If you get the idea that I like to wander around Missouri looking at the scenery, you might be right. I had time last month to check out Wakonda State Park, near LaGrange, in northeast Missouri. I had often wondered what reason for a state park at this not-so-scenic location, next to a landfill in the Mississippi River bottoms.
It didn’t take long to figure out. In the tradition of St. Joe and Route 66 State Parks, it’s another environmental mess handed to the state to turn into a natural playground. The tip-off was the concrete bunker-like structures rising among the campsites and the various odd-shaped lakes.The state park brochure accentuates the positive: “The 1,050-acre park that features six lakes and a rare sand prairie was created through a unique series of events involving both nature and man.”
To summarize, ice age glaciers left huge amounts of gravelly rock, that were used beginning in 1924 to build more than 23,000 miles of Missouri secondary highways. Once the gravel deposits were mined out, the state highway commission deeded 273 acres to the Missouri State Park Board in 1960. The DNR added 777 acres from Central Stone Co. in 1992.
The lakes look fishy — in a good way. They are stocked with largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish. As you might expect along the Mississippi, the lakes are a waterfowl magnet, attracting Canada geese, snow geese, mallards, lesser scaups, norther shovelers, great blue herons, snowy egrets and other kinds of ducks and gulls.
Flora lovers can find sand-loving plants like sandgrass, sand dropseed and prairie sunflower.
There are 79 campsites, handy to the nearby casino, and the state park system’s largest swmming beach on Wakonda Lake.