From Blue Spring, we got back into the car and continued our tour of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Along part of the drive, we followed a road as it traveled up the side of a hill, providing this view of the valley below.
The next stop was Welch Spring. After a short hike along the Current River, we came up to Welch Spring, which is the 9th largest spring in the Ozarks. About 105 million gallons of water flow out of the spring, next to the ruins of a hospital that was built in 1913.
Next we drove into the small town of Eminence to get something to eat. During the whole trip we had barely seen any other people. There were maybe a handful of people around Blue Spring and Welch Spring, but most of the time we had the springs all to ourselves. So we naively deluded ourselves into thinking that it would be like that the whole weekend. If I had a dollar for each time one of us said "This is amazing, where is everyone?" than we'd, well, have a bunch of dollars. Which would have been nice to help pay for all the gas we burned to get up to Missouri.
The plan was to drive up to Alley Springs, which is one of the more popular spots in the park. We had assumed it would be nearly empty, like all the other spots we have been to over the weekend. We were wrong.
As we got close to the park, there were signs along the road warning: "Heavy Traffic. Haunting Event Ahead." What? Well it turns out that the National Park Service was hosting the "Haunting of the Hills" that day. The park at Alley Springs was packed with people, with park rangers directing people to over-flow campgrounds and parking.
Well, so on to Plan B. We drove on to the closest campground, at Bay Creek along the Jacks Fork River. The campsite was nice, but the most scenic part was the drive through the woods on the way there.
The fall colors were breathtaking, I think I stopped the car about every five feet to take pictures of the road and the woods.
A heavy storm passed through the campsite around one in the morning, which made me glad I wussed out and slept in the car instead of my not-so-waterproof tent. But we managed to wake up before dawn again, and headed back to Alley Springs. The park was silent and still, with a few tables set up from the Haunting of the night before.
Alley Spring was probably one of the prettiest places we visited on the trip. The spring (the 8th largest in the Ozarks) pours out from the base of a limestone bluff. Next to the spring is the old Alley Mill, which was built in 1894.
Here is the pool formed by the spring, where an average of 81 million gallons of water stream up from the ground every day. The water was a deep and emerald blue.
This was taken from the mill, where the water has been diverted through this chute. The water turned a turbine, which was used to process grain back in the olden days.
Here are a few more shots from around Alley Spring. This place was gorgeous, definitely worth the wait.
I couldn't believe how great the fall colors were...
Here's a shot of where the water shoots out from under the mill. It was neat to see the deep blue of the spring water and the fall colors here.
And one last shot from Alley Springs. This is the bridge that runs over the creek formed by the spring. From here, we headed on towards home. But not before making a few more stops along the way...