Big Spring Country – Autumn 2022

A few pics from a trip Sarah and I took in late October to see some of the big springs in southern Missouri.

The large effluence boil of the aptly named, Big Spring.
A bit of a different angle, this shows the water shooting down the effluent stream just past the primary boil, on its way to the Current River.
Nearly a two-hour drive west of Big Spring is Hodgson Spring and Mill. Always one of my favorites of the many spectacular Missouri springs.

Falling Spring

Twenty years from now…

…you want me to tell you that story that happened that night at Falling Spring?  You sure?  Alright, it’ll be your sleepless night.

 Me and my cuz were giggin’ frogs down in that beaver pond one spring night when out of the blue we saw a fella wearin’ a strange hat walkin’ alone.  We asked him what he was doing out here all alone and where he came from.  He answered he came from a place with tall buildin’s and he was searching for answers that nobody had. 

He stood there, the palest, most pathetic creature you’d ever seen.  Paler than the moon standin’ above us, when all of a sudden eery red lights started comin’ from inside that old mill shack!  Now, we had been standin’ outside there fer hours and hadn’t seen a soul inside or out.  Before we could think, a sound that was louder and more fierce than a 10′ tall hoot-owl started and the trees began moving back and forth, even though there tweren’t a bit a breeze on the air to be had!

My cuz and I had grabbed our poles and slowly backed ourselves out to the road and the safety of the truck.  We looked over to where the stranger had been and noticed he was walkin’ towards the old shack!  We shouted something to the effect of what the Sam Hill are you doing?  He replied that he was going to see if the agnostics were right.  I couldn’t get at what he was sayin’, and we couldn’t get him to stop movin’ towards that obvious poltergeist.

The last question I asked was what his name was.  He said something like Beelzebub, Bufford, Ozark Bill, or somethin’ like that.  The last time I saw him he was walkin’ inside and stripping down to the suit he was born in.  The lights got brighter and hotter.  So hot and bright I had to turn away.  We heard a screech worse than a Tom cat trying to mate with a pot belly stove and all of a sudden everything went back to normal.  

As we were making dust away from that place I heard a really sweet, low and soft voice singing…

‘Way down in Missouri where I heard this melody
When I was a little feller on my mommie’s knee
The old folks were humming the banjos were strumming so sweet and low


Snow in SEMO!?!?

The forecast suggested the day in which I had been waiting for years might finally be here.  Finally, the combination of snow in the big-spring country of south-eastern Missouri Ozark region, a vehicle that can move through these hilly, un-plowed roads and a day off to enjoy myself in them.  I was also fortunate to have a friend who was just as excited about it as I was!  I told Steve I’d pick him up from his place and we would visit Big Spring and whatever other places we desired and had the daylight to enjoy.  This is the second winter season I have owned my current 4WD vehicle, but considering our winter last year, this was really the first time I’ve gotten to drive it under snow and icy conditions.  It definitely lived up to my expectations.  Remembering one must still drive slow and anticipate braking (as the three 4WD vehicles in the ditch that I passed demonstrated) we took our time and arrived at Big Spring State Park with a minimum of butt-clenching.  It was definitely worth the drive!  My photos do not begin to capture the beauty and peacefulness of our surroundings.


“Ozark Whitewater″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 19mm, ISO 100,  f/13, 1/10 sec

Nothing can beat a day spent during or after a snow at a place such as this.  Although definitely slower and quieter during this “blue season”, life was still obvious in surrounding us.  Mosses and lichen were wet and vibrant, and the bright green watercress contrasted nicely with the deep blues and sharp turquoise of the spring effluent.  A first for my eyes was the conspicuous in-this-season mistletoe bunches that are evergreen and apparently still robbing their Sycamore hosts even during the “dead of winter”.  I imagine I have observed these plants in the past, but assumed they were dead leaves potentially put together by a squirrel.  And the birds!  The birds were very abundant immediately surrounding the spring.  Nothing beats being able to observe a Bald Eagle and a Belted Kingfisher simultaneously without having to turn your head.  The photo below shows the geology that is not as visible in the green months.

IMG_2420 & 23

“Big Spring, Winter 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 36mm, ISO 100,  f/11, 1/60 sec

Every slight change in viewing angle resulted in noticeable changes in color of different sections of the spring’s effluent.  I don’t believe I have ever seen so many shades of blue in one place at one time.  I converted the image below to black and white, then toned as a “duotone” by bringing a selenium tone to the shadows.  I hoped to focus attention on the textures in the water and the heights these waves reached.


Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 17mm, ISO 100,  f/14, 1/8 sec

After getting a satisfactory but still much too short experience at Big Spring, we left what unmarred snow was remaining and headed to the next spot I was eager to see with a cap of snow, Falling Spring.


