While driving Missouri Highway 8 toward another hiking location, a quick stop for a few photos turned into several hours of exploration, rich with beauty and history. Maramec Spring was a delightful surprise!
I had read of no trails in the area, and hiking wasn’t listed as an available activity on the Maramec Spring website, so I was puzzled to see two ladies beginning their morning walk. They said they enjoyed the paths around the spring and walking down Maramec Creek with cameras in hand. I quickly scanned the area and started my GPS, hoping to record a pleasant route.
My walk led directly to the Maramec Spring, a gentle and broad spring whose strength isn’t realized until a nearby cascade demonstrates the volume of water flowing from the ground. Park literature indicates this is Missouri’s fifth-largest spring with an average daily output of 100 million gallons. Another source listed the volume as 90 million gallons and the sixth or seventh largest spring in the state. Regardless of size, its beauty is top of the line.
Another demonstration of flow-rate is on display at a bridged spillway downstream. This water will travel about 165 river miles to where the Maramec River empties into the Mississippi.
The flow from Maramec Spring eventually widens into a creek channel where fly fishermen enjoy their pursuit of trout, visible just below the clear cold currents.
Where the paved paths end, dirt trails begin, bordering both sides of the creek and crossing a bridge several tenths of a mile downstream. Conditions were right for the formation of early morning frost flowers, a visual treat for early morning winter hikers.
Maramec Spring’s natural beauty is complemented by a fascinating history. Portions of the paved paths take you through an outdoor museum of the Maramec Ironworks. Thomas James, an Ohio businessman, began construction in 1826 by. In 1843, Thomas sent his son, William James, to operate the ironworks.
The Civil War increased the demand for iron from the plant in spite of the transportation challenges of this remote location. At its peak, the plant town was reported to have close to 500 residents. The Maramec Ironworks ceased operation in 1876.
While hiking the Maramec Spring in winter is a pleasure, you’ll miss out on visiting the Ironworks Museum, closed at the end of October and reopening in the spring.
I felt a tinge of sadness as I drove away from Maramec Spring, but hope to visit again someday. I’m thankful that William James’ granddaughter, Lucy Wortham James, chose to protect this area for us to see today.
“As this is considered to be the most beautiful spot in Missouri, it is my great hope that you will arrange that it may ever be in private, considerate control, and ever open to the enjoyment of the people.”
~Lucy Wortham James