Crisp weather and the vivid colors of fall are on the horizon. What better time to dig out the atlas and plan a trip to see some of the Ozarks cold, clear-flowing springs.
We’ve done some of the planning for you and even road-tested a trip that visits the Ozarks three largest springs — Big Spring, Mammoth Spring and Greer Spring.
Springs closer to home
Two area springs to visit are Roaring River Spring at Roaring River State Park near Cassville, Mo. and Blue Spring near Eureka Springs at the Blue Spring Heritage Center.
Roaring River Spring emerges from a cleft in a bluff near the trout hatchery. Average flow is 26 million gallons per day.
Blue Spring flows at an average of 38 million gallons per day. Cost to see the spring, gardens and other attractions at Blue Spring Heritage Center is $9.75 for adults, $5.50 for children 6-17, free for age 5 and younger.
Source: Staff report
Southeast Missouri is big spring country, with all kinds of springs for travelers to see. Arkansas’ Mammoth Spring is darned near in The Show-Me State, only 500 feet south of the state line.
The drive east from Northwest Arkansas to big spring country takes about five hours. Once you’re in the neighborhood, a lot of gorgeous springs are close together.
Our first stop, Mammoth Spring.
• Arkansas’ largest spring, Mammoth Spring, is a sight to behold at the little town of Mammoth Spring in northeast Arkansas, just south of Thayer, Mo.
Mammoth Spring is the second largest spring in the Ozarks with an average daily flow of 234 million gallons per day. Mammoth Spring State Park surrounds the spring. There’s a visitor center, picnic tables and walking trail.
The spring itself emerges about 80 feet deep at the bottom of a pond. All that water forms a clear, oval pool, then spring water flows downstream into a larger pond.
From here, Mammoth Spring flows over a dam to become the Spring River, a popular stream for paddling and trout fishing.
Mammoth Spring is right next to U.S. 63 and close to cafes and convenience stores for travelers who want to grab a bite or fill the tank to see the next two springs.
Next stop, Greer Spring.
• Greer Spring the most remote of the three springs we’ll visit. It’s the Ozarks’ third largest with an average daily flow of 222 million gallons per day. It’s located in the Mark Twain National Forest near Alton, Mo., about 45 minutes north of Mammoth Spring.
Ready for some exercise after sitting in the car? Good, because it’s a one-mile hike through the woods along a trail to the spring, for a two-mile, round-trip hike.
The drive along Missouri 19 to the trailhead is half the fun. It’s a roller coaster of a highway mostly through the national forest. For the Bikes, Blues and Barbecue crowd, it’d be heaven on a motorcycle.
At the community of Greer Spring heading north, look for a Greer Springs Trail sign on the right. It’s easy to miss. Turn left into the trailhead parking lot (and restroom). The trail heads off on a gradual downhill track into the forest.
Travelers will hear the spring before they see it. Then there it is at the bottom of a rugged hollow, flowing from a cave near the trail.
Greer Spring flows about a mile through the forest and spills into the Eleven Point River.
Last stop: Big Spring, north and east up the highway near Van Buren, Mo.
• Big Spring is the granddaddy, the largest spring in the Ozarks and one of the biggest springs in the world.
This incredible spring roars to the surface at a whopping 283 million gallons per day at the base of a bluff. Big Spring is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and rises to earth a couple hundred yards west of the Current River.
A forest service park with campsites surrounds the clear, cold spring. It’s the region’s biggest spring and one of the easiest to access. A parking area is situated near the spring. A 50-yard stroll over a rock walkway leads to the roaring cold water and cool air around the spring
Big Spring flows from three outlets, all close together at the base of a bluff. It’s a froth that flows into a clear, sparkling lagoon of moving water on it’s way to the Current River.
Big Spring became one of Missouri’s first state parks in 1925, then was made part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in 1972.
After a full day of travel and seeing these natural wonders, it’s time for a rest. The campground at Big Spring is scenic and quiet, with one area for tent camping and another for trailers and RVs.
Here it was a summertime Friday night, and we had the whole tent camping area to ourselves. Not another soul around. Attending the evening ranger program about black bears at the amphitheater was a fine nightcap to a great day.
Then it’s back home the next day. Stops along the way can include more springs such as Alley Spring, Round Spring and others.
A fun side trip is to take the Peel Ferry, a free car ferry, across Bull Shoals Lake. The ferry operates all year south of Protem, Mo and north of the Peel community in Arkansas. It runs seven days a week year-around and is the last vehicle ferry in Arkansas.
Autumn is here and the big springs of the Ozarks beckon.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sports on 09/25/2018