“Falling Spring Mill-house, Winter 2012″
 Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 40mm, ISO 100,  f/11, 0.4 sec

It always brightens my spirit to see that this delicate structure still stands and in relatively little disabuse.  The spring’s discharge was light on this day, but the noise of the water falling the ~20 feet to the pool below was enough to drown almost every other sound.  A nice point of visiting in the winter was being able to trek around the beaver pond a bit.  Steve discovered the beaver den with obvious “trails” moving outward from it in the water.  The picture below was taken facing away from the spring and shows the fiery warmth of the late-day sun that was cut by the height of the hill.  I love the contrasts provided by the bare Sycamore branches and the reflections from the beaver pond.  A stunning view indeed!


“Holding the Sun″
 Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 85mm, ISO 100,  f/14, 0.6 sec

Seeing what can be found on a day like this and how few people were out to make these experiences ensures that I will definitely be down here to capture more scenes like these.

Location Spotlight: Bryant Creek Watershed

Located in the south-central Missouri Ozarks, Bryant Creek drains approximately 600 square miles, nearly half of which is comprised of high quality pine and deciduous timberland.  As is much of this part of Missouri, the remainder of this geography has been clear cut for use as cattle ground.  Bryant Creek is a fascinating little waterway and makes a great companion to the North Fork of the White River, its nearby companion to which it ultimately feeds.  I have not seen nearly enough of Bryant Creek or this section of the White River.  Both Ozark streams provide homes for river otters and the critically endangered Ozark Hellbender population.  Considered a losing stream, Bryant Creek is robbed of its limited water supply by the karst topography and several sections are often dry.  Reversely, major flash floods can be a threat during heavy rains and this stream is often sought out by lovers of white water.  During our autumn vacation, this view was along the roadside not too far from Hodgson Mill.


“Bryant Creek, Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 24mm, ISO 100,  f/11, 1/4 sec

One of the major sources of water into Bryant Creek and later, the North Fork comes from the discharge of the Hodgson Spring.  Listed in the top 20 most productive Missouri springs, this spring powered the restored grist mill pictured here.  Although no longer a working mill, its likeness is still used to sell stone ground, whole grain flours under the name Hodgson Mill.


“Hodgson Water Mill – Autumn 2012 II″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 33mm, ISO 100,  f/11, 1/4 sec

The Autumn Adventures of Ozark Bill Continues – Mark Twain National Forest

During the first day of our short vacation this fall, Sarah and I took the winding, yet scenic Hwy 19 south.  Always a nice drive, it is particularly attractive in autumn.  About halfway through the drive the sky opened up on us, but I did use this opportunity to find a few new places and at least get them on the ol’ GPS.  This stretch of highway contains many potential destinations and we have only begun making real visits or hikes into most of these.  Later, we went back to a place I’ve had on my radar for quite some time, the “Virgin Pine Forest”.  This amounts to a strip of apparently virgin shortleaf pine, many of which are over 200 years old, on both sides of the road.  The wind was very strong here so I let the pines tell their story…

“Screaming Pines″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 27mm, ISO 100,  f/13, 2 sec

Just a short drive from the town of Steelville lies the aptly-named “Red Bluff Recreation Area”.  I have seen photographs of this place and it was as beautiful in person.  Carved over time by Huzzah Creek, these bluffs get their color from the high amounts of iron oxide in the limestone.  This spot was almost indescribable.  Incredibly peaceful and full of singing birds, the first thing I did was take off my shoes and pants and wade into the river to make this picture.  At times like these my city-slicker feet never fail to disappoint me.  Each step was painful and it was then that I realized my mitochondria training regimen was getting me nowhere.  Anyway, this place has lots that would make a return trip worth the drive, including a natural arch and the ruins of an old grist mill site.  Definitely a place on my “return to” list.

“Red Bluff – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 28mm, ISO 100,  f/14, 1/5 sec

Continuing on Hwy 19, south of Winona is another of our favorite visited spots – Falling Spring.  This spot is out of the way and if the spring is flowing, will never disappoint.  My mind’s eye pictured better autumn colors than were actually found, but it is always a treat to find that vandals have not completely taken the old structure down.

“Falling Spring – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 45mm, ISO 100,  f/11, 2.5 sec

Further west in south-central Missouri Sarah and I visited the Hodgson Water Mill located on Bryant Creek.  This picturesque mill is still in business as a museum/store.  The spring discharges from a cave just behind the building and its 24 million gallons per day powered two underwater turbines for milling operations.

“Hodgson Water Mill – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USMEF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 24mm, ISO 100,  f/14, 1/6 sec

So that’s a little more from our splendid autumn Ozark trip from 2012.  I still have a few images to share and will hopefully post some in the near future.  I’m quite thankful that there are so many nicely written books available with descriptions of these locations.  I use these books quite often and one of these days I will list them in a post.

