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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

A Natural Agenda at Parks

Lake Barkley State Resort Park


Lake Barkley Resort State Park overlooks a lush 134-mile-long lake, where visitors can swim, fish and hike to their heart’s content. Lake Barkley is one of two lakes that surround the national recreation area known as Land Between the Lakes, a strip of undeveloped landscape that features hiking, camping, an elk and bison prairie, and an 1850s living-history farm called Homeplace.

Across from Land Between the Lakes, Lake Barkley’s 120-room lodge was designed with a beautiful combination of Western red cedar, Douglas fir timber and towering glass windows. Groups will find plenty of opportunities to unwind in this little slice of paradise, which includes an 18-hole golf course, a racquetball court, trap shooting, a glass-covered indoor pool and an outdoor pool overlooking the lake.

“The atmosphere and scenery make this park special,” said Gil Lawson, information officer at Kentucky State Parks. “The lake is simply beautiful and enticing. It’s a place to retreat, refresh and rewind.”

The recently renovated convention center at Lake Barkley accommodates up to 900 guests, in addition to two smaller reception rooms that seat 150 apiece. Meeting attendees can enjoy a buffet of traditional Kentucky fare in the Windows on the Water restaurant, which prides itself on serving locally sourced favorites like fried catfish, hot brown casserole and country vegetables. Alcoholic beverages are available as well.

“If ordering from the menu, you’ll find everything from a delicious steak to fried green tomatoes and a healthy chicken wrap,” said Lawson.

Custer State Park

South Dakota

Custer State Park is much more than an outdoor recreational area. As a 71,000-acre wildlife preserve, this expanse in the Black Hills region provides a rare opportunity to glimpse 1,300 free-roaming buffalo, a remnant of the great herds that once swept across North American plains by the millions.

“The park is known internationally for its free-roaming wildlife,” said Gina Konechne, regional director of sales and marketing at the park. “Many of the encouraged group activities involve experiences with the fantastic spread of different animals out here.”

For an after-hours adventure, attendees can savor the sights along a guided horseback ride, veer off-road during the Buffalo Safari Jeep Tour or venture out to a mountain meadow canyon for the Hayride and Chuckwagon Cookout. Hiking, paddleboarding, mountain biking and kayaking are high in demand among visitors as well.

There are four beautiful lodges in the park, three with meeting space. The State Game Lodge, the largest and most popular venue for meeting groups, once served as President Calvin Coolidge’s summer White House during the 1920s. Its meeting facilities include a 4,000-square-foot open-air pavilion and two smaller banquet halls with creekside patio access. The Sylvan Lake Lodge features a 3,500-square-foot wooden interior with a fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows, and the Blue Bell Lodge offers a 1,000-square-foot banquet room.

Salt Fork State Park


As Ohio’s largest state park, Salt Fork State Park is sure to keep every attendee entertained with 17,229 acres of recreational facilities. The Salt Fork Lodge offers 148 guest rooms with private balconies or patios, and 53 cabins, with an adjacent 7,000-square-foot conference center.

One of the advantages of the park is that groups can enjoy great views and team-building fun from the comfort and modern amenities of the lodge, which trails the shore of the state’s biggest inland beach. Between sessions, attendees can take advantage of the heated pool, the hot tub, the tennis court, the golf course, volleyball courts, shuffleboard, boating and more.

For those eager to delve into nature, the surrounding terrain encompasses 14 miles of leisurely hiking trails through meadows and woodland, as well as historic structures like the Kennedy Stone House, an 1800s home overlooking Sugar Tree Fork that is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.

The area is also the source of many Bigfoot sightings, drawing the attention of national broadcasts like “Finding Bigfoot” and the “The Today Show.” Every year, the park hosts events like the Annual Bigfoot Conference and Creature Weekend, as well as monthly Bigfoot night hikes led by paranormal investigators Alan and Jesse from “Fathom Frontiers.”

“We have a map of marked sightings that we give to guests,” said Bobbi Taylor, sales manager at the park. “Even the local newspaper photographer and his wife had an encounter.”

For a bite to eat, groups can stop by Timber’s Restaurant for a plate of grilled salmon or forest mushroom risotto. Visitors would be remiss not to try the signature local dessert: the Salt Fork Pretzel. To make this rich treat, a pastry chef stuffs a pretzel with cream cheese, deep-fries it with caramel and chocolate, and then tops it off with candied nuts, powdered sugar, cinnamon and vanilla ice cream.