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Roaring River Hatchery Celebrates its Centennial this Year

Roaring River Hatchery near Cassville is celebrating its centennial this year. The hatchery, part of Roaring River State Park, has a rich history. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more…

Roland Bruner purchased 120 acres that would eventually become Roaring River State Park for 9000 dollars in 1905. He rebuilt an old mill into a motel and restaurant, built cabins and started a resort.According to Roaring River Hatchery Manager Jerry Dean, before that, the land had contained water mills since the 1830s…

"There was one that was burned down in 1865 during the Civil War, and the one that they bought was the one that was rebuilt after the Civil War, and it was in the site of the present day CCC lodge."

Bruner added to the property over the years and eventually expanded his land to 3500 acres. He built the first hatchery on the site in 1910. Dean says the Bruners probably used some of the flumes that had brought water to the mill as raceways for raising trout. People would pick out a fish for dinner and it would be served in the restaurant with watercress salad and vegetables that were grown onsite.25,000 trout were stocked at the hatchery each year, and Dean says Bruner would travel to Monett to get trout off the railroad from Colorado. According to Dean, Bruner’s granddaughter Betty Bruner Layton, who lives in Kansas now, has said the journey wasn’t easy back then…

"Mrs. Layton talks about how frightening the trip was down. She said the roads were so bad, and, actually, the road that came into the park was this one back here--this county road, and it's really rough now and it was probably worse then."

The Bruners faced some hardships—a major flood washed out the hatchery and a fire burned down the hotel...

"He just didn't have finances to rebuild and continue, so the property went up for sale on the courthouse steps in Cassville in 1928 and sold to Thomas Sayman from St. Louis."

Sayman planned to continue the resort…in fact, he began rebuilding the hatchery building that had been destroyed in the flood…but within a month after purchasing the property, he donated it to the state of Missouri, and it became a state park in 1928.Roaring River Hatchery was taken over by the Conservation Department in 1937…

"Previous to that, the park was under the Game and Fish Commission, and then when Conservation was created, the hatchery went under it, and, the rest of the park, that same year the state park board was created."

Today the hatchery produces about 210 thousand pounds of trout each year. And Dean says it’s extremely important to the Cassville area’s economy…

"We figure there are about 700,000 people that visit the park every year, and that brings in a lot of money to not only the obvious ones like businesses like restaurants and hotels and that sort of thing but even hardware stores say that business gets a lot better. The car dealerships--they even sell cars sometimes to people down here for the park, so, yeah, it's a big thing for the economy."

Thousands of anglers were at Roaring River Hatchery as well as Montauk and Bennett Springs State Parks for the opening of trout season this morning. And Betty Bruner Layton, who’s in her late 80s, fired the gun to kick off the season. Dean says opening day has been a tradition at Roaring River for many years…

"Back in the 20s, which was when some of the first opening days for trout season started, fishing was closed during, oh, November through February, so March 1 was the first day of fishing season and so, I guess that's kind of how March 1--things have changed since then. We have different seasons and regulations that are more scientific and everything, but it's just been a tradition for a long time."

This year, Roaring River is celebrating its centennial, and the Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce handed out free 100th anniversary commemorative coffee mugs to fishermen this morning. It’s a significant year for Jerry Dean in another way as well…he’s retiring this month after 19 years as hatchery manager at Roaring River.Trout season runs thru October 31st.For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.

Trout at Roaring River
photo credit:  Michele Skalicky Buildings at Roaring River Hatchery built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s
photo credit:  Michele Skalicky Hatchery at Roaring River
photo credit:  Michele Skalicky Part of Deer Leap Trail at Roaring River Hatchery
photo credit:  Michele Skalicky Part of Deer Leap Trail at Roaring River Hatchery
photo credit:  Michele Skalicky View of Roaring River Hatchery from the Deer Leap Trail
photo credit:  Michele Skalicky Roaring River Hatchery
photo credit:  Michele Skalicky Raceways at Roaring River Hatchery
photo credit:  Michele Skalicky View of the cave and spring at Roaring River Hatchery
photo credit:  Michele Skalicky