State Park #8: Watkins Mill State Park

This post is part of an ongoing series summarizing each State Park in Missouri that our family has attended. We hope to visit each of 54 State Parks before the kids graduate from high school.

We had a free weekend and Brooke told the kids that some hiking was in order. I poked around and found a state park about an hour and a half away from us, so we decided to make a picnic afternoon of it.

Watkins Woolen Mill State Park is close-ish to Kansas City and is technically next to a state historic site of the same name. The mill is a 19th century textile mill that still has the original equipment intact, and apparently it’s the only one in the country set up like this.

But first, we should probably start with the picnic. Nothing terribly exciting, but we were definitely ready to eat something by the time we got there. The picnic area is next to a nice lake, along with a 3 mile paved walkway set up for walking and biking.

The lake actually looked really nice! We didn’t see the campground, but we saw plenty of people there fishing and boating. Now that we have a few kayaks, we could see us spending a decent amount of time boating across the lake on a nice afternoon.

We ended up walking about 1.5 miles around the lake, as it was a bit on the warm side that day. Still, we met some nice people as we traveled around and found some well-placed benches for Calvin to sit on.

After we were done hiking, we hopped back in the car for some welcome A/C and headed off to see the rest of the mill.

We next visited the National Historic Site, which had a nice visitor center with some exhibits showing off life in the 1870s. We have seen plenty of these kinds of exhibits in other places around the state, so it wasn’t anything particularly new, however the giant loom they had was pretty cool. They also had a miniature version available for the kids to try their hand at.

Seeing them work on it for a few minutes, I’m not convinced they’ll be next-level textile makers, but it was still an interesting and entertaining experience.

After leaving the visitor center, we walked down toward the mill and the accompanying mansion. You have to pay extra to visit those two spaces, and after spending plenty of time walking around the lake and eating lunch, we just wanted to see the building without actually going inside. It’s probably an interesting tour (they had period-appropriate women waiting outside each building to walk you through it), but maybe next time.

Anyway, we had a good visit. That lake would probably make a weekend camping trip worth it, but the historic site likely doesn’t take all that much longer than we spent that day.

Afterward, we stopped in Lexington, MO for the return trip and grabbed some ice cream. Again, it was a hot day! We’ll keep Watkins Mill in mind for a camping weekend at some point, as it’s a relatively short drive from here, but we’ve probably seen most of the historic material we need to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *