Trenton and Grundy County is a haven for things to do when it comes to the great outdoors. One of the busiest outdoor recreational sites for both visitors and local residents is Crowder State Park, a 1,912-acre tract of land that provides a number of activities for those who enjoy nature not only during the warm weather, but throughout the year as well.
The park is located just three miles west of Trenton off Highway 146 and was named after Gen. Enoch Crowder, known as “The Father of the Selective Service.” A native of Edinburg, located just down the road from the park, Crowder is a graduate of West Point and served as military governor of the Philippines as well as the first U.S. Ambassador to Cuba.
The park was created in 1938 when the Missouri legislature approved $10,000 to purchase 640 acres of land for recreational purposes. The park's natural environment is unusual for northern Missouri as it is covered with rich glacial soils that nurture thick forests of sugar maple, and stately white and red oaks.
The Thompson River, named for Dr. William Preston Thompson, whose family is considered the first white settlers in the area, winds its way through the park. Bordering it are steep-walled valleys and ravines where basswoods and bur oaks tower over dogwood, serviceberry and bladdernut. The bottomlands along the river are accented by stands of cottonwood, river birch, silver maple and sycamore trees that shade a valley floor where the rare ostrich fern grows along with swamp buttercups, touch-me-nots, Sweet Williams and Dutchman's breeches. Lady slipper orchids and maidenhair ferns are located along the river’s shaded sandstone edges.
Several mounds of prehistoric American Indian origin are found in the park, and at the time the first American settlers showed up, the area was still being used by Sac and Fox tribes.
The park offers many opportunities for recreational and leisure activities such as hiking, camping, picnicking and fishing. The areas described above have lent themselves to the creation of four walking trails in various locations of the park, giving persons of all ages and abilities the chance to explore the beauty of the park’s natural surroundings.
The 1.6-mile Redbud trail follows a headwater stream through rich bottomland forest, lined with prominent sandstone outcrops mantled in ferns and mosses and ascends a hill through woodlands dominated by white oak and hickory trees. White Connector 1 allows for a shorter hike of approximately one mile.
The River Forks Trail allows both hikers and bicyclists to travel a 1.9-mile trail through a woodland dominated by white oak ad shagbark hickory. During the spring, wildflowers and ferns can be viewed. The Thompson River is visible from the trail’s farthest point.
The 2.9-mile Tall Oaks Trail follows the shoreline of Crowder Lake on the north and west, then continues through a bottomland of sycamore, river birch, cottonwood, and black walnut trees, with white oak and hickory trees lining the latter part of the trail. The south loop of the Thompson River Trail can be accessed from Tall Oaks from the Steep Creek Connector or the Northwest Passage Connector. Additional trail milage includes a spur across the Crowder Lake dam and a spur from the campground area. The trail, open to both hikers and bikers, can also be accessed from Shelter 3 and the campground amphitheater parking lots.
The 8.6-mile Thompson River North Loop is located along the open, low-lying floodplain to the Thompson River and crosses through a bottomland forest of cottonwood hackberry, silver maple and pin oak. The Thompson River, visible from the trail, provides water to the bottomland forest. A small section of the trail crosses a level ridge top, which has been restored to native tallgrass prairie to reflect the historic vegetation that once flourished in this area. The South Loop can be accessed from the 0.8-mile White Connector 4 from the North Loop or from Tall Oaks Trail by either the 0.8- mile Northwest Passage or the 0.8-mile Steep Creek connectors. Loess/glacial till woodlands dominated by white oak and hickory line the south loop, with a small section of the trail crossing an old field. The trail is available to hikers, backpackers, bikers, and horse riders.
The home of Dr. Thompson is accessible from the North Loop as is an old cemetery. The home has been restored by “Friends of the Thompson House,” a not-for-profit group dedicated to preserving the historical integrity of what is believed to be the first home built in Grundy County by white settlers. The structure gives visitors a glimpse into the early history of Grundy County and is a popular stop for those coming to the park along with the cemetery, which includes members of the Thompson family. While the area is normally accessed by foot, the park does provide bus tours to both the Thompson home and cemetery during the Missouri Day Festival in October (weather permitting).
Camping draws many visitors to the park throughout the year as both basic and electric campsites are available. The camping area features modern restrooms, hot showers, a dumping station, a laundromat, and playground equipment. During the prime camping season (May through September), the park offers special programs for both park users and the public, including scavenger hunts to learn about local habitat, arts and crafts, boating, Dutch oven cooking, etc. Reservations for camping sites are made via the Missouri State Parks website, mostateparks.com, or by calling 1 (877) 422-6766.
Camp Grand River is a group camp and is available to nonprofit organizations. The camp offers sleeping cabins, a dining lodge with kitchen, a recreation hall, and outdoor recreational facilities, including a play court. To receive a reservation application, groups can call the park office at (660) 359-6473.
Picnic sites are scattered throughout the park and are open on a first-come, first-serve basis. For larger family gatherings, an enclosed shelter with electricity is available, as are two open shelters; all of which can be reserved by contacting the park superintendent.
Sycamore Shelter (open shelter 1) can accommodate around 50 persons and is handicapped accessible. It has a large outdoor grill, picnic tables, water fountains and a water hydrant. A swing set is also located at the site. Burr Oak Shelter (open shelter 3) can accommodate around 60 persons and has a large outdoor grill, picnic tables and a water fountain. Playground equipment and volleyball standards are also located at the site and available for use. Both open shelters are available at a cost of $35 per day.
The enclosed shelter is available by reservation only ($50 per day) and is fully furnished for events such as receptions and reunions. Tables and chairs are also available along with picnic tables and a large outdoor grill.
If you like to fish, the 18-acre lake is regularly stocked by park personnel to tempt anglers of all ages. Canoes and boats with small electric motors are also allowed on the lake and the park has kayaks canoes and a standup paddleboard to rent at the park office. Rental is available by calling the park office.
Anna Persell is the park superintendent and can be contacted at the park office, (660) 359-6473, for more information. Also check out the Crowder State Park website at www.mostateparks.com/park/crowder-state-park.
December 12, 2023
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