Location Spotlight: Turner’s Grist Mill & Spring

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 21mm, ISO 160,  f/16, Photomatix-HDR blend of 6-images


Turner’s Mill Spring lies deep in the Missouri Ozarks in Oregon County near the town of Winona.  The mill building and the whole supporting town of Surprise no longer exist; the ~25 foot tall overshot wheel, gears and concrete flume are the only obvious signs this location was ever inhabited.

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 17mm, ISO 200,  f/13, 1.3 sec


The immensity of the wheel and gears lying on the creek floor stirs the imagination into dreaming of what it took to get these materials to this rugged area in the middle of the 19th century.  I believe the area was dramatically cut and major roads (for the time) were installed.  The area now has been taken back by the forest and is a beautiful part of the public land of this area that includes the nearby Irish Wilderness, Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri’s second largest spring – Greer Spring, and much more.

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 35mm, ISO 160,  f/16, 3.2 sec

How did the town of Surprise get its unusual name?  It was named because of Mr. Turner’s astonishment that the petition he made for a U.S. Post office in his little dream town was approved.  The spring was used to power the area’s grist mill(s) from about 1850 until 1940.  Following the retirement of the mill the town of Surprise rapidly dispersed and Mother Nature quickly took over.  The image above shows the effluent about 500 feet or so from the exit of the spring’s mouth as it escapes down the side of a rather steep hill.

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 27mm, ISO 160,  f/14, 1.6 sec

Here you can see the outlet of the spring as it flows at an average rate of 1.5 million gallons per day from the mouth of a cave.  This cave, which is located at the base of a 460 foot bluff is another reason that this area is a must-visit.  The lighting and other circumstances did not allow me to make any good photographs showing this steep bluff, but I look forward to trying to capture this one day.  If you look closely you can see some of the rock and concrete work that was used to shape the flume as well as the metal gate just inside the cave to keep modern knuckleheads from hurting themselves and the natural delicacies that reside within the cave.

Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 20mm, ISO 160,  f/14, 1/15 sec

A very quick walk following the creek that this spring creates takes you to this location where it empties into the Eleven Point River.  This river is a favorite of fishermen and float trippers and is an example of one of the prime waterways that can be found in the Missouri Ozarks.  The Turner Mill Recreation Area is a high quality habitat where an abundance of spring wildflowers and wildlife reside.  A day or weekend visit to this location is definitely worth the travel and I cannot wait to pay another visit.

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3 thoughts on “Location Spotlight: Turner’s Grist Mill & Spring

  1. My Great Grand Father John Letcher Clay Turner bought and hauled the wheel on six wagons to Eleven Point River where he and two other men put it together. My Grand Father Oba Turner and his brothers and one sister raised their children on almost 1,000 ackers. They were forced to sell all this land to the government for $75,000 with the promise to rebuild the homeplace and all other buildings for the history of it, but never kept their promise. They just went in and tore all down and let it all grow up.What a waste. I can remember spending the best years of my life there. What a beautiful place it was!

    1. I wish I could have seen it back then. It don’t surprise me that our government did that, they break promises all the time. I wish that it would have been kept up and I am sorry your family was lied to. I would love to see some old pic’s.

  2. Hello Betty! Thanks so much for your words. Every time I visit the spring site I think about what it must have been like in the town of Surprise. It would be interesting to see the other building as they stood then. As it stands now, the spring and nature in general seem to be taking the area back. I have noticed that the concrete/rock walls that used to funnel the water are falling apart.

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