Welch Spring in Missouri
Welch Spring on the Current River is one of many springs to visit in and around the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

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Ah, summer: The best time of year for toe-dipping, stream-wading, river-paddling – and spring-hopping! It would take a lifetime to see every watery wonder in the Ozarks outdoors, but isn’t it fun to try?

This time of year, we love to visit springs, specially in and around the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Not only are they the cool cousins of Missouri caves — both the result of karst topography — but they make scenic stops for summer day trips and overnights.

Missouri, in fact, has more than 4,400 springs according to the Department of Natural Resources, which hosts an online map. Many are small, unnamed or considered “seeps” (a trickle spring that produces a wetland), but we’ve included some of the most impressive springs you can see around the Current, Jacks Fork and Eleven Point rivers. (Do notice we don’t suggest swimming in springs. It isn’t healthy — for the spring!)

A few springs in our roundup can only be viewed while paddling the river they flow into; others are found via short trails — or no trails. A few can be enjoyed either way. You’ll find that information included.

Best of all, these springs are near enough to each other that you could hop to several in a single summer day.

Ready for summertime springs? Let’s go!

Learn about Missouri Springs

To learn more about Missouri Springs, purchase a copy of “Living Waters: The Springs of Missouri,” written by Loring Bullard in collaboration with the Ozark Studies Institute and the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks. To order yours, call (417) 866-1127, find it on Amazon or place an order through the State Historical Society of Missouri.

Montauk Spring, located in Montauk State Park, produces the headwaters of the Current River in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)
Montauk Spring, located in Montauk State Park, produces the headwaters of the Current River in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Montauk Spring

The popular Current River starts in Montauk State Park, one of Missouri’s stocked trout parks. Montauk Spring, which combines with Pigeon Creek and other small springs to become the headwaters of the Current River, is easily reached via a short loop trail within the park two hours from Springfield, near Licking. The park also features the Montauk Mill, which is open for tours periodically.

Medlock Spring, flowing from a high cave on the Current River, makes a nice stop while floating. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)
Medlock Spring, flowing from a high cave on the Current River, makes a nice stop while floating. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Medlock Spring

While floating the Current River between Cedar Grove and Akers Ferry, watch for a pull-off nearly four miles into the float to see Medlock Spring. The spring emerges from a high cave and tumbles down moss-covered rocks to river level before flowing into the Current.

Welch Spring and the ruins of the Welch Hospital can be visited while paddling the Current River or by walking a trail. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)
Welch Spring and the ruins of the Welch Hospital can be visited while paddling the Current River or by walking a trail. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Welch Spring

Welch Spring, which emerges from a cave and flows into the Current River, is beautiful by itself. But it’s also known for its proximity to the ruins of an early 20th century hospital that offered “cures” from spring vapors to people with tuberculosis. To see the spring cave and ruins up close, make a stop when floating the Current River between Cedar Grove and Akers Ferry. But you can see it by foot when you hike a short .8-mile out-and-back trail to the opposite bank. Find the trailhead off Highway K north of Akers.

Cave Spring on the Current River is large enough to paddle into. It can be reached by floating or by hiking a trail. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)
Cave Spring on the Current River is large enough to paddle into. It can be reached by floating or by hiking a trail. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Cave Spring

You can hike to it or you can float to it, but however you visit, Cave Spring on the Current River is one of the most interesting springs to see because it emerges from a cave large enough to enter. If you’re floating the Current River between Akers Ferry and the Pulltite Campground, you’ll find the cave about midpoint. Its mouth is so large you can float right in to see it. To get there by foot, hike the 4.6-mile loop trail that starts at Devils Well, located west of Missouri 19 and Route KK near Salem.

To see Pulltite Spring, pull off the river near the spring flow and walk a short trail to the spring and an old cabin. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)
To see Pulltite Spring, pull off the river near the spring flow and walk a short trail to the spring and an old cabin. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Pulltite Spring

If you’re floating the Current River between Pulltite Campground and the Round Spring takeout, pull off about a half mile downstream to walk the short easy trail back to Pulltite Spring and the old Pulltite cabin. The trail is well-kept and makes a pretty walk along the spring branch. Pulltite Spring bubbles up from a deep blue pool beneath tall bluffs.

Bonus Fire Hydrant Spring: Shortly after stopping at the Pulltite Spring trail, keep your eyes open for another charming spring that’s small but pretty. Fire Hydrant Spring flows out of a small cave on the right bank of the river a few strokes downstream.

Round Spring near the Current River is nearly circular  (Photo by  National Park Service)
Round Spring near the Current River is nearly circular (Photo by National Park Service)

Round Spring

Round Spring, less than two miles south of Echo Bluff State Park, makes a great short stop when visiting the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The parking area is generous and there’s an easy trail to reach the 55-foot-deep circular blue pool surrounded by pretty foliage. Water from the spring flows under a natural bridge and emerges into a spring pool before it flows into the nearby Current River. There is also a campground and float access, and some of the wild horses of Shannon County are known to gather nearby. New in 2024: The Round Spring Ranger Station has reopened for Round Spring Cave Tour tickets (tours are given during summer months) and visitor information.

