My hometown in Missouri, Cape Girardeau, was nestled along the Mississippi River. The immediate area was characterized by low rolling hills, scenic in their own way but not spectacular. There were springs, all of them small, the kind that a farmer might draw water from. To the south was the Bootheel, flat as it could be. One could travel from there to the Gulf of Mexico and hardly see a hill.
To the west lay the Ozarks, a landscape punctuated by hills and hollows. The hills were covered by forests of oak, hickory, and shortleaf pine. In the hollows were cold clear streams, fed by massive springs. My family took up camping when I was eight years old. Mom and Dad never had to beg me to go; I was always eager to explore. Three state parks were our favorites: Sam A Baker (the most convenient trip because it was only 70 miles away), Big Spring, and Alley Spring. The latter two parks were soon incorporated into the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
I have written about Big Spring before, but the images from that diary fell victim to the Great Image Library Purge. Plenty of new Bucketeers have arrived in the intervening years, so this material will be new to many of you.
Despite the incredible scenery I’ve encountered during my travels in the United States, Big Spring holds a special place in my memory banks. I stop by and take a few pictures whenever I’m in the vicinity. I’ve decided to divide my pictures into two sets. Today’s diary is for images taken June through September when the vegetation was mostly green. Pictures are from September 2022 unless noted otherwise. The second diary will have pics taken this October while the fall colors were near their peak.
Let’s start with a bit of “underground” news, courtesy of the National Park Service.
Ozark National Scenic Riverways contains more than 134 miles of clear spring-fed streams, hundreds of caves, and superb scenery. It is located in a geologically and hydrologically complex area, along the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers, that has received little previous attention from earth scientists.
The geology of the area is classified as karst terrain, characterized by dissolution-induced sinkholes, caves, and underground drainage. Bedrock consists mainly of dolomite and lesser amounts of sandstone and chert, interrupted locally by knobs of volcanic rhyolite that form a scenery of picturesque low mountains.
The spring system in this area is world class and unparalleled in North America. The Ozark region contains the three largest single-conduit springs in the United States, as well as numerous other major springs, which issue hundreds of millions of gallons of water per day. During peak flow, Big Spring alone produces over 800 million gallons of water per day*. The area is truly one of America's natural resource treasures.
*Average flow is about 280 million gallons daily. For the benefit of the state’s sports fans, one sign at the park says that this amount will fill Busch Stadium in 33 hours.
The Daily Bucket is a nature refuge. We amicably discuss animals, weather, climate, soil, plants, waters and note life’s patterns spinning around us.
We invite you to note what you are seeing around you in your own part of the world, and to share your observations in the comments below.
I will close with this picture from September 2003. My dad was 87, and hobbled by Parkinson’s. He told the story about his mother wanting to see Big Spring “one last time.” He knew that it might well be his last time too — and it was. He died four years later.