This year has a special meaning for the trout hatchery at Roaring River State Park. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the hatchery, that started out as a privately owned venture back in 1910 by Roland Bruner.

It’s nearly here – March 1, opening day at the state trout parks.

This year has a special meaning for the trout hatchery at Roaring River State Park. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the hatchery, that started out as a privately owned venture back in 1910 by Roland Bruner.

Bruner’s granddaughter, Betty Bruner of Prairie Village, Kan., will fire the gun to start off the trout park season on Monday. Betty lived at Roaring River from 1921 until 1927 with her parents and grandparents. Some people might remember the park superintendent’s house that stood across from the CCC lodge. It was built by her father, Roland Jr., for his family, and a corner of the foundation is still there.

Betty has many memories of her early childhood at Roaring River. She remembers guests choosing a trout from the raceway that flowed near the hotel in the site of the CCC Lodge. The trout would be prepared at the restaurant and served with a watercress salad.

She also remembers the condition of the roads back then.

“The trip from Cassville to Roaring River was dangerous and frightening, but once a person arrived into the valley, the beauty of the surroundings made them forget about the trip,” Betty said.

Roaring River State Park has been part of Missouri’s heritage for more than 70 years. Considered by many as one of the most beautiful spots in the state, it has always been a big tourist attraction as well as one of the oldest trout hatcheries in the state.

Back in the early 1800s, the area around Roaring River must have been a welcome site to settlers just arriving. Pure, clear and abundant water flowed continuously through deep valleys that gave shelter as well as wild game that was plentiful. Back then, a large spring was the natural site to build a grist mill, and the homes that followed caused spring areas to become thriving communities.

Roaring River was no exception and drew many settlers. The first mill was a crude affair and was constructed in 1845. This mill was sold to Thomas Ruble in 1848, who then sold it to Barton Clements in 1853.

A woolen carding mill was built on the site of the present day CCC Lodge during the “era of the mill.” This building was later converted into a hotel. It eventually burned down.

Clements had the good sense to sell out before the start of the Civil War in 1861. The next several years were a difficult time for the area as lawless bands of Bushwhackers roamed the hills. Families were divided in their feelings and hardship was a constant companion. The mill at Roaring River was completely destroyed and several people were murdered.

However, when the war ended, the mill was rebuilt on the site of the present day CCC Lodge. The next 30 years saw many mills, including a sawmill and woolen carding mill, as the population around the area grew. Eventually the era of the mill ended and the property, consisting of 120 acres was sold to Roland Bruner in 1905 for $9,000. He added to the property whenever he had the opportunity, eventually enlarging it to around 3,000 acres.

Bruner started turning the area into a popular hunting and fishing resort known as the Roaring River Rod and Gun Club, adding cabins, a hotel, a hydroelectric plant and a trout hatchery. He later acquired a partner in the property, F.J. Bannister, who was a lumber company president. It was said more than a half-million dollars were invested there in these years.

However, hard times came again and a large portion of the property went into foreclosure, and, in 1928, was sold on the courthouse steps in Cassville. The buyer was Dr. Thomas Sayman, a St. Louis soap manufacturer for the tidy sum of $105,000 in cash. On Dec. 6, 1928, he presented the entire holdings to the state of Missouri for a state park. Thus Roaring River State Park was born.

The hatchery manager for the past 30 years is Jerry Dean, but this is his last trout opener. Dean is retiring from the Missouri Department of Conservation, but waited until the 100th anniversary of the hatchery before retiring. He has seen a lot of trout come and go at the park, but that’s another story.

Many local trout anglers will be heading for Bennett Spring for the start of the trout season – although many people still refer to Bennett Spring as Bennett Springs. However, there is a single spring that flows more than 100 million gallons of water daily down the 1 1/2-mile stream.

Like Roaring River State Park, Bennett Spring was found to be a good spot for a grist and flour mills by early settlers and was a popular spot for farmers waiting for their grain to be ground at the mill.

Bennett Spring was acquired by the state of Missouri in 1924 and today, campers, anglers, hikers and visitors enjoy the park’s 3,216 acres that arose around Peter Bennett’s spring.

This March 1 will have an estimated 8,000 trout anglers hitting the four trout parks in the state. A Monday opening day won’t be as large as a weekend opener, but after a cold and snowy winter, the anglers are ready. More than 24,000 trout will be stocked prior to opening day.