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One-Tank Trip Series: Show Me the Ozarks

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By GEORGE FREEMAN
Editor of GREENE Magazine

Sometimes Mother Nature likes to astound us on a level of enchantment that makes everything else seem mundane.

Unless, of course, it is fall in the Ozarks, a time when fall foliage can be breath-taking, and a ride in nearly direction is likely to make you wonder why someone would choose to live elsewhere. You almost hope no one else finds out, except that would be selfish of us.

Properly organized, a one-tank trip can take you to three of the largest natural springs in the Ozarks. Big Springs, Greer Springs and Mammoth Springs. Further west is Blue Spring (now a formal garden; see GREENE Magazine, April/May 2012).

The hydroelectric dam at Mammoth Springs State Park in Arkansas hardly deters from Mother Nature's ducks. Along side the largest natural spring in Arkansas, The Nettleton Hotel was an early destination for travelers seeking cures for maladies.

The hydroelectric dam at Mammoth Springs State Park in Arkansas hardly deters from Mother Nature’s ducks. Along side the largest natural spring in Arkansas, The Nettleton Hotel was an early destination for travelers seeking cures for maladies.

Barely 500 feet south of the Arkansas line, Mammoth Spring’s large outlet pool can easily from U.S. 63, but don’t just drive by the largest spring in the state of Arkansas, and third largest spring within the Ozarks Plateau. Stop by the Frisco Depot restored in 1971, now a museum of railroad and the spring area artifacts. Makes you wonder why so many communities razed their landmark depots in the 1960s and 1970s.

Mammoth State Park includes a welcoming visitor’s center (and knowledgable volunteers to assist you), picnic areas, walking trails, and tours of the dam and hydro-electric plant. With all this, Mother Nature remains the star.

If springs are your thing, round out your trip by visiting Big Spring on the Current River and Greer Spring on the Eleven Point River.

By the time you’ve seen all three, the beauty and volume of these three springs will renew your appreciation of the staggering power and essential life force that water provides.

Mammoth Spring started as a railroad stop, bringing visitors and much needed goods to Fulton County during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Residents harnessed the strong current of the Spring River to bring electricity and industrialization to the Ozark foothills. Although the factories are long gone and the train depot is now a museum, Mammoth Spring still attracts new residents and tourists.

One-Tank Trip:
Alley Mill operates as an Ozarks history museum. Nearby is a one-room school house and general store.

When the Frisco Railroad extended track from Springfield to Memphis, Mammoth Spring was a natural stop. In 1889, the first large hotel, the Nettleton, was built, and the Culp Hotel and Charlton Hotel soon followed.

Post card landscapes are as stunning to behold in winter as in summer and autumn for photographers and artists. Here, a reflection off the crystal clear waters of Alley Spring rivals any destination that comes to mind. Best of all, it's free.

Post card landscapes are as stunning to behold in winter as in summer and autumn for photographers and artists. Here, a reflection off the crystal clear waters of Alley Spring rivals any destination that comes to mind. Best of all, it’s free.

Like Eureka Springs to the west in Carroll County, and Hot Springs to the south, Mammoth Spring profited from the health fads of the late 19th Century, such bathing in hot natural springs as a cure for arthritis and other ailments.Yet another stop is Alley Spring Mill near Eminence, located in the Ozark National Waterways in Shannon County. Alley Mill is operated as an Ozarks history museum. Nearby a one-room school house and general store. This secluded hamlet serves as a time warp to the earliest days of homesteading in the Ozarks. Bring along a storyteller and it’s a special place to reflect on early lifestyles of settlers and native people.

One-Tank Trip:
A favorite destination for pilots as well as travelers is Gaston’s White River Resort at Lakeview. Bicycles and boat motors line the ceiling overlooking the White River. Gaston’s even has its own grass runway.

On Oct. 12 & 13, Alley Mill hosts Haunting in the Hills, an annual festival featuring Ozarks Crafts and traditional ways, including, music, food, crafts and story telling, sponsored by the volunteer Ozark Heritage Project. For more information, call 573-323-4236.

On your way home from any excursion in, stop by Gaston’s White Resort at Lakeview, Ark., complete with its own 3200-foot grass runway.

With 79 cabins, a conference center, swimming pool and playground, tennis courts, boats for rent and nature trails on 400 acres, you’re as likely to find a fly-in of crop duster pilots or retired military pilots as you are extended families and even corporate staffs. They come for the trout fishing, hiking and bird watching.

One-Tank Trip:
If springs are your thing, include a visit to Alley Spring in the Ozarks National Waterways National Park. Or Big Spring on the Current River and Greer Spring.

one-tank-five

The machinery at Alley Mill is a testimony to ingenuity. Paul O'Donnell (inset), a volunteer firefighter, will show it to you.

The machinery at Alley Mill is a testimony to ingenuity. Paul O’Donnell (inset), a volunteer firefighter, will show it to you.

If you’re dining in (see Gaston’s dining room right), you may see a bald eagle gliding down the White River, along with blue herons, humming birds by the dozens, and just about any feeding bird remaining on your “big year” list.

The ceilings are lined with antique bicycles, boat motors, taxidermy and photos taken by Jim Gaston, who remains as approachable as his founding father, Al Gaston, was in 1958.

One-Tank Trips is a regular series. To suggest a destination, send us an e-mail at Editor@Ozarks Living.com.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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