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Lawson, Missouri, is home to a very special state park, the Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and State Historic Site. Sitting in 3,600 acres is an elegant home, woolen mill, schoolhouse, grist mill, and many other buildings, many of which have been carefully restored, with plants and livestock reintroduced to create an 1870s farm. The mill was designated as a National Historic Landmark and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
Although the historical part of the park is arguably the main draw for those that rent an RV in Clay County, the park has a lot more to offer. Visitors can take to the trails, enjoy a leisurely day on the lake, or make use of the popular campsite. Just 40 minutes from Kansas City, and with Kearney and Liberty just a short drive away, there is also plenty to do in the surrounding area.
You can't go camping at Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and State Historic Site without taking a tour of the mill itself, standing imposingly in the center of the park. Tours are given daily by knowledgeable guides, so you are able to learn more about what the building and land were used for, you'll also be able to have a glimpse into the Watkins family home. During the summer months, the site's Living History Farm Program allows visitors an insight into the life of a family in 1870, with costumed guides demonstrating a range of activities.
There is a boat launch in the park, which is used to access Williams Creek Lake, where you will also find a boat dock. Motorboats are allowed but are restricted to 10 horsepower or less. The 100-acre lake offers opportunities for both recreational boating and fishing, with sunfish, crappie, bass, and catfish all available to catch. If you are camping at the state park RV campgrounds, you are able to park up your boat near the campsite.
There is a 3.8-mile path that runs around the whole perimeter of the lake and is intended for walkers, joggers, and cyclists. The path is relatively flat, making it quite accessible and offers great views across the water, and of the wildlife. There is also a separate 3.5-mile equestrian trail.
Once you have spent a day on the water, before heading back to your RV rental, why not finish off with a bite to eat in one of the three picnic areas? Alternatively, you could relax on the large sandy swimming beach and take a dip in the cool waters if you are brave enough.
There are 96 campsites at Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and State Historic Site, so you will never be too far away from the nearest trail. Seventy-four of the sites come with electrical hook-ups, while the others are best if you want a bit more of a primitive motorhome camping experience. All are graveled and come with a picnic table, grill, and lantern pad, allowing you to cook outside with ease. Five of the sites are accessible to those with disabilities. There are plenty of amenities for campers to make use of, such as shower buildings, a coin-operated laundry, and a dump station, all of which are available during peak season. From November through to March, there are limited facilities, and only some of the sites are available.
Camp Branch Campground is nearby and is a huge campground that offers 362 sites on the shores of Smithville Lake. Both tent and RV sites are available here, some of which have 30-amp service, some 50 amp, and some primitive. Many of the sites are located right on the lakefront, meaning you'll have beautiful views to wake up to in the morning when camping with an RV. Throughout the camp, there are conveniently placed shower and laundry facilities, and all sites come with a picnic table and fire ring with a grill for an easy camping experience.
A great day out is to the Kansas City Aquarium, a huge attraction just outside the city center. Get face to flipper with rescues sea turtles and learn more about the threats that wild turtles encounter, catch one of the many shows and talks to discover something new about some incredible teachers, and make your way around the huge range of exhibits. Journey from the Missouri River to the depths of the ocean, finding out about some of the amazing fish and animals that live below the waves.
Get an adrenaline rush at Show Me Ziplines, a unique way to experience the landscape of Missouri. You'll have a great time as you soar through the trees at speed, both day and night. The tours involve over 8000 feet of cable with over a dozen different lines. As you make your way through the course, the platforms will get higher until you are 150 feet off the ground. Throughout the course, there are also suspended wooded walking bridges, and on the ground are walking trails.
For a great, family day out, The Worlds of Fun Amusement Park by Kansas City is a must-visit. The amusement park covers 235 acres and has all kinds of rides and slides. There is also a separate part of the park called Waves of Fun, which contains lots of water-themed rides, a great place to either catch some rays or some rays. There are big thrill rides for older riders, plus those more suited to children and families, making it a great day out for the whole family.