Missouri is home to some of the largest freshwater springs in the country. Millions of gallons of water bubble up from the ground each day, creating brilliant blue pools and fast-running streams. Short paths and hiking trails will take you to many of these scenic spots.
Several significant springs feed the Current and Jacks Fork rivers in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the first National Park area to protect a river system. Near Van Buren, a walkway leads to Big Spring, one of the three largest springs in the U.S. It's an impressive sight to see with an average daily flow of 276 million gallons of water. The Big Spring Slough Trail, a 1.2 mile loop, includes exhibits about the area's history and natural habitat.
Take a short hike to Blue Spring – with water a shimmering shade of turquois you have to see to believe. Osage Tribe members reportedly called it "Spring of the Summer Sky." Walk out onto the wooden deck at the edge of the pool and peer into one of the deepest springs in the country. The sixth largest spring in the state, it produces more than 90 million gallons of water a day, creating the 310-foot deep pool. Located about 20 miles east of Eminence, the out-and-back trail is a half-mile round trip.
The three-quarter-mile Spring Branch Trail circles Alley Spring, six miles west of Eminence. The state's seventh largest spring pumps out more than 80 million gallons of water each day. The Alley Spring Overlook Trail is a 1.5 mile loop that includes a steep climb to an overlook with views of the valley below. Historic Alley Mill sits at the edge of the teal-blue spring – it's one of the most photographed places in the state.
Hike through the rugged Ozark terrain to reach Greer Spring, the state's second largest, churning out 214 million gallons of water a day. Greer Spring Trail, a nearly 2-mile out-and-back trek, is located eight miles north of Alton. The spring water rushes from the mouth of a cave, creating a fast-moving stream that feeds the Eleven Point River, nearly doubling its size.
The 1.4 mile Spring Trail at Ha Ha Tonka State Park, located at the Lake of the Ozarks, starts at the edge of the lake and travels alongside sheer rock bluffs to a large spring with an average daily flow of 58 million gallons of water. Beyond the spring, the loop trail ascends 316 wooden steps to an upper section that provides a spectacular view overlooking the spring.
Trout fishing attracts thousands of people to Maramec Spring Park each year, but you don't have to be an angler to enjoy the scenery. The centerpiece of the park is the spring, the fifth largest in the state, producing an average 96 million gallons of water each day. Walkways take you throughout the park, past rock bluffs and around the spring. You'll also find springs at Missouri's other three trout parks: Bennett Spring State Park, Roaring River State Park and Montauk State Park.