I will celebrate the release of the Daily Kos image uploader with my first photo diary. Last week I took a tour of four large springs in the Ozarks of south central Missouri. Today we will focus on Alley Spring.
First glimpse of the old mill at Alley Spring.
Most places I go, I prefer to see natural features that are relatively undisturbed by humans. This place is an exception. The mill seems like it belongs here. I first laid eyes on the mill and spring when I was eight years old. My family would camp along the chilly waters of the spring branch. At the time, it was part of Alley Spring State Park.
In 1964, Congress passed legislation creating the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The federal government acquired private lands along Current River, and its tributary, Jacks Fork. Eventually the Park Service absorbed the state parks in the area. One big change - bad news for campers but good news for water quality - was to move the campgrounds away from the rivers and spring branches.
The first mill was built at Alley Spring in 1868. It was replaced in 1894 by the current structure, a three-story mill employing a metal turbine rather than a water wheel. Four grinding machines were installed; three for wheat and one for corn. This was a marketing mistake by the mill owners, because most farmers grew corn instead of wheat.
The above image shows the four grinding machines. The first three were for wheat; the taller one in the back was for corn.
In the second floor of the mill were sifting machines like the one above. They would sort the grains by size for further grinding.
Unlike many mills across the country, the mill at Alley Spring never fell into a long period of disrepair. As its use for grinding grain declined, it became a tourist destination, eventually becoming a state park in 1924.
I will close with pictures of the spring itself. It is a fine example of the large springs in the area, the result of karst topography where limestone and similar minerals are dissolved by groundwater. Surface water disappears into sinkholes and caves, emerging miles away in clear, cold springs. The average flow of Alley Spring is 81 million gallons per day.