The original area was purchased in 1931 by Dr. Otto Walter for Chapter 31 of the Izaak Walton League in Joplin. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) built many structures on the area in the early 1930s including a meeting lodge, a stone wall fence, two bridges, and fish rearing ponds. Originally, the area had eight ponds. However, only three remain today.
The Izaak Walton League operated an active fish hatchery at this location for several years. Water from the spring on the private property to the south provided water for the hatchery operation. It is estimated that the Izaak Walton League released over one-million fish reared at this site into area streams.
In 1985, the Izaak Walton League donated the area to the Conservation Department to continue conservation activities. Today, most of the original 28-acre Conservation Area is rocky forested bottomland with about one-quarter of the property being somewhat hilly. Along with common oaks and hickories, the area also features species such as pawpaw, spice bush, flowering dogwood, and a variety of native wild flowers.
In 1992, the original south pond was renovated with a paved path for disabled accessibility. The lodge was renovated in 1991 for use as an education training center. The trail system has been paved for disabled accessibility and a new bridge was added in 2006 to connect the two trails.
Fishing is allowed only by special use permit for conservation education programs. The Walter Woods Lodge can be reserved for conservation education purposes by contacting the Neosho Office (417-451-4158 or 417-781-2811).
Recently, an adjoining 40-acre tract was purchased by the Department and will be used for conservation education.