Smithville Lake & St. Joseph…the Pony Express Town

Story & photos by Tim Huffman

The Lake. Northwest Missouri is full of fun, adventure, fishing and history. It’s a great place to take the family and do some fishing, too. Smithville is 40 minutes from St. Joseph and 45 minutes from Kansas City

Smithville Lake is relatively new compared to other Corp lakes. It was completed in 1982 filling to a summer pool of 7200 acres. There are 4000 acres left uncleared to create aquatic habitat. Irregular shaped coves furnish more than 175 miles of shoreline. The Jerry L. Litton Visitor Center at the lake includes historical exhibits of the area, dam, recreational opportunities and more.

            Derek Dorsy, Corps of Engineers Park Manager at Smithville Lake says, “The lake is a flood control lake with secondary uses as a water supply, recreation, wildlife and fishing. The main lake is cleared for recreation with coves on the main lake having some standing timber. East of the Collin’s Bridge and north of the W Highway bridge are still standing timber areas with a lot of habitat remaining.”

“This is our seventh year for FISH, Friends Improving Smithville Habitat,” says Dorsy. “We have volunteers come out to help the coordinated effort of the Corps, Missouri Department of Conservation, and Smithville Parks and Recreation to place 75 to 100 hardwood brushpiles. These are not small; most 30 to 40 feet. We’re seeing positive results of the program with our bass and crappie catches improving in size.”

A mid-September fishing report from Burton’s Bait & Tackle in Smithville says crappie are starting into their active fall patterns at Smithville. Fishing has been excellent with limits being common. Most crappie are being taken from brush piles in 10 to 15 feet of water.

St. Joseph.  This town is located just 40 minutes north of Kansas City. It has a population of about 90,000 making it large enough to find anything you need yet is not a crowded metropolitan. The Missouri River connects with the town making it a popular spot for catfishermen.

My number one recommendation for learning, seeing and feeling the local history is the Patee House built in 1858. It served as headquarters for the Pony Express. The house is a museum with original Pony Express items but it has much more to see, too. A street with all the old stores and offices equipped as they were in the old days, old ballrooms, toys, train engine and a working carousel are all inside the house museum. This is a classy, fun, informative place to visit.

Another great place for outdoors enthusiast is the Remington Nature Center. History and nature collide for fun and education. Civil War artifacts, a woolly mammoth replica and 7,000 gallon aquarium is part of the experience.

            The Walter Cronkite Memorial includes memorabilia of Cronkite along with many photos and film clips of this reporter. He earned a reputation of an honest reporter and he wasn’t afraid to get in the trenches with our military. He covered major space flights, wars, and the JFK assassination.

The Glore Psychiatric Museum, Wyeth Tootle Mansion and other tourist spots can be seen in St. Jo.

The top of the list for places to stay is the Stoney Creek Inn Hotel.


Smithville Lake, US Army Corps of Engineers,  or call 816-532-0174.

St. Joseph Convention & Visitors Bureau, 816-233-6688 or 800-785-0360