Each year, from April to October, the businesses of Eminence open their doors, polish their canoes, and welcome thousands of tourists and regulars to camp and float down the rivers. An average weekend will have between 600 to 1,000 people enjoying a dip in the waters.
Cross Country Trail Rides
The camp hosts three- and six-day events from May through October. Admission to an event includes three meals a day, a campsite, an indoor arena, and daily entertainment including horse shows, swimming, organized rides, and entertainers from Nashville. CCTR hosts around 10,000 campers a year, not counting their horses. The campsite has the capacity to house 3,000 horses and has a veterinarian on site.
Carolyn Dyer, the daughter of Jim and Jane, manages the office, and loves working in the family business. Her brother, David Smith, works the gate at night, and her sister, Mary Kay Higgins, is the manager of the Western store located on the sprawling campus.
“We’ve had campers that came from the very beginning and return each year,” Carolyn says. “There was a nice lady from Godfrey, Illinois, that came each year until she died and had the best funny stories and rode her mules.”
The campground was initially built to resemble an Old West town and has transformed into a resort filled with 28 cabins, 60 tent sites, and 60 RV sites with full hookups for electricity, water, and sewer. Circle B hosts an average of 15,000 campers a year, and many of them are returning customers.
“They become almost like family,” Staples says about her returning customers. “It’s hard to say goodbye at the end of each season.”
While giving a tour of the campground, Staples recalls the names of many of the campers, including the Hynes family from Chicago.
“My father started going to Eminence in the ’30s, and the tradition continues with me and my children,” Susan Hynes says. “I always refer to the river as healing waters. When I go home, my joints feel better, my allergies are gone, and I have a rosy complexion.”
Circle B didn’t become the attraction it is without a great investment of hard work, time, and money. Nine cabins had to be torn down and rebuilt when Staples took ownership of the campgrounds. And the cabins need to be refurbished yearly. But the hard work doesn’t outshine the rewards.
“This is God’s country and the crown jewel of Missouri,” Staples says. “It’s an honor to work and live here.”
“You don’t grow up in this town and not have a job working for at least one campground or canoe rental business,” says Mike, a former middle school teacher. “I’ve worked in canoe rentals since I was 14.”
Windy’s has 150 canoes, 24 six-person rafts, 40 kayaks, 100 inner tubes, seven vans, and five school buses that transport floaters to and from the rivers.