Beauty and Bounty of the Northern Missouri Ozarks

June 20, 2018 (by Angela)

Over the course of the last week, Jim, Chewie, and I have experienced the natural beauty and the bountiful seasonal harvests of the area in which we are living this month. We started our 2nd weekend of exploring the northern Ozarks by visiting Maramec Spring Park, which is only a few miles from our campground. It was much more than we expected in all ways, especially in its beauty and the variety of activities available. The park normally charges $5/car for day use, or a $35 annual pass is available to purchase. We expected to pay $5, but we got lucky. The day we visited the park, cars with a veteran in them entered for free. Score!

Let me go ahead and tell you that none of the pictures, ours or those on the web site, do the beauty of the park justice. When we arrived, it was between 8:00 and 8:30 in the morning. I think we would have had more amazing photos had we been there only 30 minutes earlier because just as we entered the park, the sun was beginning to break the misty, mysterious spell that we first found upon arrival. The cool spring water, rushing out at around 100 million gallons per day on average, met with the heat and humidity of a very warm late-spring day, forming a mist that swirled above the water thick enough to give everything a beautiful, other-worldly eeriness. With the awe-inspiring spell broken by the appearance of the sunshine, the three of us focused our attention on finding the source of the water – the actual spring. It was only a short walk before we reached the spring pool. The opening of the spring itself is below the spring pool, like at Mammoth Spring in Arkansas, but here the disturbance in the otherwise still pool made it easy to find the location of the spring’s opening. I’m sorry Mammoth Spring; Maramec Spring is more beautiful, in my opinion. (Click on photo, or hover cursor over photo, to see caption.)

The park has a fish hatchery along one side of the waterway flowing from the spring, and they keep the stream stocked with various kinds of trout. Let me tell you, lots of people of all ages come to fish in the crystal-clear water. I would not mind eating trout caught inside the park. There is a falls downstream from the spring pool, and when standing beside it, despite the fact that temperatures were getting close to 90 and humidity was high, it was almost as if I were standing in an air-conditioned room. Across the road from the falls is the remnants of the Maramec Iron Works (1826); you can read some of its history here. It was an interesting area in which to meander.

While Jim was away working during the week last week and again this week, I visited a berry farm that uses sustainable methods – more or less organic – though I don’t think it’s certified. Ozark Berry Farm is located just outside Leasburg, Missouri. Last week I picked 4 pounds of Duke blueberries; most are in the freezer ready for later on. This week, I picked about 5 pounds of blackberries and a pound of Patriot blueberries. I truly hope I can pick again next week. The blueberry zucchini bread and blueberry pancakes that I made this past weekend were awesome. I hope to welcome Jim home tomorrow night with a fresh blackberry cobbler.

While we’re on the subject of food, there are a few food places I want to recommend to you. Jim and I ate dinner at The Gardens last Friday night. In particular, I enjoyed the food and the wine. We lucked into a short visit with the current owner, the grandson of the founder of St. James Winery. I ordered the Velvet Red, and I learned from the owner that this was the wine that got the whole thing going for his grandfather. The Gardens is an outside-seating restaurant nestled between the St. James Winery and The Public House Brewing Company. Lunch that same day had been at the Clark Street Cafe and Bakery in Sullivan, Missouri. If you are looking for a place to have a tasty yet healthy lunch and you’re in or passing by Sullivan, I recommend you give it a try.

This morning, Chewie and I were exploring more in Steelville, and we came across yet another hidden gem: Hoppe Spring Park. There is a good number of ducks that call this park home. Chewie was a good boy and didn’t get after them, though they were afraid of him anyway – at least at first. Boy, does Chewie love wading in and drinking from spring-fed streams; today was no exception. How many times do I have to say this? Pictures do not truly show the beauty.

I have an idea of what Jim and I may be doing this coming weekend, but only time will tell. Unfortunately, a lot of what I have in mind for us will not be dog friendly, so we’ll see how it goes. For now, I’m still basking in the fruity-goodness of the berry bounty and the beauty of the northern Missouri Ozarks. If someone could just turn the heat down about 15 degrees, I’d probably be out and about most of the day almost every day here because there is so much to see and enjoy.

Addendum: God heard my plea. Today, June 21, 2018, our forecast miraculously changed. Where our highs had been running in the mid 90s for two weeks, today’s high is only to be around 79.  It’s nearly noon, and I’m sitting in the camper with windows open, and I enjoyed coffee in the cool outside this morning. Thank you, God! 🙂


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