By Howard Helgenberg
The Woodson K. Woods Memorial Conservation Area pretty much surrounds Maramec Spring Trout park.
At 5,658 acres it is located in Crawford and Phelps counties. There are miles of hiking trails, 27 food plots for wildlife viewing, numerous small ponds and access to Dry Fork Creek, a trophy trout stretch of the Maramec River.
The area winds up at Maramec Spring trout park. It’s a great area to hike and fish, and when the weatherman predicted a warmup for the weekend and blue skies, I packed up and headed out for some backwoods hiking and a little trout fishing.
I keep my camper at a place called Pheasant Acres RV Park / Campground located south of St. James, Mo., on Highway 8. If you check the map you’ll notice that Pheasant Acres sits right on the edge of The Woodson K. Woods Conservation Area. It also just happens to be about two miles up the road from Maramec Spring trout park – or about a five mile hike through the woods.
It was turning out to be one of my favorite types of days for hiking. It was still cold enough that you needed a jacket, yet you could walk all morning and never work up a sweat. I planned to take my time and enjoy the hike to Maramec Spring and spend the afternoon trout fishing. I had dropped off my truck with my fishing stuff at the spring earlier that morning so I could just take my time and enjoy my hike through the woods.
I would have guessed I had the entire conservation area to myself but about a mile or so into my hike, I started hearing people talking. Then I caught a glimpse of movement off to my right and maybe fifty or sixty yards into the woods. I soon saw four people out for a hike and headed toward me.
I decided to wait for them and eventually introduced myself to Hunter, Ryan and Persephone Bullock and Jackson Marcee. It turns out that they had the same idea I did and were out hiking and taking up the sunshine and the beautiful day.
Although I didn’t plan to get off the main trail I still brought my GPS along. I like to keep track of the miles I log and the GPS is a great tool for this.
If you are going to depend on a GPS when out hiking I would give the following two suggestions. Be sure to carry two sets of extra batteries and always mark your vehicle with a waypoint before you leave it and go into the woods. I’ve seen it happen more than once where someone heads out hiking in the woods and had no way of finding their way back to their vehicle because they forgot to mark it with a waypoint.
The last quarter-mile of the trail to Maramec Spring parallels the Meramec River and falls under the state’s RED RIBBON TROUT rules. It’s a great place to fish for trout but be sure you understand all the rules. It is totally different than Maramec Spring.
I floated and fished this stretch of the river many years ago on a cold February day with Bob Todd from the Highway 8 Bridge to Scott’s Ford. We didn’t catch many fish that day but we did tip and sink Bob’s canoe about a mile upstream from Scott’s Ford. At the time it didn’t seem as dangerous as it does looking back now.
While wading and fishing Maramec Spring I noticed a new addition to the stream. A rock dam has been built just upstream from the fish cleaning station. This stretch of the stream has always been dead water in my opinion and never held any trout.
I made a few casts and caught a rainbow just above the new dam. You could see several trout in the water. I believe this new dam is a great addition to the stream.
As I continued my way around the stream I couldn’t help notice fellow fisherman Scott Walken from Eureka, Mo., reeling in a smallmouth. That’s something you don’t see very often at a trout stream.
All and all it was a wonderful day. I got plenty of exercise, caught a couple nice trout and got a great night’s sleep back at the campground.