It is fall now and the weather this weekend felt like summer, but we were in the mood for spring, six springs to be exact, Round, Alley, Blue, Falling, Greer and Big. Tom Uhlenbrock had written a travel article for the paper, “The turquoise jewels of the Ozarks“, which guided us to these six sparkling springs, through the changing leaves of Mark Twain National Forest. Per Uhlenbrock, our base of operations for the weekend was Missouri’s newest state park, Echo Bluff.
We tent camped in one of the primitive walk-in sites, but the park also has full-service RV sites, cabins and a lodge. I had reserved the closest site, but we soon moved to the furthest one, once we learned that they also had luggage carts. At the car, a little boy in the RV campground came up and announced to us, “Lookout, two dogs are making-out down there.” Which made me wonder is that like heavy petting? Our campsite was the furthest from the rest. It featured a wood platform for our tent that was big enough or maybe our tent was just small enough to also accommodate a picnic table. We attended an owl talk, where we learned that the Bared owl’s call sounds like someone is asking, “Who, who, who cooks for you? Who cooks for you?” Late at night we heard a Bared owl and it sounded just like that. Wild horses roam the park and got quite close to us one night, while we were trying some night sky photography. This is one of the best dark skies areas in Missouri and we had a new moon this last weekend.
Saturday’s itinerary included three springs and a fall. First up was Round Springs, which is only a couple of miles down MO-19 from Echo Bluff and also happens to be the oldest state park in Missouri. So, we went directly from the newest to the oldest state park. This spring is ‘as round as a silver dollar’. When we returned to MO-19 we had to wait while twenty vehicles all carrying either canoes and/or kayaks passed us by. Several National Scenic Waterways crisscross this region. With its red mill, Alley Springs, is the one spring not to be missed. The 2017 Missouri quarter that will be part of the US Mint’s National Parks series will feature Alley Springs. Blue Springs is undeniably the bluest spring and at over 300′ it also has the deepest pool. If the Statue of Liberty was submerged in it, the top of the torch would still be 5′ underwater. Like Alley, Blue pumps out over 80 million gallons of water a day. Our final stop of the day was at Rocky Falls. It is quite dry in the Ozarks now, so like most terrestrial flows, Rocky Falls was much reduced. This allowed people to climb the rocks of the falls. This drought only served to accentuate the lushness of the springs, with their subterranean aquifers that were still flowing steadily.
Sunday’s itinerary included two springs and a conundrum. Heading further south this day on MO-19, the conundrum came first with Falling Springs. Is it a spring or a falls, well it is both really. The old mill and even older 1850s log cabin make this spring memorable. Just a little bit further down MO-19 was Greer Spring. While most of the springs and falls are just across the parking lot, we had to hike a bit to get to this one. It felt good to stretch the legs. We saved the biggest spring for last, Big Spring, with over a 100 million gallons per day output. We had great weather this weekend and had a great time sightseeing. After a few of these springs, we began to notice some of the same faces. We were all doing the Ozark springs tour.