a beeline for the raft-shaped swing the second they laid eyes on it. I settled on the good old-fashioned kind while enjoying the view of Sinking Creek below. The playground also features a splash area, a steep (and speedy) slide built into the hill and multiple climbing structures which maintain the ecology and customs of this river region. Each area is separated by landscaped areas of wildflowers and shrubs native to the area. Play areas are accessible for visitors of all abilities.
For those ready for more adventure, a visit to one of the park’s trails is in order. The Painted Ridge Trail, suitable for beginning and advanced hikers and bikers, creates an opportunity for both short and longer hikes. With two loops, hikers can enjoy a short introduction to the park trail system by choosing one of the mile-long loops, or combining both loops for a longer hike. Within the loops are two shortcuts; designed to serve as bike challenge courses, they include elevated trails, ladder bridges, narrow balance features and ramps. Those on foot may also enjoy these obstacles, or simply use them as a hiking shortcut. Hikers completing the entire trail, which winds along bluffs and through forest and ravines, will be rewarded with waterfalls and scenic views of Sinking Creek and the park below. For serious explorers, the southernmost part of the park serves as a trailhead for the Current River Trail. This 5.25-mile trail (one way) takes travelers through portions of Echo Bluff State Park and continues on to neighboring Current River State Park.
When hunger strikes, visitors may choose to enjoy a meal at the Creekside Grill, pick up a snack at the Sinking Creek Mercantile or enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the shelters or day use areas. The Creekside Grill, open for all three meals, is located inside the Betty Lea Lodge. The restaurant offers indoor or outdoor seating and serves American classic fare along with some Ozark favorites.
With so much adventure waiting for you at Echo Bluff, you shouldn’t try to squeeze everything into one day. Turn the trip into an entire weekend of fun with accommodations that will suit most any taste. For the more rustic traveler, Timbuktu campground offers both full service and primitive walk-in sites. For those who prefer more modern amenities, rooms are available at the Betty Lea Lodge. Families may also rent a cabin or duplex onsite. However long your visit, you are sure to enjoy your time making memories at Echo Bluff.
For more information about Echo Bluff, or to make a lodging reservation, call 844-322-ECHO or visit EchoBluffStatePark.com.
Melissa Nordmann currently resides in St. Charles County. She enjoys attending her sons' baseball games and hiking with her family in many of the area's fabulous parks.
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