Roaring River State Park, nestled among the hills of southern Barry County near Cassville, draws visitors from across Missouri and neighboring states. Although the 4,093-acre park offers camping and hiking opportunities, its main appeal is trout fishing.
Roaring River Hatchery, which is operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation, produces more than 250,000 rainbow and brown trout each year. Most of those fish end up in the upper 1.7 miles of Roaring River that is within the park boundaries. The stream originates at Roaring River Spring—one of the park’s many scenic features. The 20 million gallons of cool water that flow from the spring daily make trout rearing and trout fishing possible at the park.
A Natural Choice The spring—and the cool water that gushes from it—prompted Roland Edward Bruner to construct the first trout hatchery at the site in 1910. Bruner was born in 1860 in Pennsylvania and later moved to Wellsville, Kansas, where he married Hannah McLain in 1883. Among his many careers, he was a miner and progressed from prospector to president of the Anaconda–Arizona Mining Company. His business took him around the country, including the Ozarks. He also traveled to Colorado, where he became interested in rainbow trout, not so much in how to catch them but in how to raise them.
The fish hatchery Bruner built included a small hatchery building on the northwest corner of the spring pool’s dam and several raceways.
Bruner started with trout that were shipped by railroad from Colorado to Monett about 25 miles to the north. He put a tank on his pre-1910 model truck to carry the trout from the railroad landing to Roaring River, a trip which included seven miles of extremely poor roads.
Much of the information on Roaring River’s early days comes from Roland and Hannah’s granddaughter, Betty Bruner Layton, who lived in the park until she was 5 years old. Before the U.S. entered World War I, her father, Roland Bruner Jr., left college at the University of Missouri in 1916 and joined the American Field Service in France to fight the Germans. He was wounded and returned to the U.S. in 1917. He came to Roaring River to heal and to help his father with his hatchery.
Roaring River was self-sufficient in those days. Betty remembers guests picking out trout in the raceway near the hotel for dinner. The restaurant would prepare the trout and serve it with a watercress