Imagine thousands of miles of beautiful untouched shoreline, inviting lakes and rivers, and four seasons that offer their own wonderful uniqueness, and you’ll understand why we tout the great outdoors of the Ozark Mountains like we do. Visit the Ozarks and discover the best swimming and year-round fishing holes, enjoy the convenience of gas services, scuba diving with tank refills, camping sites and supplies, slip rentals with access to boat, pontoon, and tube rentals, discover many wonderful lakeside retreats and enjoy an evening dinner scene at your favorite local restaurant. The Ozarks is a place that you and your family can enjoy any time of the year.
The Ozark Mountains are home to several waterways that are popular among tourists and locals alike. One of the most famous waterways in the Ozarks is the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. It is a recreational unit of the National Park Service in southern Missouri and is the first national park area to protect a river system. The park is home to two of the finest floating rivers in the world, namely, Current and Jacks Fork. Besides these two famous rivers, the park is also home to hundreds of freshwater springs, caves, trails, and historic sites such as Alley Mill.
Other waterways in the Ozarks include:
Lake of the Ozarks: A large reservoir created by impounding the Osage River in central Missouri.
Table Rock Lake: A man-made lake located in southwestern Missouri and northwestern Arkansas.
Bull Shoals Lake: A reservoir located along the White River on the border of Arkansas and Missouri.
Beaver Lake: A man-made lake located in northwest Arkansas.
Springs located in the Ozarks include:
Alley Spring: Alley Spring and the iconic red mill, one of Missouri’s most photographed scenes, is approximately 30 minutes away from Blue Spring. Alley Spring is located about six miles west of Eminence on Missouri 106. This very popular 1890s red mill is easy to spot. During open hours, visitors can go inside and explore the mill and learn about its history. The water flows from the spring pool into the branch as it heads toward Jacks Fork River. From here, you can take the easy Alley Spring Loop Trail, circle the spring and follow the spring branch to a bridge, then back to the parking lot.
Big Spring: Big Spring is the largest spring in Missouri with an average daily flow of more than 280 million gallons, it’s also a contender for the largest spring nationwide. Located near the lower Current River, is hard to beat if looking for an adventure. Either stroll the Sought Trail, a short accessible gravel path that leads to the spring, hike the River’s Edge Trail or take the more challenging Stone Ridge Trail. Big Spring is the fast-flowing spring with an awe-inspiring beauty. The area also offers an amazing park so, pack a lunch, you will want to plan on staying a while. Big Spring is located in the Van Buren area about 2.5 hours east of Springfield along U.S. Highway 60, or about 40 minutes southeast of Eminence. When coming from Van Buren, you will find the park at the end of Missouri Route 103.
Blue Spring: Blue Spring is located near Eureka Springs and offers a garden setting, with a deep blue spring pool surrounded by a garden wall. Blue Spring is the largest spring in northwest Arkansas with a daily average flow of 38 million gallons, it flows into a trout-filled lagoon that feeds White River. The spring area was once a trading post for Osage Indians. The park's bluff shelter has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places for the thousands of years of ceremonies held under it by American Indians who considered it a sacred place. Blue Spring at Blue Spring Heritage Center is about 2 hours southwest of Springfield by way of Monett.
Greer Spring: You will want to keep in mind that Greer Spring will take some effort to get to as it is set in a lush deep gorge. Don’t let that stop you though as it is certainly worth it. Greer Spring is one of the prettiest springs in the Ozarks. Greer is a spring creek that, if you didn’t know better, you would think that it looks and sounds like it should be in the mountains somewhere. It’s the second largest spring in Missouri, with a daily flow of over 220 million gallons. The spring makes up two springs, one emerges from a picturesque cave setting and this 1.25-mile journey flows toward the Eleven Point River. The second spring bubbles up from the ground, beneath the spring branch surface, about 250 feet downstream from the cave. Greer Spring is located near Alton, about 2.5 hours east of Springfield; take U.S. Highway 60, turning south on Missouri 19 near Winona.
Roaring River Spring: Most people visit Roaring River State Park for trout fishing, hiking, or camping. But the pretty little spring is a gem that is tucked in a cave beneath a high bluff, is certainly worth seeing. Roaring River State Park is divided into sections, with trails. Stop by the park store, at the intersection of Route F and Highway 112, for coffee or snacks (and a trout tag if you plan to fish). Take U.S. Highway 60 west to the Roaring River Spring, it is in Roaring River State Park, approximately 1.5 hours southwest of Springfield near Cassville.
