The state of Missouri and its principal river were both named after a tribe of Native Americans, known by the French explorers as the Oumessourit or Missouri Indians, that once lived in the area of Van Meter State Park. Today, the park provides outdoor recreational opportunities and interprets the area landscape and the Native Americans who found it to be bountiful. For many centuries, Native American hunters traversed the nearby marshes and prairies and the deep ravines and narrow ridges, locally known as the Pinnacles. In 1673, French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet composed a map that located a Missouri Indian village at the Great Bend of the Missouri River. Van Meter State Park features remnants of this early village site. A hand-dug earthwork, known as the Old Fort, and several burial mounds lie within park boundaries. The states American Indian history is also interpreted inside Missouri's American Indian Cultural Center through displays and interpretive programming. For outdoor enthusiasts, the park features hiking trails, an 18-acre lake for fishing and a campground. A boardwalk leads visitors through the Oumessourit Natural Area, which consists of a freshwater marsh, fens and bottomland and upland forests. Picnic sites and two picnic shelters are nestled under lofty trees.
I intended to hike the Loess Hills Trail, but the road to reach the TH was closed for the winter. Started to walk from the parking lot to the TH, but opted instead to hike the Earthworks Trail. It's an interesting area, wooded and some rugged climbing to a couple of historic Indian sites (burial mounds and settlement). I enjoyed the Earthworks Trail and will return another time for Loess Hills Trail around the lake. Also recommend visiting the Van Meter family cemetery, from the mid-19th century. If you have time and interest, also check out the American Indian Cultural Center. It's small but has nice artifacts from the site.
We hiked the Loess Hills trail in a lull of a rainstorm. Normally, that would deter me from hiking, but we'd driven a ways and we're glad we hit the trail. The trail winds around a small lake. You'd expect it to follow the shoreline, but you get very few views of the lake until the very end of the trail when you cross the dam.
The terrain around the lake is beautiful; hills, marshy areas, and open fields. The hike doesn't take long, but it's well worth it. There are other trails to hike at Van Meter State Park, enough to keep you busy for the day.
We hiked this trail in the early spring, when the wildflowers were blooming and the underbrush wasn't so heavy. There's lots of good camping in the park, too, as well as historical and cultural displays.
Van Meter is an undiscovered jewel in the state parks system. The diversity of things to do is great. The indian cultural musuem was small but nice. The boardwalk trail over the fresh water wet area was unique. Nice camp and picnic grounds. I have been back a couple times for a relaxed weekend trip.