The once-thriving river village of Athens, Missouri had up to fifty businesses and a large mill in antebellum times. In July 1861 it was occupied by pro-Union forces of the Missouri Home Guard. Wanting to seize the strategically important village for the Confederacy, elements of the pro-Southern Missouri State Guard attacked on August 5, 1861. Despite being outnumbered by more than 3-to-1, the Home Guard emerged victorious. A small action when compared to other battles, with casualties light, nonetheless it holds the distinction of being the northernmost Civil War battle west of the Mississippi River. Following the battle, many bitter feelings remained among residents. This along with the coming of railroads and less reliance on river shipping sealed the fate of Athens. By the turn of the 20th century Athens was a veritable ghost town. In 1962, remaining area residents worked together to create the Battle of Athens Park, which was donated to the state of Missouri in 1975. The historic site and open-air museum interpret the battle and its aftermath.
Boating: A 10-acre (4.0-hectare) lake is available for use by boats and canoes with electric trolling motors only. No gasoline motors are allowed, and no marina services are available.
Camping: Basic and electric campsites are available each April through November. Water is available in the campground.
Fishing: Predominant species found in the lake are large-mouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and some channel catfish.
Hiking: Three trails are available, two of which are approximately 1.75 miles (9,200 ft; 2.82 km) in length, and a third of about 0.75 miles (4,000 ft; 1.21 km).
Picnicking: The Battle of Athens State Historic Site has three picnic areas and one enclosed picnic shelter.