Maramec Spring: Located along the Meramac River (yes, the spring and river names are spelled differently), Maramec Spring is Missouri’s fifth largest spring, a daily average flow of 100 million gallons of water, bubbles up from more than 350 feet beneath a serene, emerald pool. The spring is circled by a paved path and stocked daily with trout from its nearby hatchery, the park’s flowing spring branch is ideal for anglers of all ages. Maramec Spring is located inside Maramec Spring Park in St. James, about 25 minutes east of Rolla and about two hours from Springfield, head east on I-44.
Falling Springs Mill: Once you step out of your car, you will feel as though you went back in time. This rustic picnic area has an abundance of history with minimal conveniences. The day use facility is situated on the edge of a pond formed by a spring. The area around the pond is open and grassy with oak and pine forest surrounding it. Falling Springs is one of the most photographed areas on the Forest. Falling Springs water pours out of the rock above the pond to create a small waterfall. In the early 1900’s the spring provided power for two mills. To get to the mill there is a wooden treadway. Also located on the site is a log cabin that is over 100 years old.
Round Spring: Round Spring is about 25 minutes northwest of Eminence (north on Missouri 19) on the Current River. Unlike some other springs, Round Spring isn’t much of a hike. It’s viewed from an overlook into an amazing round blue cavern pool. The spring travels underground, emerging from a cavern into the spring branch pool. It’s a great location for ending the day if you float the Current River.
Ha Ha Tonka Spring: Ha Ha Tonka Spring is one reason to visit Ha Ha Tonka State Park near Camdenton at Lake of the Ozarks. This beautiful park offers a natural bridge, multiple trails (including one that goes to the spring), caves, sinkholes, tall bluffs and more. Its most iconic spot is the ruins of a century-old castle retreat. Ha Ha Tonka Spring is located inside the Ha Ha Tonka State Park, about 1.5 hours northeast of Springfield. Take U.S. Highway 65 north to Missouri 73, or I-44 north by way of Lebanon.
Bennett Spring: Whether trout fishing, floating the Niangua River, or hiking the Tunnel Trail. They all keep visitors returning year after year. Bennett Spring State Park is less than 90 minutes from Springfield and is near Lebanon. The Niangua attracts visitors who enjoy floating or fishing. Sundays seem to be the busiest day of the week, unless you like crowds, you may want to choose a different day. The Niangua is relatively easy to paddle and is somewhat quieter on weekdays and is good for all ages. You will find the camping and cabin rentals outside Bennett Spring State Park convenient as well. Bennett Spring is located inside the Bennett Spring State Park, 26250 MO-64A near Lebanon, and is roughly an hour drive from Springfield heading northeast on I-44.
Hodgson Mill Spring: Like Alley Spring, the mill is one of the most photographed in Missouri — Its beautiful, serene setting looks like a painting. Hodgson Mill Spring is located where Highway 181 crosses Bryant Creek, the old mill is built over the spring opening. The water is channeled to a water wheel and a pool, over a dam and into the spring branch to feed the Bryant.
Mammoth Spring: Located roughly 500 feet across the Missouri state line and is the largest spring in Arkansas. With a daily annual flow of 200 million gallons of water — a few dozen gallons shy of Big Spring — it’s the second largest spring in the Ozark Mountains. Mammoth Spring is located at the edge of the town and easy to get to and just off the U.S.60. Mammoth Spring offers a beautiful, shaded park setting and is a must when passing through the area. Kids will enjoy visiting the Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery and Aquatic Conservation Center, one of the oldest national fish hatcheries in the United States. To get there, take U.S. Highway 60 toward Mountain Grove and West Plains. Mammoth Spring State Park is roughly 2 hours and 20 minutes southeast of Springfield.
Welch Spring: About 25 minutes north of Round Spring, Welch Spring is on a short one-mile trail to the Current River near Jadwin and Akers Ferry (north of Akers on Route K). With a daily output of 75 million gallons, Missouri’s eighth largest spring flows from a cave and, roughly 100 feet later, into the Current River. Welch Spring is notable for the ruins of historic Welch Hospital located next to the cave.