Hidden Natural Wonders of the Ozarks: Mammoth Spring

Marvel, Explore, Discover

Emerging from hundreds of underground caverns, the turquoise water that creates Mammoth Spring is fueled by rivers spanning across the North American continent, making it the seventh largest natural spring in the world. The cold water that surfaces from the spring creates excellent trout fishing conditions and sufficient flow for water sports on the Spring River.

Ancient Geology of the Ozarks

During the Paleozoic Periodwhich spanned from about 542 million years ago to 251 million years ago—the Ozarks was submerged beneath a shallow sea. After several millennia, the limestone deposits left from the ancient sea bed were eroded, forming hundreds of caverns throughout the Ozarks. Many Pre-Columbian artifacts have been discovered in these cave systems, suggesting that early Native American cultures utilized these underground chambers for shelter, food, and storage. For thousands of years, Native Americansparticularly the Osageinhabited the area of Mammoth Spring. Leaving a small ecological footprint, this ancient culture utilized the land and left behind artifacts and relics that can still be unearthed today.

The History of Mammoth Spring

Intrigued by the lush oak forests, azure springs, and abundance of wildlife, travelers from around the world began to flourish to the Ozarks. The early settlers prospered by exploiting the river fed by the spring, creating a mill, train depot, and a hydroelectric plant. Winding through mountains carpeted in forest, golden plains, and river valleys, the railroad connected to several cities spanning from St. Louis, Missouri to Memphis, Tennessee; eventually, increasing the population of Mammoth Spring.

Attractions and Events

Although no longer in service, the time-worn train station stands as a historical treasure, reminiscing the memories of the past. Formerly providing a connection to the nearby city of Mammoth Spring, the 1886 Frisco train depot is one of many pieces of history located in the area. The former hydroelectric plant and mill nearby allows visitors and locals to understand the economic importance the spring had to the early development of the early settlers of Mammoth Spring. A pavilion, picnic areas, baseball field, and playground are available for visitors as well. Seasonal boat rentals on Spring Lake can be obtained at the visitor center.

Visitor Center:
Jan. – Dec. Sun. – Sat. 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
With the following exception:
May 22 – Sept. 6 Sun. – Sat. 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Museum:
Jan. – Dec.
Sun. 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Tues. – Sat. 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Monday (except Mon. holidays)

Boat Rental:
Apr. 1 – Sept. 30 Sun. – Sat. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

References

  • Springer and Scotchmoor (2010); “Paleontology and geology”.
  • “Meramec Caverns”. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 2007-05-24. p. 60. An hour’s drive from St. Louis down Interstate 44, Meramec Caverns packages 400 million years of history and science into hour-long tours of five layers of underground caverns. It’s Missouri’s largest show cave.
  • Bailey, Garrick Alan (ed.). 1999. The Osage and the Invisible World: From the Works of Francis La Flesche. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
  • USGS Surface Water for Arkansas: Peak Streamflow”. Nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov. Retrieved 2016-12-12.
  • A. G. Unklesbay, Jerry D. Vineyard. Missouri Geology — Three Billion Years of Volcanoes, Seas, Sediments, and Erosion, University of Missouri Press, 1992.
  • Rafferty, Milton D. The Ozarks: Land and Life, University of Arkansas Press, 2nd ed., 2001.

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