Peace of mind and clear waters at Spring Creek

Spring Creek may be classified as an “extinct” town in Phelps County, Missouri, but it’s a place filled with golden opportunities. 

While fast-food chains, subdivisions, and convenience stores may be lacking, I feel that only leaves more room for things that hold greater value in life. 

The area takes its name from Spring Creek, which flows directly into the Big Piney River near the junction of Highways M and J. 

To reach this spot via I-44, take the 169 exit south to hit J Highway. In just under 10 miles, you will discover a slice of Ozark heaven! 

Spring Creek meanders through a mix of private property and National Forest land. It is considered a Wild Trout Management Area. 

The 6.2 mile stretch from Relfe Spring to the Big Piney River is also a MDC Blue Ribbon Trout Area. 

Many anglers enjoy Spring Creek for its rainbow trout, while others enjoy the small-mouth bass and goggle-eye found in the Big Piney. 

Speaking of the Big Piney River, there are two public access points where one can fish, paddle, swim, or wade within the Mark Twain National Forest in this area. 

Crossroads Access is near the junction of Highways M and J. It offers parking and a foot trail that leads to the confluence of Spring Creek and the Big Piney River.

Another is East Gate Access. Instead of staying on J as it heads toward Duke, go straight on East Gate Road. 

Just before you reach the East Gate to Fort Leonard Wood, there will be signs directing you to the site. This access point is a bit easier to put in larger watercraft compared to Crossroads. 

Spring Creek Bluff is, in my opinion, a breathtaking feature to this area. At one point, J Highway runs parallel with the Big Piney River on one side with a series of bluffs and hollows on the other. 

The highest of these points is Spring Creek Bluff. At 938 feet high, it certainly catches the eye and imagination. I have heard many a tale about hikes to explore hidden springs and a cave on that bluff. 

I have done my fair share of exploring, but tend to stick to the top of the bluff. Yes, since the bluff is on National Forest land, anyone can explore it. 

There are some forest service roads off of Highway M that lead to spots where one can easily park their vehicle and hike on top of the bluff for some awesome views and peaceful moments. 

It’s a great spot to catch a sunset or a moonrise, too! 

Personally, I have spotted so much wildlife while exploring the forest at Spring Creek Bluff, I get excited just thinking about it. 

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