By now, Alley Spring Mill isn’t exactly a well-kept secret among photographers.
The red wooden building. The cool, blue spring water. The rush of current down the watercress-lined banks of the spring branch. This is a postcard scene straight from the Ozarks.
And it’s been captured thousands of times by photographers, amateurs and pros alike, who are seeking the perfect image of Ozarks beauty.
“This is probably the most-photographed spot in the Ozarks,” said Dave Tobey, Round Springs supervisor in the National Ozarks Scenic Riverways park, located six miles west of Eminence, Mo. In the southeast part of the state. “This is just one of those places you don’t forget.”
This gem that feeds the Jacks Fork River isn’t hidden. It’s just a short hike from a parking lot, where visitors can explore a world where history and nature are intertwined.
The seventh-largest spring in the state, Alley pumps out an average daily flow of 81 million gallons of water. The red mill has quite a history.
At one time, it was a bustling place, the centerpiece of a community that included a store, a schoolhouse and a church.
The mill was used to ground grain that was brought in, most of it to make bread. The mill also provided electricity for the residents of the community.
The mill was constructed in 1894 as a merchant operation. It became a gathering spot, where folks swapped fish stories and caught up on news while they waited for their grain to be milled.
The building originally was painted white. But when it came time for Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers to give the building a new coat of paint, they went into town and found the general store had only red paint.
So it has been that color ever since.
The mill reached its peak in 1910. After that, the region turned more to logging, and activity at Alley Mill slowly declined.
Today, it is one 100 historic sites preserved in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways along the Current and Jacks Fork rivers. But few attract the attention that Alley Spring does.
“It’s not unusual to have several hundred people visit the spring on a weekend in our tourist season,” Tobey said. “People see a picture of Alley Spring, and they just have to visit it.”