Hidden Waters Nature Park was conceived in 1998 when Dan and Zoann Beckner purchased three acres of land located in the heart of Marshfield. The acreage was subdivided for a housing development. They saw great potential in all the springs that were located on the property and they wanted them to be left undisturbed.
The history of the park must include the tornado that occurred in 1880. There was great damage and loss of life. Some of the lore that occurred after the tornado was that the storm caused the springs to rise to the surface. In all likelihood the storm blew all the vines and debris away that covered the springs and they were no longer hidden. The springs have now been professionally mapped. Fourteen separate springs are included on the original three acres. Some flow only in times of wet weather and others have continuous heavy flow even in times of dry weather. The constant flow of spring water supplies the headwaters of the West Fork of the Niangua River which continues on by way of other rivers to the Gulf of Mexico.
Hidden Waters Nature Park is a verified trail segment of the Trail of Tears Northern Route.
The Beckners started development of the three original acres which included adding a trail, building three bridges for crossing the streams and three of the natural ponds were enlarged. The idea of a park evolved very naturally. With the help of Jack Watters, a city alderman who realized the potential of a nature park, the city was persuaded to establish the park. A rental agreement between the Beckners and the city was arranged. The rental cost to the city would be one dollar per year. The lease was signed in March, 2003 and the park was created.
The first addition to the original property was undertaken in 2005. The two and one half acres extended a corridor from the existing property to Historic Route 66 where a new entrance was constructed. A generous contribution from Anita Hunter and others made it possible to cover the cost of the property entirely with private funds. A grant from the Webster Electric Foundation covered the cost of building the new entrance and parking lot. A paved trail that encircles the addition was funded by a federal government grant.
An additional acre was added in 2008. The cost was again raised through private gifting. Jack and Etta Jean Watters were the major donors for this addition. It now contains a pergola which provides an environment for contemplation and meditation. A half-acre was added in 2009. This small piece of land was needed to make a better connection between the original property and the Hunter Addition.
Another event in 2009 saw the relocation and reconstruction of the Callaway Cabin.One of the oldest structures in Webster County, built in 1853, was saved from total deterioration when it was moved log by log from its original location, four miles east of Marshfield to the Hunter Addition in the park. It survived a tornado and some threat from the civil war. The moving and restoration project took most of the year. Volunteer help was greatly utilized. The funding came from numerous sources including Callaway family members, the Historical Society and the Webster Electric Foundation. Presently, the cabin is quite a tourist attraction. Thousands of photographs are taken annually. Concerts, weddings and other special events are held at the cabin.
A dedication ceremony was held at the cabin in July 2010. Callaway family members from the east coast to Colorado were present to help celebrate the preservation. Also present were eight committee members of the Callaway Cabin Restoration Committee. Two committee members who were instrumental in putting the project together were Callaway family members, Garland Callaway and Don Rost.
In October, 2010 the Friends of Hidden Waters Inc. not for profit organization was established. This organization oversees the development,
management, fund raising etc. of the park. Eight board members work closely to make decisions that can be referred to the city
and insure proper growth of the park. A third event of 2010 should be noted.
The Beckners donated the original portion of the park to the city.
The fourth addition was made to the park acreage in 2012. The two and one half acres of adjoining land were given by John and Sheila VanDiggelen to the not for profit organization. The prominent feature of the land is an imposing bluff that can be seen from Massey Street. Although it is now quite visible it was once totally hidden by vines, scrub trees etc. The undesirable growth was removed to reveal an impressive sandstone bluff. The Hidden Bluff addition is heavily forested and has many sandstone boulders scattered throughout. These features are now accessible by means of a system of trails.
All of the previously mentioned land that has been assembled presents a great combination of features rarely found in the center of an urban area. The geological and water features are enhanced by at least twenty different varieties of native Missouri trees. Wild flowers are abundant as well as introduced non-native flowers that complement the setting. Lib Sims has spent thousands of volunteer hours developing and caring for a shade garden.
Bird watchers are always busy identifying many varieties of native Missouri birds including an occasional waterfowl. Aquatic animals are plentiful and land animals such as ground hogs, rabbits, squirrels, foxes, turtles and an occasional deer continue to inhabit the park.
An investment for the future was made by the Friends of Hidden Waters Inc. A residence which adjoins the park property at the entrance and has frontage on Historic Route 66 was purchased in June, 2016. This will most likely be the last addition to the park and brings the land area to a total of ten acres. The house is being rented and the rental income is making the twenty year loan payments. It is hoped that a surprise benefactor will come along and donate the balance of the loan. Upon completion of the loan payment the house will be remodeled and serve as a welcome center. It will have much needed rest room facilities, meeting rooms for clubs and organizations, a classroom for nature study, a dressing room for weddings and other possibilities.
Hidden Waters Nature Park is home to a fascinating bird we’ve chosen as the Park’s mascot. Hunter the Owl, a Great Horned Owl, was given that moniker since the species are renowned hunters, and a portion of the park is named Hunter Addition in honor of Board Member, Anita Hunter.
Great Horned Owls, also known as Hoot Owls or Tiger Owls, are often two feet tall with wingspans up to five feet. Their characteristic Hoo-whoo-hoo call rekindles fond memories of the outdoors for many. Remaining in our Park year round, that familiar call can be heard most evenings. Great Horned Owls possess a range of vision much like looking through binoculars, outstanding nocturnal vision, and 270 degrees of head rotation – so if you do see Hunter, chances are you’ve been spotted too!
716 W Hubble Dr