Blue Spring off the Current River is so blue the water looks like ink and so deep you could fit the Statue of Liberty. It’s reached via a short trail. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)
Blue Spring off the Current River is so blue the water looks like ink and so deep you could fit the Statue of Liberty. It’s reached via a short trail. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Blue Spring on the Current River

One of Missouri’s most beautiful springs, Blue Spring on the Current River (not to be mistaken for Blue Spring on the Jacks Fork) is so blue that Native Americans reportedly called it “Spring of the Summer Sky.” It’s also famous for being so deep, at 310 feet, it would cover the Statue of Liberty. The trail to reach Blue Spring is an easy walk from the trailhead, although the gravel road to reach it is steep in some places. Find the turnoff to Blue Spring off Missouri 106 northeast of Eminence about halfway to Ellington.

Big Spring off the Current River is the largest spring in Missouri and one of the largest springs in the world.   (Photo by National Park Service photographer Patty Wheatley-Bishop)
Big Spring off the Current River is the largest spring in Missouri and one of the largest springs in the world. (Photo by National Park Service photographer Patty Wheatley-Bishop)

Big Spring

A Missouri wonder, Big Spring was aptly named given its status as the state’s largest spring, reached via an easy .6-mile out-and-back trail. One of many springs that feed the Current River, it’s no wonder a state park was built around the spring in 1925. Nearly 50 years later, in 1972, it was transferred to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and is under federal management. The park’s dining lodge and cabins have been under renovation, with completion of the project expected in 2024. Big Spring, with an average daily discharge of 276 million gallons of water, is about 2.5 hours from Springfield and worth a visit in itself. Or add it to a spring-hop adventure when visiting near Eminence, about 45 minutes northwest of the park. An easy .6-mile out-and-back trail leads to the spring.

Blue Spring on the Jacks Fork

Blue Spring on the Jacks Fork River is most known for its location as a river access spot and primitive campground. You can’t see much of this Blue Spring by land, but if you float by it, you can see where it feeds the river, flowing from a cave behind boulders. The spring is notable for its blue water on the river.

Alley Spring near the Jacks Fork River is one of the most visited and photographed springs and mills in Missouri. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)
Alley Spring near the Jacks Fork River is one of the most visited and photographed springs and mills in Missouri. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Alley Spring

One of the most developed spring locations, Alley Spring and Mill is a Missouri must-see. Just west of Eminence and 2.5 hours from Springfield, the park is a popular stop and the mill is one of the most photographed spots in Missouri. Once you park, it’s an easy walk to see the mill, the turquoise spring pond and the beautiful spring branch creek. There’s a short loop trail around the pond (now easier with a bridge that returns walkers to the mill), or take the slightly longer trail to the next bridge that returns to the parking lot. The park is a great spot for picnicking and the mill museum is often open for touring.

Greer Spring, in a lush gorge, is worth the hike it takes to see it. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)
Greer Spring, in a lush gorge, is worth the hike it takes to see it. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Greer Spring

The second-largest spring in Missouri also boasts one of the prettiest settings. Reaching Greer Spring isn’t difficult, but it is a downhill hike (which means an uphill return!) of nearly two miles. The trail reaches a lush gorge where the primary spring flows from a cave to form a small pool and pretty spring branch. Just downstream, another part of the spring bubbles up from beneath the stream. Find the trailhead off Missouri 19, about one mile south of the MO-19 bridge over the Eleven Point River.

Falling Spring, flowing behind an old mill, is also a waterfall. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)
Falling Spring, flowing behind an old mill, is also a waterfall. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Falling Spring

It doesn’t get any easier than Falling Spring. And bonus: This spring is a waterfall, too. Once you park your car, it’s right there! The spring waterfall tumbles from a bluff behind a photogenic mill, and when the light is right, it makes a pretty reflection. The small park includes an old cabin, a spring pond and a picnic area. To reach Falling Spring, turn southwest onto Forest Road 3170 off Missouri 19 north of Greer Spring.

Turner Mill (North) and Spring

There used to be a mill at Turner Spring, but all that’s left is the 25-foot overshot wheel, standing in the spring branch. The spring itself is upstream and comes out of a bluff cave. You can see the wheel and spring by stopping at the access point while floating the Eleven Point River (4.9 miles downriver from Greer Crossing). Or you can drive to the access location and explore from there. Once you find the wheel, just follow the spring branch upstream to find the spring.

Boze Mill and Spring on the Eleven Point River can be visited during a float or by driving to it. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)
Boze Mill and Spring on the Eleven Point River can be visited during a float or by driving to it. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Boze Spring and Mill

Like Turner Mill/Spring, you can float to Boze Mill or drive there. Either way, you will be greeted by a pretty blue pool and spring branch, plus remnants of the old Lucas Boze grist mill — including a rock wall and an 1880s turbine. You can also camp here or have a picnic.


Sony Hocklander

Sony Hocklander is a freelance journalist, video storyteller and photographer who produces creative content through her small solo business, Sony Hocklander Creative LLC. When she's not telling community stories, she loves wandering the Ozarks outdoors with a camera in hand. You can follow her on Twitter @SonyHocklander and on Instagram @shocklander or email her at: sonyhocklander@gmail.com More by Sony Hocklander