The current book project is a Route 66 guide with a twist or two in the form of very short detours from the Main Street of America. On our recent Route 66 adventure we found some rather amazing places hidden in the shadows of that legendary highway. Yesterday, I shared our discovery of the Cave Restaurant. I have another one from the Show Me State to share today.
Located a mere six miles south of St. James on state highway 8, Maramec Spring Park is a veritable oasis for hikers, history buffs, fishermen, or anyone looking for little more than a quiet place of stunning beauty. Add a touch of fall color and even Stevie Wonder would be taking beautiful photos here.The heart of this stunning park is the spring itself, one of the largest in the state with almost one million gallons of water per day flowing from a submerged cavern. A paved trail of less than a half mile makes for an ideal introduction to the entrancing beauty of this place. In years past the springs provided ample water for the small town that developed around the Maramec Iron Works established in 1826, and in the 1920s, to drive a turbine that produced 27 kilowatts/hour of electricity for area dairy farms and residents. Today the waters sustain a trout fish hatchery that makes this a destination for fishermen from throughout the area. During the years bracketing the American Civil War the iron works situated near a large, easily accessible body of iron ore, and surrounded by dense hardwood forests suitable for charcoal, was the largest of its kind in the south. Initially products produced here included items such as plows and kettles but during the war a wide array of military hardware was produced here.
|The remnants of the Maramec Iron Works.|
Before its closure in 1876, bar and pig iron became the primary product. This valuable commodity was shipped down the Meramec and Gasconade Rivers or by wagon to the rail head at St. James or Gray Summit.The massive remnants from the old iron works appear as relics from a lost civilization. Additional vestiges of this history are found on the drive that includes stops with interpretive kiosks at the old cemetery, the mine, and other sites. On the second full weekend of each October the park is transformed into a living time capsule during Old Iron Works days. The centerpiece of this fascinating weekend are the artisans and craftsman who demonstrate skills of the 19th century. The park is a multi faceted facility that includes two museums, camping sites with showers and electricity, fishing, a cafe and store, and ample opportunity for picnics. The cost of admission is $5.00 per car, a bargain at twice the price.
So, the next time you are motoring through Missouri my suggestion is to bring a picnic basket. I would also suggest visiting during mid October when the fall leaves add a truly awe inspiring touch to the parks raw beauty.