Welcome back, my dear fellow explorers, to The Plains West of Thomasville. Where each week I take you along as I explore everything these Ozark hills have to offer. As always, the hope is that you will read my stories, see my photographs, and feel spurred to go out and have adventures of your own.
Last week I revealed one of my dream adventures, that is definitely a bucket list item…hitting the trail with Cowboy Rick Hamby on one of his Stagecoach Journey trips. As a child I spent many hours on the back of my horse, Trixie, riding through the fields with my trusty Red Rider by my side, daydreaming of the wild west.
This week, we get back to real adventure. Thursday, I drove to Alton to cover the dedication ceremony of the Greer Spring Mill millstone. Friends of Eleven Point River, a non-profit group that works in conjunction with the United States Forrest Service to help fund projects beneficial to the Eleven Point River, began renovation efforts of the Greer Spring Mill in 2013. The mill was built in 1899 and is located on highway 19 just south of the river at the top of the hill. The mill is also .75 miles up a steep hill from the Greer spring branch and was operated by a cable running up the hill to the mill. After several years of searching, the group was able to track down one of the original millstones, and Thursday a dedication ceremony was held in Alton on the courthouse lawn where the stone will remain on display along with informational signs about the history of Greer Spring Mill as well as a map of the mills of Oregon County. “Originally, there was also a mill located down the hill directly on the river,” said Friends’ President Brian Sloss. “The stone we have today was actually in use in that lower mill, which was burned by Confederate soldiers during the war.”
Even though I knew storms would be rolling in soon, I decided to head out to check out the mill, as well as the spring.
The second largest spring in Missouri, Greer Spring flows into the Eleven Point National Scenic River, and actually doubles the size of the river! Starting at the base of a steep, shaded ravine, Greer Spring averages over 200 million gallons of water per day. The spring actually emerges from two locations a few hundred feet apart. The upper outlet exits a small cave, Greer Spring Cave, while the larger, lower outlet is a huge spring boil in the middle of the spring branch. From here, the waters flow approx 1.25 miles towards the eleven Point, dropping at a gradient of 62 feet, according to MDC officials.
I first stopped at the spring and set out on a hike. The 1.8 mile out and back trail winds its way through old growth forest to the pristine setting of Greer Springs. Every step of the way is a photogenic vista. It’s that time of year when all the colors are so vibrant the world appears to be Kodachrome.
The crystal clear water of the spring did not disappoint, and begged to be photographed. What must have been like for the early settlers who discovered this spring? I wonder, if they, like us, took it for granted? Was it just another beautiful sight in the land of beautiful sights?
Unfortunately, this was a rare trip I arrived only equipped with a digital camera. I definitely envision a return trip complete with a medium format camera and slide film.
I got back to my mighty RAV4 and drove up to the mill. Currently, plans are underway to construct a trail that will connect the spring parking area with the mill site. In spite of the sign that said “no parking,” I parked, and began exploring. The restoration work is incredible, and has been returned to its former glory.
I could only peak through the windows, but I’m anxious to see what renovations they have in store for the interior.
Wanting to get back to West Plains before the storms arrived, I decided it was time to go.
Greer Spring is a must visit for anyone who appreciates the beauty and history of these Ozarks hills.
Grab a camera or three, at least one film of course, and head to Alton.
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