Monday, September 10, 2012

Blanchard Springs

The bad drought that has lingered all summer had slacked some, thanks to some recent rains from Hurricane Issac.  There was even some relief on Friday night, as a storm dropped a few inches of rain across the state.  But it's not enough to really get any creeks up and running.  And, of course, waterfalls have long since dried up.  But there are a few places where you are lucky enough to find waterfalls running year-round.  One of those places is Blanchard Springs, in the Ozark National Forest near Mountain View.

This is a spot where rainwater has percolated through the ancient limestone of the Ozarks, creating a large cavern system that is "considered one of the most beautiful in the country" (at least according to the Forest Service, who operates Blanchard).  The river that flows through Blanchard Caverns pops out at a spring, discharging anywhere between 1,000 to 103,000 gallons of water per minute depending on local rainfall.

So Matt, Zack and I decided to pay a visit to the Blanchard over the weekend.  It was still dark when we drove into the recreation area.  It had stormed the night before, but the skies overhead were clear.  We tried to get set up for a few pictures while the waterfalls were still shaded.

The first stop was below the dam that creates Mirror Lake.  The dam was built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and was very artfully done.  The dam has a nice spillway with a few waterfalls on it.



The creek flows by the ruins of Mitchell Mill, which operated from 1900 to 1928. In 1942, the CCC partially rebuilt the mill. Their handiwork is still standing to this day.


After that we made the long and difficult hike to Blanchard Springs. Which is a slight exaggeration, since the trail in is very short and paved. But after the short hike, we soon found the falls, which were running as always. It's always nice to have a chance to take a waterfall picture, even in the driest of summers.


The water streaming out of the cave is crystal-clear, but it isn't exactly clean. There is a bat colony that lives in the caverns here, which of course means that the stream contains some bat guano.


We made the short walk below the parking area to the springs, for this view of the creek running below an old stone bridge (probably built by the CCC, but I couldn't find any info to know for sure). This was taken while standing in the creek, as the water (and bat poo) swept by me.


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