Big Spring, Missouri

Big Spring is the largest spring in Missouri and one of the largest in the world with a daily average flow of 286 million gallons. Dye tracing has determined the source of all this water to be a recharge area extending as much as 40 miles to the west. Traveling through the nooks and crannies of the Karst underground, the water can take more than 130 days to reach the spring's outlet. The water boils from the base of a dolomite bluff and travels nearly 1000 feet before feeding into the Current River.

The spring remains between 55 and 58 degrees year round and has a glorious aquamarine hue thanks to minerals dissolved in the water. Watercress abounds in the cold water, providing shelter for a large number of aquatic life forms including periwinkle snails, insect larvae and a variety of fish. Burrowing crayfish leave their mounded tunnel openings along the bank. Birds, deer and mammals such as squirrel and woodchucks also visit the spring.

Early History

With its wild beauty and clear waters, Big Spring has been a gathering place for people throughout time. Archaeologists have found evidence of Native Americans dating back thousands of years. The isolated hollows and dense forests attracted early European settlers. The coming of the railroads provided easy access for large lumber companies that nearly decimated the great pine and oak forests of the region.

By the turn of the 20th century the Current River valley was becoming popular with vacationers. The same qualities that made settling the area difficult were drawing visitors from around the country. The wildness of its countryside, the clarity of its water and the remoteness from the outside world, made Big Spring a peaceful escape from the demands of everyday life.

Big Spring became a State Park in 1924, Missouri's first. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) arrived in the mid-1930's, helping to conserve the area's resources and provide increased visitor facilities. The stream from Big Spring to the Current River was dug by the CCC to control the flow of the spring.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways was established in 1964. Big Spring, along with Alley Spring and Round Spring State Parks, were placed under National Park Service management in 1969. With these additions, Ozark National Scenic Riverways was complete.

(Information courtesy of the National Park Service)

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