19100 MO-215, Dadeville | 1 hour northwest of Springfield
Stockton State Park is a gem in plain sight and a premier sailboat lake. One reason for that is its consistent southwest breeze. In fact, Stockton is considered one of the top 10 sailing lakes nationwide, according to the American Sailing Association. The ASA offers sailing classes through Lake Stockton Boat Works, located near Orlean’s Trail Marina, one of three marinas on the nearly 25,000-acre lake.
Not a sailor? You can still enjoy the sport by attending the Lake Stockton Yacht Club’s 49th Annual Governor’s Cup Regatta Sept. 22–24—the largest in Missouri according to the club. The sight of all those wind-filled sails cutting across the water is breathtaking.
Stockton Lake is also a nice place to paddle a kayak or canoe. Rent vessels and motorboats at any of three marinas: Orlean’s Trail (which also has campgrounds and a resort), Mutton Creek Marina and Campgrounds, and the Stockton State Park Marina, which has lodging rentals, a store and a small café.
If you have your own boat, the Hartley Cove boat ramp and State Park Marina are two places to launch. They are also trailheads for the park’s water trail along 6.65 miles of shoreline that includes limestone bluffs and opportunities to see birds and other wildlife. With only a mile by land between the two launch spots, you can ride a bike from one to the other.
We don’t mountain bike but enjoy seeing cyclists pump their pedals as we step out of the way along a dual-purpose trail like the 1.6-mile Umber Ridge. Enjoy several views of the lake along this trail, and in the spring, look for wildflowers, including trillium, wild hyacinth and more. The Lakeview Trail has nice vista views of the lake, and cyclists seem to enjoy a newer multi-use trail system in the more remote southwest area of the park. The 3.3-mile Sortor’s Bluff Trail goes along Sortor’s Bluff and follows a peninsula near the Sac River. This trail is great for hiking too.
Given its proximity to Springfield, Stockton is a good place to start your kids out camping. (My family camped here.) There are campgrounds available through the park system and through private entities. My brother and family love renting rustic camping cabins, with electricity but no plumbing. (It’s almost like tent camping, only more comfortable.) When it’s hot during summer months, your kids can splash at a swimming beach on the park’s north end.
Don’t forget fishing! The lake attracts anglers who take advantage of its many protected coves (which helps get them out of the wind!). In fact, some bass fishing clubs regularly hold small tournaments. Hooking a bass at Stockton is a favorite but the lake also has crappie, walleye and bluegill.
Nearly anything you enjoy doing outdoors, you’ll find at Stockton State Park. And the best part is, you can go for the day and get home in time for dinner!—Sony Hocklander