The Mark Twain National Forest contains near 1.5 million acres across the Missouri Ozarks.  Make some time to pay a visit, as it belongs to us all, except the areas that are logged… ;=)

“Mark Twain National Forest – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 37mm, ISO 160,  f/9, 1/5 sec

The Fabulous Water Mills of Jim Lalumondiere

Several weeks back Sarah and I jumped in the N.E.V. and decided to go put a few more Missouri Ozark water mills on our list.  Armed with a copy George Suggs’ “Water Mills of the Missouri Ozarks”, we decided to go after a few that were closer to home.  The first on the list for the day was the Byrnesville Mill.  After doing some location scouting on Google and Google Maps, I decided to just tell the GPS to take us to the town of Byrnesville, then I would go from there.  Of all the cool things, the GPS led us directly to the mill!  If only all my destinations were this easy.  We pulled into a large drive and I realized quickly we were on private property, with cool farm, pioneer and ruin type structures all around us.  Looking around I see a white-haired gentlemen coming out of one of the buildings.  We strike up a conversation and I let him know what we are looking for.  He goes on to tell us some fascinating stories about the buildings and particularly the Byrnesville Mill.

“Byrnesville Mill, June 2012”
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 35mm, ISO 100,  f/14, 1/13 sec

Jim had bought this mill in 1976 and converted it into a home where he raised a family.  I couldn’t think of a better place to grow up!  This was one of a dozen or more mills along a rather short stretch of the Big River.  Elaborate dams, like the one pictured above, and other containment structures were built with most of these mills in order to efficiently harness the water’s power.  The Big River is a remarkable waterway for Smallmouth Bass fishing and apparently it doesn’t get much better than right outside Jim’s back door.  Talk about envy!  Jim was most gracious and let us walk about the property, including his own personal bridge that the railways used to cross the Big River.  The image below shows some of the fascinating objects one can find by exploring the property.

“Mill & Stone Ruins”
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 47mm, ISO 100,  f/13, 0.8 sec

Further conversation with Jim led to the discovery that he also owned the nearby Cedar Hill Mill, which we had planned on visiting as well.  Jim had purchased this mill in 1982 with plans on using it to generate and sell electricity.  This plan did not work out and he has been doing a pretty good job of maintaining it since.  They are currently brainstorming ways that the structure could be used for business.

“Cedar Hill Mill, IR, June-2012”
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 82mm, ISO 640,  f/10, 120 sec

I told Jim about the boom in micro/craft beers and brewery/restaurant style establishments in St. Louis during the past several years.  This building is four stories with part of a river running through it.  Would this not be the perfect place for a little micro brewery and pub!?!?

“Cedar Hill Mill Workings I”
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 23mm, ISO 400,  f/10, Photomatix-HDR blend of 8-images

Seriously, just relocate the several thousand mud-daubers and the swallows, but leave everything else as is.  I’ll even name the first brew: Cedar Hill Mill IPA.  Easy.

It is interesting to read and hear about the changes that went through the life cycle of these water mills as diesel and electricity became much more efficient sources of power.  This mill, built in 1876, was first built to mill grain for human consumption.  Jim told me it was also used to mill grain for the pet-food trade and the energy captured was also utilized in the production of ice.

“Cedar Hill Mill Workings II”
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 21mm, ISO 320,  f/8, Photomatix-HDR blend of 7-images

“Cedar Hill Mill & Big River Dam, IR, June-2012”
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 32mm, ISO 640,  f/10, 90 sec

The majority of the water mill structures along this popular stretch of the Big River have fallen to time and ages.  Likewise many of the dams have been breached as can be seen in the above picture.  This was a popular spot on this Sunday afternoon as dozens of people swarm to this spot to swim and fish.  Just as Jim allowed us access inside his mill to take photos, it comes as no surprise he allows his neighbors to use the dam and the river along his property.  With the magic of long-exposure photography, you can see no signs of the several people who were moving along the dam when this image was taken.

Even though Sarah and I could not find a great place for a meal (always a goal of mine during travels) during this trip, meeting Jim and taking some images I’m somewhat happy with was a great way to spend the day.  I can’t wait to visit Jim again, give him a print or two as thanks for allowing us to explore his properties and hopefully make some more memories.



My Country ‘Tis of Thee

Part of my Missouri Ozarks grist mill series, this image shows the Dillard Mill in late afternoon light, watching over the Huzzah Creek as the small river works it’s way through a series of man-made impoundments.  There has been a mill structure on this location since 1853, the current building was completed in 1908.  This was the last stop of the day in a day trip Sarah and I took this spring.  Although warm, the setting was perfect.  The quaint, old, warm structure set against last years hay bales in the field immediately behind, the contrasts in water as it rushed down rocky barricades, stopping in motionless, clear ponds, and the chatter of birds like the Belted Kingfisher made us hate to get back into the car and take the drive back to the city.

Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 32mm, ISO 100,  f/14, manual blend of three exposures