If there was a “bucket list” of favorite places to visit in the Ozarks, then Alley Spring near Eminence would most certainly be included.
Nestled in the Ozarks in Shannon County, Alley Spring is a favorite spot for family reunions, picnics, fishing, camping and one other thing… photography.
One of the spotlights at Alley Spring is the one of the finest examples of traditional Ozark spring mills. It’s bright red exterior “pops” out – and it rests in a peaceful, scenic spot.
The spring was a popular spot for pioneers to rest. As European settlers began to homestead in the area, the springs and riverways in the Ozarks were a draw. A settlement grew up along the Jacks Fork River in the 1830s and 1840, and the spot was named for an early settler. Eventually a mill was built in 1868.
In 1894 the current mill was built by George Washington McCaksill and partner Jenoah HJ. (J.H.) Whitacre. When you visit the mill today, the partners’ names are still engraved at the entrance.
The mill at Alley Spring is a fine piece of Americana – and in its day it held an important role in the life of a region. The mill was where the farmer would bring the grain he raised, and there the miller would grind the grain into flour.
The mill structure is large and picturesque. The mill has two floors and a basement. Much of the structure has been restored and open for visitors.
The scenic picture of the big red mill, resting on a natural stone foundation on the edge of the water, has made Alley Spring “the most photographed mill” in the nation. And, staff member Sherry O’Dell said that photos of the Alley Spring mill are also well-known overseas.
“We had some visitors here recently from Japan, and they came here because of photos of the mill in Japan,” O’Dell explained. “They came to Alley Spring because of the mill.”
She likened the popularity of the Alley Spring Mill in Japan to popular photos Americans see at popular foreign restaurants in this country.
“It’s popular over there,” she said.
In pioneer days Alley Spring was a gathering spot, and it will be a gathering spot for families wanting to celebrate Independence Day 2015. According to O’Dell, Alley Spring will be the scene of some good, old-fashioned fun on the evening of Independence Day, Saturday, July 4.
“We’ll have cold watermelon and lemonade,” O’Dell said.
In older days, the watermelon and lemonade would have been cooled in the spring. But O’Dell said this year they will be cooled the new-fangled way – with ice.
“There will also be old-time music and traditional entertainment,” she said.
All will be held under the cool of the trees. The events are free and open to the public and will take place from 6-9 p.m. on July 4.
But visitors should beware that there will not be fireworks. O’Dell said fireworks of any kind are not allowed in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and the parks, so the celebration will carry on the American celebration without fireworks.
Camping is a delight at Alley Spring, and O’Dell said reservations are being made for the Independence Day holiday weekend. Alley Spring has 162 family sites that accommodate up to six people and two tents. There are also group sites that can hold 7-45 people; reservations are needed for group sites.
By Annabeth Miller
Additional information on accommodations at Alley Spring can be obtained by going to the Ozark Scenic Riverways website at www.nps.gov/ozar.