Photo above: Alley Mill, circa 1900, from the hills above. Photo right: Alley Mill in its current form. Photos courtesy National Park Service.
Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Although the park as a National Park Service site has not been around for a century, the three main attractions of the park were saved in the early part of the 1900's by the state of Missouri as three state parks; Alley Spring, Big Spring, and Round Spring. So it's been a well known and important to be saved attraction for much longer than its national footprint. The springs here were considered amazing, with some considering them medicinal, as in Hot Springs, Arkansas, although that idea did not really take off as it did further south.
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It would be a surprise to most national park fans across the United States that a Riverways park in Missouri would rank so high in attendance, but it's true. Over one million per year ply the water and historic buildings of this park in south Missouri. It is the land of two rivers, but also the land of many springs. Big Springs is one of the three largest in the United States, but far from the only spring here; Welch, Cave, Pulltite Spring, Round Spring, Fire Hydrant Spring, Ebb and Flow Spring, Blue, Big, and Gravel Springs are also located within the park. You could have a bunch of tourist fun and go spring hunting while there, although that might not be to all participants in your caravan's liking. No matter, there's lots of other things for them to do, including rafting, hiking, fishing, camping, and more.
Photo above: Point where the Current River meets the Jacks Fork River within Ozark NSR. Courtesy National Park Service.
Ozark NSR Then
Alley Mill - Mill was constructed in 1893-4 by George Washington McCaskill, a replacement for the first mill constructed in 1868. By 1902, the mill had been purchased by John Knotts, who expanded the area to include a blacksmith shop and store. The Storys Creek one room schoolhouse is also in the area.
Civilian Conservation Corps - The National Park Service had CCC camps at both Alley Spring and Big Spring State Parks. They built roads, bridges, trails, buildings, and the Big Spring Lodge and cabins.
Ozark NSR Now
From the 1870's forward, the area of the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers was considered a pristine area for tourist and sport. Roads were improved in the early 20th century, bringing additional tourists and attention. By 1924, the three state parks of Alley Spring, Big Spring, and Round Spring were established.
By 1956, a plan to create a national monument incorporating the three state parks and other lands was floating around Missouri and Washington, D.C. Due to local resistence and a tug and pull between the Forest Service and the National Park Service, the plan eventually changed to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways plan under the NPS banner. In 1964, Congress approved and within one decade, that plan had a formal dedication ceremony and today's park with its focus on recreation was founded along the Current and Jacks Fork River corridor.
Photo above: Alley Mill circa 1900 with patrons on the river. Courtesy National Park Service.
Ozarks National Scenic Riverways
Things You Should Not Miss
1. Get on the river, well, at least one of them. You can bring your own canoe or kayak or rent one from more than eighteen Canoe shops. The Current River is considered by many to be one of the midwest's best float streams.
2. Camp along the river and take in an evening amphitheater program by a Park Ranger about the history of the Ozarks. Available at Big Spring and Alley Spring campgrounds during the summer season.
3. Head to Round Spring if you're there from Memorial Day to Labor Day and take a Ranger Guided Lantern Tour of the Round Spring Cave. No reservations, three tours per day, and only fifteen people allowed at a time, so you'll have, almost, a private experience.
Photo above: Alley Mill along Jack Fork River in winter. Courtesy National Park Service.
T-Shirts and Souvenirs
Ozark National Scenic Riverways and other National Park T-Shirts and Gifts from the official souvenirs of America's Best History. Great for nature, national park, and heritage history fans.