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Missouri debuts new state park

Echo Bluff State Park is officially open.

Gov. Jay Nixon cut the ribbon Saturday on Missouri's newest park, which is being promoted as a hub from which visitors can explore the state's Ozark region.

"Echo Bluff State Park is a new jewel of Missouri's acclaimed state park system and offers everyone from experienced outdoorsmen to families who appreciate modern amenities a beautiful base from which to explore the eastern Ozarks," Nixon said. "Not only is the park adjacent to the beautiful Current River and Current River State Park and a gateway to the Ozarks, it's been an economic development tool, creating hundreds of construction jobs and now providing area residents with new employment opportunities in their community."

Credit Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Bill Bryan, the director of Missouri's state park system, said, "From right here at Echo Bluff, you can visit Montauk State Park, and (you're) about a 45-minute drive from Johnson's Shut-Ins and Elephant Rocks and Sam A. Baker state parks," Bryan said. "Of course our neighbor is the National Park Service with the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and the world-famous Current and Jacks Fork rivers.

"There are historic springs, Missouri's growing elk herd is just over the hill at Peck Grass Conservation Area, Rocky Falls is right down the road; all of that is within 30 minutes to an hour from Echo Bluff."

Echo Bluff is Missouri's 88th state park. Bryan said it'll attract more visitors to the region and have a positive impact on both the state and local economy.

"What we've done here is develop a destination for families to use as a base camp, so they can experience everything that the Ozarks has to offer 365 days a year," he said. "It's a pretty easy drive from Springfield, St. Louis or Kansas City, and it's very scenic … people can get here from different directions and then be centrally located to experience other things in the area … and it's a nice place to stay."

The new park has a restaurant, 20-room lodge, five cabins and four stacked duplex cabins, in addition to primitive camping and RV sites.

A 20-room lodge and restaurant are among the accommodations at Echo Bluff State Park.
Credit Mo. Dept. of Natural Resources
A 20-room lodge and restaurant are among the accommodations at Echo Bluff State Park.

Echo Bluff was built on the site of an old summer camp that in recent years had hosted outdoor concerts where illegal drugs were sold and consumed.

"Missourians have been making memories here since 1929, and it's only a very short window in that history that was occupied by the concerts, the drug raids, and that sort of thing," Bryan said. "That is something that's part of the past, (but) the history of this property is its future; a place for families and children to enjoy the outdoors."

He said that park officials will regularly work with local law enforcement to make sure that visitors feel safe.

"We're ready to meet any challenges that do arise, and I'm more concerned with making sure our visitors have a fun experience and that they're safe than I am about what happened here in the past."

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

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Marshall Griffin is the Statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.
Marshall Griffin
St. Louis Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a native of Mississippi and proud alumnus of Ole Miss (welcome to the SEC, Mizzou!). He has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off an old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Liberty Belle, and their cat, Honey.
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