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Friday, May 27, 2016

Take a 'mini vacation' in beautiful Oregon County

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The old mill at Falling Spring is a one-story building set at the bottom of the bluff to take advantage of the spring coming from the cliff several feet above the roof of the building.
Oregon County is home to some beautiful scenery, including several places that are perfect for a mini-vacation or a weekend outing with friends and family.

Grand Gulf State Park

Grand Gulf State Park is located four miles south of Koshkonong and six miles west of Thayer.

It features a spectacular geological landscape that includes a sink hole, cave, a natural bridge and a chasm or gulf.

It is said to be one of the most beautiful views in all of Missouri and has been nicknamed "The Little Grand Canyon."

Within the park are four scenic overlooks and miles of hiking trails. Make a note that this is a day-use park only. Though no camping is allowed, it is a popular destination for exploring the natural wonders of the Ozarks, just relaxing, or enjoying a family picnic.

The Narrows

The Narrows is located in eastern Oregon County, just off Highway 142 East.

It is a ridge of land that separates Frederick Creek from the Eleven Point River.

This unique area features four springs that combine to release in excess of 100 million gallons of water each day. The Narrows is noted for its unique and unusual aquatic growth, geological formations, remnants of a grist mill and an overlook of Blue Spring.

The area can be reached by foot or boat.

Greer Spring

Fresh, cool water gushes from springs throughout Oregon County. The most famous of these is Greer Spring.

Located just north of Alton on Highway 19, Greer Spring is the second largest spring in Missouri. Once privately owned, the spring was purchased by the United States Forest Service in 1993. The spring is surrounded by 6,894 acres of scenic land and water.

The area is covered with massive bluffs surrounded by rising slopes and broad ridges. The land features a canopy of oak, hickory and pine trees.

The average flow of the spring is 220 million gallons of water a day. The spring is critical to the Eleven Point River. A new trail and parking area were added to the spring site in 1994.

The area is one of the most beautiful areas in Missouri and is visibly steeped in history.

Eleven Point River

Recreation as well as scenic beauty can be enjoyed when a visit to the Eleven Point River is on the vacation agenda.

The Eleven Point River is located in Oregon County in southern Missouri. It was designated a National Scenic River in 1968. The entire length (44 miles) of the free flowing river is managed by the National Park Service and is part of the Mark Twain National Forest.

The river is fed by many cold-water springs, of which Greer Spring is the largest. The combination of springs and towering bluffs make it an outstanding river for floating or boating.

Much of the river can be boated year round. Spring-fed branches supply most of the river's water and they flow continuously. The upper branches of the river, primarily from Thomasville to Cane Bluff, are best floated in late winter or early spring. Low water levels in warm weather months cause frequent hang-ups. Half the land along the river is in public ownership and open for recreational use. The remaining land is privately owned, the majority of which are under scenic easement and are not open to the public.

Hunting and fishing are popular along the river, with applicable state regulations. Anyone wishing to hunt or fish along the river's banks will need to know the regulations and carry the necessary licenses and permits with them at all times.

There are several points of interest along the Eleven Point's banks including the Thomasville community where the Eleven Point Scenic River begins. This is the oldest community in Oregon County.

Another point of interest is Cane Bluff. It is a dolomite cliff that rises about 250 feet above the river and is named for the cane that grows along the river's bank. In days gone by, the cane made excellent fishing poles. Good cane poles were cut and allowed to season and dry.

Simpson Mill, Boze Mill and The Narrows are all popular spots on the Eleven Point River.

Falling Spring

One of the most picturesque sites in the region is located in northern Oregon County. It includes an old mill at a site called Falling Spring.

Falling Spring can be found about seven miles beyond Greer Crossing on Missouri Highway 19. Those wishing to visit need to watch for a small sign that reads "Falling Spring Mill." Travelers will need to take a right turn onto a gravel road which is Forest Service Road 3170 and then they are in for a real treat. Visitors will drive a three-mile odyssey into the forest. When the road forks, take the left fork, which is Forest Road 3164. The drive is lovely in the spring with numerous dogwood trees in bloom along the gravel road.

At the end of the trail, on the right, set back some distance from the road at the foot of a tall bluff, is Falling Spring Mill.

The mill dates back to the early 1920s and once generated electricity for its neighborhood. It was also a feed mill.

The old mill is a one-story building set at the bottom of the bluff to take advantage of the spring coming from the cliff several feet above the roof of the building.

At one time, a flume carried water to an overshot waterwheel, but the spring water now falls into a pool at the base of the cliff. The Forest Service says Falling Spring flows 125 million gallons of water a day on the average.

The door to the old mill is always open and a footbridge across the spring branch and mill pond will lead visitors to the building. You can step inside and inspect the old machinery still there. Once inside you can let your imagination carry you back to the days when the mill was filled with conversation of area residents as the miller worked the wheel. The overshot wheel appears to be the original.

There is also a log cabin, known as the Thomas Brown Cabin, located on the parking lot side of the footbridge. It is over 100 years old.

There are two picnic tables and a fire pit in full view of the mill. A more perfect place to have a picnic would be hard to find.