As I began to descend on the trail, I suddenly heard a sound in the distance. It was a soft sound at first.

But as I kept hiking downhill, it became louder and louder, like a roaring sound. It seemed to draw me like a magnet. I wanted to see where this noise was coming from.  

Then, I saw it!  A mighty rush out of a mouth of a cave. Beautiful emerald green and blue water. Greer Spring. What a beautiful natural treasure.

Greer Spring is the largest spring found on the National Forest land in the United States. It is the second largest in the state of Missouri (first being, Big Spring). It has an average temperature of 50-55 degrees year-round. It flows at the average rate of 220 million gallons per day.

The spring comes out of two sources from the ground. From under the mouth of a cave and down a little further where it comes up as a “bubble” or “washing machine.” The spring is 1 mile long and flows into the Eleven Point River. It is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. It is located about 18 miles south of Winona off of Highway 19.

The Greer Spring Acquisition and Protection Act of 1991 established the 4,100 acre Greer Spring Special Management Area and added 2,800 acres to the Eleven Point National Scenic River.

There is a trailhead at the Greer Spring parking lot on the west side of Highway 19. It is about .9 of a mile hike down to the spring itself. It takes roughly about 45 minutes, depending on your hiking pace/ability.

There are two benches along the trail and several “natural” seats (rocks) to sit down and take a break before you continue your hike. You will walk through a beautiful, peaceful forest of underbrush (wildflowers, small bushes), pine trees, and several hardwood trees.

If you are quiet enough, you might see some wildlife like a deer or rabbit jump out in front of you.

As I hiked down the trail, I wondered how many people have hiked down this same pathway to see the spring. Wondering if they were listening to the neighboring birds, or paying attention to trees swaying back and forth. I wondered if they were taking time to enjoy all the natural resources around them.

Then, when you get down to the spring. Wow! What a beautiful sight and sound. You can feel the coolness of the water on your skin. You can not only hear the “roaring” of the spring flowing along, but actually feel it through your body. 

To witness the beautiful water flowing along and wonder how many stories it could tell you. Of where it traveled from and how many things it will “touch” along the way.

I saw older rocks underneath the surface of the spring branch. As I stood there in the coolness of the spring water, I had to wonder if those rocks could only talk, what would they have to say?

I know back in the 1800’s the Greer Mill on the hill above was operated in this spring branch. I wondered during that time what kind of wildlife was around it? And how did the families cross over the spring to the other side as told by a few elders of the community?

Growing up around this spring must have been quite an experience, to say the least.  

The rocks, the trees, the water, the historic sites around this spring could tell us so much if we only would listen. It may sound “far out” to you, but if you are really paying attention, you could learn a lot about life.

Because in the “big picture” of life, living is really what matters. And there are a lot of living things around you in the forest and around the spring. A lot of plants that only grow in and around the spring are located here.

Everything living together and interacting in life. Isn’t that what all of us are doing? Yes, I believe if you really paid attention for a moment, we could all learn something from nature itself.

There has to be something bigger than all of us that created all of this beauty. What an artist!

So, if you are ever wanting to take a trip to see the largest spring out of all the National Forests in the United States, then maybe you should visit Greer Spring.

It will be worth the hike, worth your time and maybe, just maybe, you will learn something, too.

(Dana Sturgeon lives in southern Missouri. She can be reached at mo_dana@hotmail.com.)

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