Bennett Spring is justifiably famous among fishermen. An incredible natural spring within the park (located near Lebanon, Missouri, about 15 miles from Interstate-44), puts out 100 million gallons of water every day, creating a beautiful blue-green stream ideal for trout fishing. During the regular fishing season—between March and October—Bennett Spring's on-site fish hatchery stocks the stream with hundreds of thousands of rainbow and brown trout that lure fly-fishermen from far and wide. In fact, watching the fisherman wade into the cool sparkling water and methodically cast their lines is a popular spectator sport at the park. Bennett Spring also has a fly-fishing school where you can learn how to angle the stream, and if you catch a trout, the park's Dining Lodge will cook it for you.
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s, the handsome stone Dining Lodge is only open during fishing season, but it serves good, home-style favorites like hot turkey sandwiches ($6.89) for lunch and roast beef dinners ($10.89). Breakfast begins at 7 a.m. and includes oversized three-egg omelets (from $5.99) as well as old-fashioned biscuits and gravy ($4.19).
Not into fishing? Not to worry. Bennett Spring is a well-developed park offering a complete package of amenities: an outdoor swimming pool, a Nature Center with family-friendly programs, a campgrounds, cabins with completely furnished kitchens (starting at $134), and plain but clean motel rooms (starting at $75) that have fridges, TVs and balconies for taking in the scenery. Rustic hiking trails that vary in length and degree of difficulty offer a fine view of the stream and lead to geologic features like a 300-foot-long natural tunnel. It's fun to feed the trout and watch them jump and flip in the hatchery troughs, and at the Bennett Spring store, which sells everything from picnic supplies to rods and reels, you can rent a canoe or raft (rates start at $34 per day) for a float trip down the Niangua River bordering the park.