Mark Twain National Forest

Day 5 – Springs of the Missouri Ozarks

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Day 5 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

Today I spent my time exploring the many springs of the Missouri Ozarks. I found myself picking between the deepest, biggest, most photographed and more. Picking up from last night there was only one other camper at the campgrounds when I arrived.  It made me a little nervous when he asked if I was alone.  I promptly answered,

“My dogs were with me.”

He responded, “If you need anything, let me know.  I’m going to the lake.” 

He had a nice boat and it turns out he was most concerned with fishing.  He fished last night and this morning before I left.  A few more campers also trickled in, so that added comfort to my evening’s choice.  For such a nice lake, I was surprised to not see more people, but I think its downfalls were the noisy trucks trying to make it up the nearby two lane road and the fact there weren’t individual water hookups.

Best Springs to Visit in the Missouri Ozarks

Grand Gulf State Park

My first stop this morning was Grand Gulf State Park just north of the Missouri/Arkansas border.  The park has a mile long trail that passes by a narrow chasm known as “The Little Grand Canyon”.  It used to be a cave system, but the roofs collapsed.  There is still a small portion with the roof intact which forms a natural bridge.  Matt, the friendly ranger, explained the trail and suggested that I take the stairs down to the canyon.  It was a perfect morning jaunt for the dogs!

little grand canyon

Greer Spring

We moved on to Eleven Point National Scenic River which runs through Mark Twain National Forest in southeastern Missouri.  Here there is a mile trail to Greer Spring which pours out of a cave and also bubbles up from the surface to flow through a canyon before joining Eleven Point River and doubling its volume.  Greer Spring is the second largest spring in Missouri, pouring an average 220 million gallons of water per day into the river.  The area was beautiful, yet the loose rocks and path by the spring were somewhat treacherous for the dogs.

I met Ronnie and his family down by the spring.  He and his wife are organic farmers about 40 miles east of the spring.  His son and daughter-in-law (or vice-versa) and his five year old grandson were visiting from St. Louis.  Ronnie was the most knowledgeable of the area. He said the cave was neat and there was a non-working cable car downriver that makes a good picture, but the slick, narrow path proved too dangerous for his grandson.   

We all just stayed by the beautiful spring that didn’t disappoint.  They also pointed out the poison ivy the surrounded the path at the beginning of the trail.  Petey completed his business there, so I hope I don’t end up itching in the next few days!

Ronnie and family at the springs of the missouri ozarks
Ronnie and family

Upon return to my car, I found ANOTHER stray dog.  He was so cute.  At least he had a collar.  I gave him some food and water and called the owner.  He was at least 15 miles from home, so I think he must have been camping with his owner somewhere.  Once again, there wasn’t much I could do for the fellow with my unfriendly pup in tow.

I’m hoping he stuck around the trailhead and associated it with food and water since more people were coming and going and a local will help him.  It was very hard to leave – normally I take the dogs in my neighborhood to their owners or a vet.  They are pretty resourceful creatures though.  Last year a lady got lost camping in Colorado and ended up on our property and two days later we found her dog on a different part of our property.

Blue Spring

On my way to my next stop, Blue Spring, I dodged another turtle.  I’m up to four now!  During the last five minutes of the drive, I felt like I was riding the Judge Roy Scream, an old roller coaster at Six Flags in Dallas, as my stomach raised into my throat over every hill.  It was a fun drive!  Blue Spring was truly amazing and appropriately named.  The color, as Reader’s Digest describes it, is like “liquid sapphire”. 

The spring is Missouri’s deepest spring at 310 feet.  If the Statue of Liberty were placed in it, the torch would be underwater.  While it looks like a still pool, it has an average daily flow of 90 million gallons.  I met Bill, Gary, and Marilyn here.  They came up to the spring by boat.  Bill was nice enough to snap a picture of me with the dogs!

Alley Spring

Another place…another spring of the Missouri Ozarks.  Missouri has over 1,100 springs.  I skipped Big Spring which was on the route, but I did stop at Alley Spring.  Its historic, red rollermill is one of the most photographed sites in the Ozarks.  While there were many mills in the area during the late 1800s, this mill was a very progressive business venture.  It used modern machinery, steel rollers for the grinding, and turbines versus a water wheel to power such machines. 

