by Jim McCarty
Anyone who has ever dipped a toe in the Eleven Point River knows the river is spring fed. The largest of these feeders is Greer Spring, located 7 miles north of Alton on Highway 19.
Greer Spring is the second largest in the Ozarks, pouring an average of 222 million gallons of water per day into the Eleven Point. (Only Big Spring near Van Buren is larger.) It more than doubles the size of the river and ensures a steady supply of cold water for the river’s trophy trout habitat.
Peak flow from the spring was 614 million gallons, recorded in 1982. The water comes from two outlets at the bottom of a steep ravine. The resulting stream drops 62 feet in its 1-1/4-mile run to the river, making it one of the steepest waterways in the state.
The spring is named for Samuel Greer, whose father bought the land surrounding it in 1859. Samuel built a grist mill on the site in 1860. Although Greer served with the Confederates in the Civil War, his mill was burned by a different group of Rebel soldiers.
Due to the steep terrain, Greer trained oxen to haul flour from the mill up the ridge without a driver. He later rebuilt the mill at the top of the hill and used cables to transfer power to the mill, three-quarters of a mile uphill.
Today, the spring is part of the Mark Twain National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service maintains a mile-long hiking trail ending at the spring, shown in the photo at left. The hike is tough going, especially on the return trip, but the effort is worthwhile given the beauty of the little valley.
To find the spring, head south on Highway 19 until you cross the Eleven Point. Watch for signs pointing to the parking lot one mile later. For more information call 573-996-2153 or log on to www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/marktwain/.