While the spring provided free water, recurring floods and the fact that the mill was designed to process wheat flour for commercial markets in an area where corn was the main crop caused the operation to be only marginally successful.  Today it is used for weddings.  While I visited, someone was getting married later in the evening.


Six miles from Alley Spring is the town of Eminence.  The Reader’s Digest book suggested that I try an ice cream soda in the Rexall Drug Store.  I thought it would be a nice change of pace to mix with the locals.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a Rexall Drug Store on all three streets of the downtown.  In the back of my mind I remembered the Rexall Drug in Dallas closed years ago.  My book, which I bought at least nine years ago, is obviously dated, so maybe the Rexall Drug Store in Eminence is no longer.  There was a Dairy Shack, but I may as well have gone to a Dairy Queen (not that there is anything wrong with that).

Places to Camp in the Missouri Ozarks

It was late afternoon, so I decided to look for a campsite – and I’m glad I did.  I stopped at Round Spring campsite and there were only six sites with electrical hookup – either taken or reserved.  I could operate VANilla off propane, but I’m too chicken to try it.  Years ago, I once tried to light a gas fire place where the fire shot out into my face and singed my eyelashes, brows, and hair.  It’s had a lasting effect.  I’ll have to conquer my fear soon if I want to survive the cold in the northeast, the direction I’m headed.

Montauk State Park

I drove in and drove out of another primitive campground with no cell service and mostly tent camping.  I finally decided to drive 50 miles to Montauk State Park.  When I finally got cell service in Salem (half way into my drive), I called for a reservation.  According to the lady on the phone, all the reservable sites were taken, but she added a little hope and suggested if I left now, I might be able to snag a few first come, first serve site.

Dominic at Montauk State Park

Out of at least 150 sites, only about six were open!!!  I guess the locals like to camp and fish.  There were fishermen lined up the river every four feet:  some in waders, some on the shore.  They were fishing with worms, flies, stink bait, cheese bait.  You name it…they were fishing with it…just ask Dominic.  From tranquil to busy…quite the contrary from last night!  At least I had cell service.  AT&T 5 bars, Verizon 0.  ETB

Map of My Road Trip Across the USA

For a summary about my road trip across the USA, click HERE. For the interactive map, see the below link.

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photographic note card, colorful canoes in vermont
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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

5 thoughts on “Day 5 – Springs of the Missouri Ozarks

  1. Love, love, love the photo of you, Scout and Petey!! And Blue Spring is gorgeous. I bet it is exceptionally beautiful “in person.”

    Take care, safe travels and RILY!


  2. As your mother, I taught you to always be truthful — and you fo a superb job of it. However,
    LIE, LIE, LIE if some stranger asks if you are alone! Tell them your father, husband, brother or lover is asleep in the van!! 🙂 Your choice!

  3. Beth,
    You have just finished the areas of my lifelong trecs.. I am so glad you made it to Greer. I swam as a child in that spring, where the force of the water coming out of the ground would throw you back out into the air when we dove into it; I explored up under the cave overhang until my feet were about frozen off! Did you make it to Hodgson’s Mill west of Greer @ 1.5 hrs? You can eat a great fresh trout lunch there at the restaurant. Also, the Eleven Point River is one of my very favorite rivers to canoe. Back in the 70’s when the Natl. Riverways were set aside by Congress, the Buffalo River (a runoff river) was the first to be set aside in the U.S. and the Eleven Point was 2nd. It has great overnight areas, and 11 springs feed into it with old mills, and past edifice ruins still visible. The watercress is good and edible… So, Margie no need to worry! You can rent a canoe etc at Sikeston. Maybe, I am too late for this trip, but you’ll want to return another time and this is for the record. Also, the trees begin to turn around the middle of Oct. where the color is dependent on the cold snaps and the rainfall- but always colorful because of the abundance of hardwoods rather than softwoods. Have fun! Holly

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